GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — To reach a middle schooler sometimes you have to think like one. That philosophy has allowed one educator to become leader of the "Wolfe Pack."
Mobbed by kids asking to sign their yearbooks between classes it may have been tempting to send them to the principal’s office.
“Don’t be late,” Brad Wolfe told one.
But he is the principal and this was his last, last day of school.
“This is what matters most,” one boy responded.
“Yes it does, thank you,” Wolfe replied.
The principal of Westridge Middle School in Grand Island is calling it a career after 38 years in education.
“I went into it because I could have a greater impact on student learning and be able to make a difference with students’ lives,” he said.
And there's no question he has, impacting thousands of kids. He taught in Fullerton and Blue Hill before 24 years as a principal for GIPS at both Newell Elementary and now Westridge. Not one to seek the spotlight, he'd let staff tape him to a tree if it motivated students.
“It wasn't about me it was about kids,” he said.
Along with his speech pathologist wife, he supported a number of students with hearing impairments and looked for ways to involve all kids, whether going out for basketball or starting a Minecraft club.
“Just makes school, fun, great environment for kids to be in,” said Kayla Wichman, assistant principal
He's helped train his successor as Wichman will take over in the fall. Not only is there a teacher shortage there's a principal shortage and he says GIPS has worked to build its own leaders.
“Giving people who are in the district an opportunity to be leaders in a building and I feel really good about that,” he said.
“His advice is always great, doing what's best for kids,” Wichman added.
He’s mindful of the stress kids face especially the last few years.
“We had a lot of mental health issues with students and mental health issues coming with our staff so you have to have that empathy, compassion to say my room's going to be a safe place to learn,” he said.
That has made him leader of the “Wolfe Pack.”
“Kids are kids no matter if they're high ability, average, low ability, needs they're still kids and want to be treated with respect and I've tried to do each and every day,” he said.
He'll be on a few more months to help with the transition but the last day of school is the final one with kids. He said he’s looking forward to enjoying life with his family in retirement and says he enjoys connecting with former students.