Chris Olson officially started in the role of Lake Ripley’s new elementary school principal Tuesday.
Olson was an English teacher at Litchfield Middle School for 16 years, after he graduated from Bemidji State University with a bachelor’s degree in arts and literature in 2003. Olson also coached the boys hockey team, middle school softball and junior varsity softball.
“I absolutely, 100 percent, will miss coaching,” Olson said. “I mean, it’s a huge part of who I am. But there again, what I’ll miss most about it is the relationship piece of it. You know, the relationship with players. The relationship I had with my coaches that I coached with, that’s a huge piece of why I did it for so long. And so, to be done doing it is different, but at the same time the experience that I gained as a coach, as a teacher and teaching multiple abilities, and coaching multiple abilities, you learn a lot of how to be around all kinds of people – as a principal here.”
He obtained a master’s degree in education and his administrative license from St. Mary’s University in 2006. And after many hours of internships and further coursework, he received an administrative degree from Concordia University in July 2018.
Initially, Olson thought it might be too soon to become principal.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be a principal this quickly,” he said. “The opportunity, the timing of it was something that I didn’t necessarily expect, but at the same time it was something I was ready for. … When this door opened, I knew that I really needed to consider it and it just felt right.”
Olson said he’s very fortunate to work with the existing staff, whether it’s people in the office or teachers, because they are supportive, hardworking, and they want to excel in everything they do.
“And that makes coming into a position like this much easier,” Olson said. “I know a lot of the staff personally … so that transition piece was fairly smooth.”
During the next several years or more, Olson wishes to create a space for working with the social and emotional learning of students and “just genuinely educating the whole child,” he said. Greater access to the use of technology for elementary students is another element he considers important, which – as a principal – he’s determined to create.
“When you have technology at your finger-tips all of the time, I think we have to utilize that,” Olson said. “I don’t think something like this should just replace a worksheet. I think it becomes much more interactive. I mean, you’re connected to the world if you want. And how can you do that, how can you change learning? I mean, some kids learn by having stuff in their hands. Some kids learn by seeing it on a screen. Some kids learn by hearing it. So trying to touch all learning styles is something that we can definitely do, and we have the technology in front of us.”
Cindy Geislinger of Watkins, Lake Ripley Elementary School secretary, said communication among staff and teachers has improved after Olson joined the team, which makes her job easier.
“Yes, it directly affects me,” Geislinger said. “Mr. Olson will get information out to teachers via email or whatever. Information like a schedule change, scheduling (or) if they get a new student in a classroom... Instead of having a teacher having to say, ‘Is the schedule changing next week?’ And then I get lots of those questions… (Olson) already gets that information to teachers.”
“It’s been quite a journey,” Olson said. “But (I’m) continually learning, and continually trying to figure it out as I go.”