Member Spotlight: Dave Feenstra

Chelsey Martinez's picture

We want to share good news about education! MASSP is turning the spotlight on members who are making an impact in their school, district and community. Spotlighted members exemplify the mission of the MASSP: To advance learning through educational leadership.

Dave Feenstra, Principal, Hudsonville High School

How long have you worked in education?
30 years

How long have you been an administrator?
25 years

Give us a few personal details.
Dawn and I have been married for 29 years. We have two kids: Ellen is a NICU nurse at DeVos Children's Hospital and Daniel is a Senior at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. We enjoy traveling to National Parks. I love riding my black cherry Harley Davidson Street Glide around our beautiful State.

Tell us about a program/initiative at your school that you are proud of.
Our LINKS Program has changed the culture of our school and how we embrace and support students with special needs. We offer LINKS as a course each trimester. Currently we have over 60 students in our LINKS Program throughout our school.

LINKS (Peer-to-Peer Support) elective course/credit programs represent one model of 21st century instructional design that incorporates applied (experiential) learning in a non-traditional manner. Peer–to-Peer support (the evidence- and research-base common name) or peer-mediated learning is well documented as an evidence-based practice for pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2010; National Standards Project, 2010).

The general education student (LINK) enrolled in LINKS is a mentor, role model, and coach to a student with a special need or ability. In this role, the LINK is assigned a student for a minimum of one class period per day. The LINK peer will assist the student in such areas as appropriate classroom behavior, organization of assignments and materials, and reading social cues. The LINK attends biweekly case conferences to discuss the progress of their student, and contributes ideas on how to more effectively help the student progress toward his/her goals.

During a typical school week, the LINK is required to study online reading materials related to students with special needs and abilities and learn strategies for working with students.

This program has positively impacted our school far beyond our initial intentions. Our Special needs students are connected, respected, and loved by our student body. I am happy to share our LINKS program with anyone interested.

What advice would you have for those who are new to the Principalship?
As you know being a principal is more than just a job. It is a way of life for an individual that is challenging, physically and mentally, demanding, unending, irritating, frustrating, painful, consuming and overwhelming. It is also one of the most fulfilling and rewarding lifestyles a person can have.

This quote from Teddy Roosevelt really communicates what it takes as secondary principals to meet the educational challenges of the 21st Century.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The best assets available for your success as a principal are your colleagues in the field. You will have some difficult days in this profession and your peers will be the "game changers" for you in the most challenging times. Be intentional about meeting with area principals at least monthly and attend MASSP professional development to proactively lead your school. Acknowledging, admiring, and emulating the passion, innovation, and servant leadership of your colleagues in the principalship will guide you as you strive to address the needs of every student, every day.