After about 10 years as a teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School in Brookfield, Wisconsin, John Meulendyke said he felt God was “pushing” him toward something more.
The 37-year-old married father of three young children recently took on the position of principal at Immanuel Lutheran School in Crystal Lake. He is taking the post of Ed Bower, who retired after six years.
“I loved teaching, absolutely loved teaching,” he said. “I just feel God was pushing me toward a position of leadership and a position to take on a role in administration.”
Meulendyke, who also taught for three years in Nebraska before teaching in Brookfield, relocated with his family to Crystal Lake in June.
He looks forward to leading the elementary school, which celebrates its 150th year in 2020, following three main principles, he said.
First off, he said, he will be intentional in being “Christ-centered.”
“A lot of times Christian schools will say they are ‘Christ-centered,’ but to be able to live it and do it throughout the entire school day and week is important,” he said. “The second is that we will be relationally driven.”
By this, Meulendyke means he wants to go beyond just emailing back and forth with parents. He wants teachers to pursue real, face-to-face connections and be more engaged with families. From having conversations in the parking lot to seeing families on Sundays in worship, he wants teachers to know their students and their families “beyond a teacher/family relationship, but on a personal level,” he said.
“There is a difference between getting information from your teacher and knowing you are cared about,” he said.
The third principle is to be intentional about academic excellence.
“The public schools in Crystal Lake are excellent, which is good for us,” he said. “It means we need to be able to raise our ability level to be able to educate students and have high standards for them.”
His first year he will observe and evaluate how the school is operating and has no immediate plans for changes, he said.
He does hope to increase enrollment at the school, which serves students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Currently, the school serves 180 students.
“I’d like to be out in the community more,” he said. “I’d like to go into the preschools and let them know we are here. Hopefully get into some of the churches and let them know we are an educational option where Christ is at the forefront.”
Senior Pastor Larry Tieman said he looks forward to Meulendyke’s visionary and leadership qualities helping build relationships within the school and community, and increase enrollment.
“We are one of the best-kept secrets in Crystal Lake, and with John here, we won’t be a secret that much longer,” he said.
Tieman said the new principal “brings a great deal of very endearing qualities” to the school.
“First and foremost, we are a Christian school, and he has a great love for the Lord,” Tieman said. “He wants to see the children of our school and community have the opportunity to develop a similar love for Jesus that he already has.”
School begins Wednesday.