Kevin Hoherz will be the new principal for Dickinson High School.
In his decades-long teaching career he has been a coach, teacher and administrator around the state, and he hopes to bring his experience and vision to Dickinson as he tackles the challenges facing the school and education.
"I use a philosophy of education 'what's best for students'? How are they going to learn the best," Hoherz said. "The more reading and research I've done on student learning ... students learn differently. There shouldn't be a timeline on learning."
Hoherz said that students being left behind because they aren't as fast as their peers in grasping material helps no one. He said that that while the class should continue on with the scheduled curriculum, students who are struggling should be given the opportunity to retest. He also believes that the assignments students are given to take home should be meaningful.
"Homework is important," Hoherz said. "There are certain benefits to homework, but I remember just sitting at home doing worksheet after worksheet. The work that students do at home should be critical thinking skills and it should have a purpose instead of just doing work to be doing work."
Hoherz will be starting on officially as DHS' new principal, replacing outgoing principal Ron Dockter, on July 1. He's aware of the challenges Dickinson High School is currently facing with new construction, expansion and potential capacity issues. Hoherz is already involved in the staff hiring process, participating in several interviews with candidates for the vice principal role. Hoherz said he anticipated a smooth transition.
"I'm happy with what I've seen ... the staff, they are doing very good with what they have, it's starting to get full and they're doing a great job doing with what they have, making it best for student learning," he said. "It's exciting times."
Hoherz has been principal in Beulah for the past few years, and he said he'll be sad to leave.
"Beulah's been great to us, we, the staff is tremendous, it's very comfortable, big class B school ... but my wife and I are big empty-nesters, our kids are gone, we're looking towards the future, to retirement," Hoherz said. "We've always thought about moving to a Class A school for retirement."
Fargo and Bismarck were considered, but Hoherz and his wife found reasons to like Dickinson, including that they both graduated from Dickinson State University.
"This is kind of a move where, we've done things for our kids all our life, chased them and it's one of these things where we kind of decided, let's do something for us now," Hoherz said. "What I've observed is, there's a lot of good things going on. It's going to be a very easy transition."
Hoherz said that he's been spurred on lately by what he sees as a change in the philosophy of education.
"Everything is ongoing in learning and ... with education, it's not the way it was back even 10 years ago. I've told my staff that if you look back at pictures back in 1910, 1920, 1930, the classes were the same as they were in 2000," Hoherz said. "The philosophy of education was basically the same: 'I'm going to present the material and it's up to them to learn it.' Whoever has the best memorization skills is the best student. It doesn't necessarily mean they are the brightest or they can learn."
Hoherz said that the students who excelled were the ones best at taking tests. There's recently been a shift in the paradigm, with interest in reaching students in more ways.
"This is what has rejuvenated me in the latter half of my career, to see that education is changing and there's differentiation in learning and to find out how (students) learn differently," he said. "To try and reach them in different ways, instead of ... 'here's the information, now give it back to me.'"
Hoherz said he's not going into the school and issuing mandates or telling teachers they'll need to change—he just wants to observe and take stock, but he hopes that he can share these ideas with the staff and they can work with them in mind.
Hoherz graduated from high school in Mott in 1981. He met his wife in Michigan, N.D., where he had his first teaching gig. Since then he's taught in Mott and been a principal there as well, before moving to Stanley, then Beulah and now to Dickinson.
He admitted that he did not study very hard in high school, which he "paid for" in college when he really had to study. He majored in physical education with a math minor, and he taught both of those subjects.
As a former coach, Hoherz believes in the importance of students engaging in activities, both athletic and artistic.
"Statistics still say that if you're involved, whether it's athletics or speech or any of the activities, those students do better in school than non-participants," Hoherz said. "Being active ... that is proven and I strongly encourage students to partake in those organizations and activities."
He said that activities allowed for student-community engagement in Beulah.
"In Beulah we have an art program and they are important to the community because they are out around town doing murals ... students will go out after school and paint the murals," he said. "It just makes a more well-rounded students. It gives 'em life experiences, how to interact with a community, adults. All of those activities, speech, band, choir, they all make, I feel, a more well-rounded student."