Building relationships builds community: school principal

Michael H. Babcock/Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce Houghton Elementary Principal Anders Hill accepts his nomination as young person of the year at the Keweenaw Community Spark Plug Awards.

HOUGHTON — After 12 years serving as a principal, five of them at Houghton Elementary School, Anders Hill sometimes misses his time as a teacher, but that might be his strength.

Hill goes out of his way to build relationships with the students, greeting everyone at the door, spending time with them in the lunchroom and at recess and even hopping on the buses.

“It helps when they see the principal,” he said. “Their behavior is better, but really it’s that connection and relationship with kids that really makes a big difference.”

Chosen as Young Person of the Year for a Keweenaw Community Spark Plug Award, Hill was surprised by the honor.

“I really feel humbled by the award and really feel like the success that we’ve been able to have is a school-wide thing, and it’s due to great teachers and great students and a lot of parent support,” Hill said. “The things I’m doing are just a reflection of what everybody is doing here.”

Hill tries to mirror the relationship-building and leadership he sees around him, which isn’t always easy.

“The challenge is trying to be what the teachers need and support them and know every kid and know what they need, and that’s a big challenge that keeps me running and getting out of bed every morning — not knowing what the day’s going to bring.”

Some of the kids have gone into high school since Hill began as principal. For him watching them grow up is part of the fun.

“I tell people all the time when I give them tours I think what makes our area strong is all the strong schools. We have lots of strong schools that meet kids needs,” Hill said.