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By Kelly Youngblood
A lot of changes are scheduled to take place at the Mansfield campus next year including a new building with a new name and now, a new principal.
Rob Wilkinson was named as the new principal of the elementary and junior high school effective July 1, 2013. Wilkinson will take over for John Weaver after he retires.
Wilkinson, 34, is currently a sixth grade math teacher and junior high athletic director at Heyworth.
Blue Ridge Superintendent Susan Wilson said out of the 36 applicants, Wilkinson was the unanimous choice for all of the school board members.
“Mr. Wilkinson was clearly the top candidate from among all of the groups due to his experience at the junior high/middle school level, leadership in several initiatives, and experience as Coach and Junior High Athletic Director,” Wilson said.
Wilkinson has taught a variety of subjects at Heyworth for the last six years including in math, reading, social studies, English, and science.
As the junior high athletic director for the last two years, he’s overseen nine different sports and five activities. He’s also coached boys track for the last six years and was the assistant basketball coach for two years as well.
Before coming to Heyworth, he taught sixth grade at St. Anne Elementary School for five years. During that time, he also coached girl’s softball, baseball, and boy’s basketball. He spent the last year at St. Anne as the athletic director.
Wilkinson currently resides in Kenney with his wife, Audra, and their three-year old daughter Danica. They are also expecting a baby boy in April.
Wilkinson says they would like to move into the district or a neighboring community at some point in the future.
“Everything has happened so fast, we have not begun thinking that far ahead yet,” he said.
In his spare time, Wilkinson enjoys spending time with his family and watching sports, especially baseball. An avid White Sox fan, Wilkinson says he’s collected baseball memorabilia since he was a kid.
Originally from St. Anne, IL, a small town of about 1,200 people, Wilkinson considers himself lucky to have been able to begin his teaching career in the community he was born and raised.
After high school, Wilkinson received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Southern Illinois University and went on to obtain a master’s degree in administration at Illinois State University.
Although he was very happy working with the staff and students at Heyworth, Wilkinson says he felt he could have a larger impact on student achievement as a principal.
“This was the reason I decided to make the jump to administration,” he said.
Wilkinson says he’s very excited to have the opportunity to join the Blue Ridge School District. Having been in the same athletic conference, he’s been able to work with a few of the staff members and even the students from supervising athletic events. He says from what he’s seen already, he is very impressed with the staff’s dedication to doing what is best for kids.
“From my experience with (Blue Ridge) students and staff, you cannot find a better group of people to work with, which makes me very excited to start my new position,” he said.
Starts next July
While his new position won’t officially begin until the summer of 2013, Wilkinson says he plans to be take the opportunities he can throughout the rest of the school year to get the know the current school, the logistics of the future school and the parents, students, staff and programs as well.
“It is a goal of mine to spend time learning about the history of the school and district, getting to know the staff and students, while developing a sense of togetherness in the building,” Wilkinson said. “I am also excited to get to know the Blue Ridge community and learn how others feels about the direction they would like to see the school and district go. I want to know what is important to all stakeholders.”
In addition to using his technology background to benefit the district, Wilkinson also hopes to bring a positive attitude toward learning and be the kind of principal who is approachable, honest, reliable, and has time to listen to people’s concerns.
Recognizing that the new building may bring forth some challenges, Wilkinson says, “I feel it is very important to build a collaborative atmosphere among the staff and students.”
Regardless of the challenges, Wilkinson says he’s thrilled to begin working with the staff, students, parents and community of Blue Ridge to provide the best educational experience possible.
“I know there is great teaching taking place in Blue Ridge and we will have to work together to find ways to make it even better,” he said.