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NHA Teachers: The Inspiration Behind the Work of this School Leader

Kelsey Pardue  |  January 20, 2021
This is our thirteenth installment in the “What is a DSQ?” blog series.
 
Even during his college days, Jack DeLeeuw found himself working in a school setting as a custodian, which after college turned into a teaching position. After being in the field of education as a teacher, coach, and principal for nearly 20 years, DeLeeuw was offered the position to join National Heritage Academies (NHA) as principal at Eagle Crest Charter Academy. Now in his fourth year serving as director of school quality (DSQ), DeLeeuw remains focused on expressing his gratitude for educators.
 
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Coming to NHA, he loved the role of working with school leaders to develop systems for better academic performance, which is no small task. “There is a lot required of our school leaders and DSQ’s are there to assist in prioritizing what their focus should be,” he said.
 
What inspires DeLeeuw the most is the teachers at NHA.
 
After spending nearly two decades in the traditional school system, he shared that the dedication of NHA teachers is second to none. In his first few months as principal at Eagle Crest, he was amazed at the lengths school staff went to be a resource for students and families. “It’s the work ethic and extra time put in to make sure students receive meaningful lessons. What sets NHA teachers apart is the will and dedication our teachers have to allow every student to be successful,” said DeLeeuw.
 
Fast forward to today and reflecting on the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, to use the word amazed would be an understatement. “We have asked so much of our teachers and they’ve persevered through it all. They don’t just do it, but they do it well,” said DeLeeuw. “From virtual/remote teaching to in-person instruction, I have been highly impressed with our teachers. They took a very difficult situation and made it meaningful for our kids. Our teachers give their all.  One of the very best aspects is that they continue to find a variety of ways to stay well connected to our students and families.”
 
While he leads with gratitude for educators, DeLeeuw also relies heavily on what he calls the “5 C’s”. This includes creating the right culture for student learning, being consistent with expectations both as far as what we teach and how we teach, everyone concentrating on the same things to ensure virtual and horizontal alignment in all we do, effective communication with all stakeholders, and collaboration by coming together to solve problems and provide a more effective learning experience for all students.

"Jack advocates for collaboration among the West Michigan principals. He brings great practices from one school community to another," said Louise Moore, principal at Eagle Crest Charter Academy.

DeLeeuw feels that as a leader, it’s important to be honest and authentic with those that he leads. “Being able to admit our mistakes helps build trust and provides for countless learning opportunities," he said.

A passion area of his is literacy, as DeLeeuw believes it is the number one thing students need to be successful in school and life. “We have to create the right structures within a school that allow students to be successful as readers and writers,” he explained. “Without meaningful structures in place, it’s difficult to know all students are getting the literacy instruction they deserve.”
 
The University Kansas School of Education & Human Sciences discussed the importance of literacy in the classroom, “Teaching literacy to students means that they are given the ability to communicate clearly and effectively and form the foundation of modern life. Students that can’t read effectively fail to grasp important concepts, score poorly on tests, and ultimately, fail to meet educational milestones. Literacy skills allow students to seek out information, explore subjects in-depth and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. By teaching students to communicate effectively, you help create engaged students who learn to love the act of learning.”
 
“Jack is an experienced and caring educator who prioritizes student learning. He is systematic in his approach towards excellence for schools, while also being extremely personable and thoughtful as he interacts with others through this process,” said Dan Bartels, principal at Excel Charter Academy. “Jack leads by example by not shying away from tough decisions. He has a strong work ethic and continually drives for quality education for our students.”

DeLeeuw’s portfolio of schools includes Chandler Woods Charter Academy, Cross Creek Charter Academy, Eagle Crest Charter Academy, Excel Charter Academy, Knapp Charter Academy, Vanderbilt Charter Academy, Vanguard Charter Academy, Vista Charter Academy, and Walker Charter Academy.