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New AP brings ‘relationship first’ approach to middle school

Meet Your Administrator: Zach Jager

East Grand Rapids — Zach Jager is the new assistant principal at East Grand Rapids Middle School. SNN gets to know him in this edition of Meet Your Administrators.

Zach Jager is a few months into his first year at East Grand Rapids Middle School, and he couldn’t be happier about his position. He thrives in the busy environment, and loves problem-solving on multiple fronts.

“No two days have been the same,” the assistant principal said. “You get to wear 10 different hats on a daily basis, so that’s a lot of fun. I like being able to switch things up and do something different.”

Jager comes to EGR after teaching stints spanning from Grand Rapids to Litchfield Park, Arizona. 

While he loved teaching and interacting with classes, he felt he could make a bigger impact by pivoting to administration.

“I’ve worked with some awesome administrators,” Jager said. “Just watching what they got to do every day, what they provided every day, the energy they brought, the things they prepared us for — it was like, this is what I want to do.

“I like the organized chaos of it. … Every day is incredibly different.”

‘That’s Who I Am’

Jager brings a “relationship first” approach to education, emphasizing getting to know students’ needs on an individual basis. 

Throughout his career, he’s learned what’s most important to him, and the value of sticking to it.

“I’ve seen people try to be somebody other than who they are, and it never works out. For me, personally, I love talking with people and building relationships with people, and those are the things I want to bring to my position here,” Jager said. “That’s who I am. That’s who I was as a teacher. I didn’t have a lot of rules, per se, in my classroom, but I had very few behavior problems, and I think it’s because I approached each kid with building a relationship first.”

He said his goal at EGRMS is to take those lessons, many of which he learned as a teacher, and apply them to “a school full of kids instead of a section of eighth-grade kids.”

The district’s approach to learning, he said, is much like his own.

“It’s student relationships first, and we do a lot of things here to not let any student slip through the cracks academically or behaviorally, and when you combine all of that — I feel privileged to work here.” 

‘I like the organized chaos of it. … Every day is incredibly different.’

— Assistant Principal Zach Jager

Here are some more facts about Jager:

Other positions in education: 

  • Seventh-grade social studies teacher at Alger Middle School
  • Eighth-grade history teacher at Hamilton Middle School 
  • Eighth-grade history teacher at Avondale and Litchfield school districts in Litchfield Park, Arizona
  • Assistant principal at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek

What about jobs outside education? “My dad owned greenhouses for many years, so growing up I just worked for him,” Jager said. 

He also worked at Hollister and at TGI Friday’s while in college.


  • Hudsonville High School graduate
  • Bachelor’s in education from Grand Valley State University with a minor in physical education
  • Master’s in school administration from Northern Arizona University

If you had to listen to one song the rest of your life: “Anything by Luke Combs. … Luke Combs in my opinion has never put out a bad song. I’d listen to his music on repeat. I actually do. I listen to his music on repeat and it drives my wife crazy.

“If I had to pick one, he did a remake of (Tracy Chapman’s) ‘Fast Car.’ … He remade it on his last album and it’s phenomenal. He does it in his own style, and it’s really good.”

What book, movie, TV show or podcast have you loved lately? “I will read anything by James Patterson, but specifically his Alex Cross series. They’re fast-paced, they’re well-written, the mysteries are very intricate.”

What would you like to share about your family? Jager lives in Byron Center with his wife, Kori, and their two sons, 3½-year-old Colson, and 7-month-old Taylen.

Read more from East Grand Rapids: 
Renovations level up playgrounds
It’s a resounding ‘Yes’ from GRPS, FH, EGR voters

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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