Difference Makers: Shawn Kinder: In it for the kids

Shawn Kinder
Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer

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Advice from a colleague pushed Shawn Kinder out of coaching and teaching and into the administration side of education.

Woodland High School and the greater Marble Hill, Missouri, community has reaped the benefits for the past decade.

Kinder, high school principal, said the reason he made the move is simple — ensuring students who need help and support get it.

“The draw for me was those types of kids — the kids who just needed the extra attention and love and support and just needed someone to be there,” he said. “The bigger impact you have, affecting more kids in those positions. That’s what drew me to it.”

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University and native of Delta, where he was a standout basketball player, Kinder said the most important aspect of his job is team building, adding he has a “fantastic” group now.

“I work with the most remarkable people I feel like in this profession,” he said. “I am telling you, this staff is not afraid to go the extra mile, and they are very open for whatever is coming down the pike. They are just in it for the kids. When I first got in this thing, that’s what I wanted most, to create and cultivate a team that had the same vision and passion — kids. I feel like we’ve established that.”

One of the programs Kinder has implemented is a group of life coaches — an “advisory family” — who work with students as they progress through the high school. These teachers develop a strong relationship with the students, Kinder said, so the students know they have someone in their corner they can count on and trust.

“The academic component is important, what I think is just as important is making sure that kid knows that you are there, and that relationship component is built with them, and they know here is someone they can trust and go to,” he explained.

Community is an important concept for Kinder, at the school and within Marble Hill. He said his family dove into Marble Hill, helping where they could, and he wanted the school to have a similar relationship with the town, its residents and businesses.

“Just observing in my first few years, I felt like this was an element that was so important for our kids, and I didn’t think it was the relationship it could be,” he explained.

One of the ways he has tried to change that dynamic is Community Friday. On the last Friday of each month, all eligible students — those who don’t have pressing academic work to complete — participate in community improvement projects. This army of up to 250 young people has cleaned up parks, handed out food, developed a nature trail and hung Christmas lights for elderly residents.

“When you drive around and see what these kids are doing, it’s amazing. It creates just a really good academic atmosphere, and our people are working together to make this a better place.”