By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Former McNary High School teacher and coach Erik Jespersen has been tapped as the next Celtic principal.
Jespersen will serve as an assistant principal and lead the school once the current principal, John Honey, vacates the office to take on the establishment on a new career technical school full-time in January. Jespersen said he could not have written a happier chapter for his life.
“This is really a dream position for me,” he said. “I have so many former students and parents at McNary who I am still in touch with, and there are a number of people on staff who I genuinely care for as friends. My goal now is to look at the school climate and see where I can help to make this a great place to come to work and go to school.”
Jespersen taught history, coached and was an instructional assistant at McNary before he was hired by former McNary principal Ken Parshall as an assistant principal at McKay High School four years ago. As part of the administrative team at that school, and with the help of a federal School Improvement Grant, the Royal Scots made large gains in the classroom and in graduation rates.
“The school had lots of challenges, but it was an opportunity to think long and hard about how to leverage the money we receive to create sustainable systems for increased achievement,” Jespersen said. “We had great teachers who just needed someone to believe in them and great students who needed that, too.”
Part of what has Jespersen so eager to return to the hallowed halls of McNary is his knowledge of the community that surrounds it.
“What’s cool is the community of Keizer loves McNary and I recognize that fully. I love that our community loves the school and we can continue to love them back,” he said.
With the announcement of his return less than a week old, Jespersen said there’s still much he needs to learn about what’s changed since his departure, but he also has some specific goals he wants to work on.
“On the academic side, I want to look at where our gaps are and where they’re achieving now and how to get to the next level. I want to look at our data and the subgroups (low-income, ESOL students, etc.) and think about what we need to do to close that gap,” he said.
He also hopes to be a point-of-contact for strengthening ties to the community.
Jespersen said teaching is something that’s encoded as much in his DNA as hair and eye color – both his parents were teachers and his grandfather was a principal – but that it was his own experiences in high school that drew him to the field as a career.
“I personally had such a positive experience in high school being involved in clubs and student government and sports and I wanted to help create that for other students,” he said.