In May of 2021, it was announced that Ridgewood High School’s vice principal, Mr. Jeffrey Nyhuis, would replace Dr. Gorman as Principal of RHS. Recently, Fiona Smith, a junior at Ridgewood, had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Nyhuis and discuss his new role as Principal and his goals for the upcoming school year.
Fiona Smith: What are your plans for next school year?
Mr. Nyhuis: So next school year I hope to just really start the year with almost a recovery type plan with getting teachers and students just feeling acclimated again to the school. You have to remember there’s a lot of kids, especially 9th graders, that haven’t even stepped in the building yet, so I want to be cognizant of that. There’s some teachers that are going to be coming back after a long break because they haven’t been in the building, so I want to be ready just to start the school year with a fresh start. I think the way things are looking now, things are opening up, and it’s looking very positive. We may still be wearing masks, but I am hoping that’s not the case, because I would like to see faces like I’m seeing yours right now. I really think we just have to hit the ground running and be excited to see each other. Even in the last two months I’ve seen a different energy in the building, and I really am excited to have kids back in, and I’m looking forward to clubs and lunch, and for the whole atmosphere to change, and it will once we start allowing more things to happen.
Smith: What are some of your goals for the upcoming school year?
Nyhuis: Some of the things I would really like to look into is just working with students in terms of social emotional learning. After the pandemic I feel like we need to know how to cope and come up with strategies to deal with stress and anxiety, so I really want to work on that with staff and with students. I’m really looking forward to coming up with some schedules that might be implemented the following year to help with a later start time for kids so that we’re starting school a bit later. I feel like that would not only be a benefit for the kids but also for our community. It’s about feeling refreshed when you get to school everyday. But a lot of it is really just going to be maintaining the things we’ve already been doing, I have to look at and concentrate on getting back to what I know is effective here. You know like I said before, just having clubs meet in person at lunch, having kids eat with their friends, or kids being able to meet with their teachers. I’m really just looking forward to getting people comfortable with being back to school, back to meetings, and back to seeing kids. So that’s my main goal probably for the first couple months is just to get everybody back in the swing of things.
Smith: What new responsibilities and privileges does your new role grant you?
Nyhuis: The principal position is going to give me more leeway to make things happen. For example, you have athletics, activities, academics, and the arts, and as Principal you really have control over a lot of the pieces of the building. Everyone comes to you for support in different areas. So I like having the ability to balance that and making sure that every kid is looked after, and also making sure that every kid has something. My job is to make sure that everyone has someone to feel comfortable with, and an activity that brings them closer to people. That’s really what high school is about. Obviously the main goal is that everyone has access to a great education, but I think another thing for me is connection. It’s connection with the kids, connection with the staff, and all of you guys should feel really good being here. It sounds really simple, but I think in a big school like ours while it’s great to have so many things going on, we have to make sure that everybody gets those connections.
Smith: Lastly, what are your favorite things about RHS?
Nyhuis: I love the unit lunch, because it allows the whole building to, I guess you could say “shut down”, but it’s really a combination of shutting down and opening up. The classes shut down and the building opens up. I love the fact that the teachers can connect with and eat with other teachers. I love the fact that a lot of teachers run clubs during unit lunch. I love the fact that kids actually eat in every little spot in the building. Like if it’s a nice day their in the courtyard, or they’ll eat on the front lawn, they’ll eat in the cafeteria, they’ll eat in the campus center, they’ll eat in the hallways, it’s really anywhere they feel comfortable being. The open campus is wonderful. I always talk about this when people describe Ridgewood, we have few rules for our students, but the kids follow them. For example, you need to get to class at 11:45 right after lunch, but because most of our kids are able to do that, we don’t really have to police a lot of things. It’s really cool. My favorite part of RHS is that you guys have all those freedoms because it gives you so much independence.
Graphic: Sunny Rhew