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After fourteen years with the Chrisman School District, Principal and Theatre Director Cole Huber is stepping down.
Huber came to work for the district just after graduating from Carbondale.
“Norm Tracy was the superintendent, worked in Oakland where I went to school, so I had a connection with him and the rest is destiny,” Huber said.
Cole started out as the High School History Teacher and Theatre Director. During his time teaching, he started taking classes at Eastern Illinois University.
“Leadership has always been a natural thing for me,” Huber told us. “I knew I wanted an option for myself if I ever felt like I needed to make a change, I could.”
The semester after Huber finished his classes at EIU, then principal Nancy Dalenberg retired. “It just worked itself out and was just a very natural transition.”
Still being Principal, Huber continued being theatre director, producing successful school plays such as ‘Shrek’, ‘Grease’ and ‘Oklahoma’ to name a few.
“Theatre is my passion, it’s my love. In my high school year book, I was ‘Most Likely to Star on Broadway’,” Huber said. “It was something that I love and always loved.”
After five years of being Principal, it began to wear on Huber both mentally and emotionally. “The principal life is very difficult. It’s very mentally and emotionally taxing,” Huber said. “My family has felt that probably more than I care to admit.”
The job has Huber constantly responding to calls, texts and emails from different people.
“It’s almost never ending,” Huber said. “When I’m home, I’m never present.” Looking ahead, Huber has another twenty-five to thirty years left in education and believed now was the time to make a transition.
“I don’t want to be the guy who looks back and says ‘Man, I really wish I would’ve watched my kids grow up’,” Huber told us. “I haven’t had that chance. My daughter is four years old, going on five and I’ve been Principal for five years, so literally this is all she knows.”
Being the Principal during the pandemic didn’t make things much easier. With the increased amount of pressure on the school, the ever changing rules and trying to keep the students safe added to the stress.
“Trying to wade through that mud was very difficult.”
The district also lost their school nurse and two teachers in the middle of the year. Though it was just two teachers, it set off a domino effect, leaving the remaining teachers with full plates. Huber stepped in to take on as much as he could to relieve the pressure.
“I prefer to take on the additional responsibility rather than ask someone whose already burdened, stressed and at their limit to take on another role,” Huber said.
In the past five years, Huber has taught a few classes as well as filled in as a referee when an opening couldn’t be filled.
“It’s not sustainable – more for my family than me. If I was a single guy and had no one to go home to, I’d live at the school and do nothing but this,” Huber said. “That’s who I was for the first half of my teaching career, but that’s not who I am today.”
In the last couple of weeks, Huber made the difficult decision to leave the Chrisman District and has taken a new position at Sullivan High School in Illinois.
“I will be the Athletic Director and History Teacher,” Huber said. Though he had feelers out for an Assistant Principal or Dean of Students job, Huber felt this was the right fit.
Before deciding on Sullivan, Huber spoke with friends who were from that school district or had been. “They raved about the school district, administration and the community,” Huber said. “It just felt like a very natural fit for me. It’s close to my parents and my in-laws. From a family perspective, it made a lot of sense.”
Being a part of the Chrisman school district for fourteen years, this wasn’t an easy decision. “This has been my home, this is all I’ve known for fourteen years,” Huber said told us.
Feeling like he’s grown up in this community, Huber has a lot of people that he cares about that he will be leaving. “It was a very difficult decision because of that. I will miss the family atmosphere of the community,” he said.
The support of the teachers and students is something that Huber will be forever grateful for. “I’ll miss my teachers. I love them to death. They’ve been very supportive,” Huber said. “I’ll miss the kids. There’s a lot of kids that I’ve made friendships and bonds with that I would like to see graduate.”
Huber has reflected on his job at Chrisman, knowing that it’s his role, along with the teachers to get the students in a place academically, emotionally and socially so they can be independent and be prepared for the road ahead. This is something that he considers has happened to him. “I can’t count the number of things that I’ve learned here in Chrisman, whether it’s from being Principal, teaching or coaching stuff,” Huber said. “I feel like I’ve learned a ton here that I can apply.”
The position of Principal hasn’t been filled yet, but Huber made sure that the district has enough time to fill the position. He will also be around to answer any questions the new hire might have if they come in before he leaves.
As he leaves his home of fourteen years, Huber is looking forward to it, but is nervous. “It’s scary and nerve-wrecking. Change is hard,” Huber said. “But I’m a firm believer that change is good and can be good.”