ADRIAN – Nick Ketterling’s life-changing insight arrived out of the blue at a unique venue.
The son and grandson of educators, Ketterling said he wasn’t interested in becoming a teacher as a young man.
“I had other aspirations,” he said.
Ketterling, who recently became the Adrian School District superintendent, said his interest rested in science.
Then he hit a turning point.
“I got a coaching job, coaching JV football at Eagle High School. During that initial year working with kids, I realized that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with kids and see them progress and learn,” said Ketterling.
Ketterling said he didn’t spend a lot of time reflecting on his new career insight.
“At that point I changed my major and haven’t looked back since,” said Ketterling.
Ketterling, who grew up in Rupert, Idaho, arrives at a district in transition. About a year ago, the Adrian School Board unexpectedly fired Superintendent Kevin Purnell. Purnell had been an educator for 37 years.
In October, the school board selected Raeshelle Meyer as interim superintendent. Her contract ended in June.
Ketterling said he wants to focus on the future and his new duties.
“For me, I think the biggest challenge is just being able to learn and understand how things work here,” said Ketterling.
Ketterling, who has been an educator for 12 years, comes to Adrian from the Marsing Idaho School District, where he worked for the past two years as the middle school and high school principal.
Now, Ketterling lives in Wilder with his wife and two daughters. He moved to Wilder in 2010 after he married his wife Christine.
“She was born and raised in Wilder and we currently live on the family farm in the house she grew up in and the house her dad grew up in,” said Ketterling.
Christine works for the Homedale School District.
Ketterling graduated from Boise State University with degrees in psychology and secondary education. He later expanded his education resume with a master’s and education specialist degree from Northwest Nazarene University. He began his teaching career in Homedale, Idaho.
Ketterling said he kept on eye on the Adrian School District throughout his career because he believed it was a place where he could prosper and help students.
“We have some family friends over here (in Adrian) and people I know. It was something my wife and I talked about that if a superintendent position, or potentially, a principal position, opened up it might be a good fit,” said Ketterling.
Ketterling said when he saw the job opening for superintendent, he viewed it from a dual perspective.
“From the professional side, I wanted to keep moving up and looking at opportunities. On the personal side, I had a pretty distinct list of certain qualities, or certain particulars, for me to move into a different district,” he said.
Many of those qualities, he said, revolved around “what was best for my family.”
“Adrian met those standards,” he said.
A key attraction for the job, he said, was the “small, rural community that feels more like a family.”
He said he wanted “the small school atmosphere where I have an ability to know everyone’s name and there is a rich tradition in Adrian and I wanted to be part of that piece.”
Adrian is not far from his home, he said, which was another big advantage.
Ketterling said when he arrived the first time at the school district he knew he made the right decision.
Ketterling faces a learning curve.
“Obviously moving across state lines, there are a lot of differences from an education standpoint,” he said.
One difference revolves around education funding, said Ketterling.
“There is obviously a lot more money available in Oregon for education. But, at the same time, as I am coming to find out, there is a lot more, I guess, strings attached and paperwork that has to be put into place,” he said.
One big goal for his first year, he said, will be to focus on parents, students and district staff.
“That has to be primary,” he said.
Ketterling said one way he plans to make a difference is to remain positive.
“I know the last couple of years have been really tough for all of Oregon. I know this last year was particularly tough for Adrian. So, I want to try to bring back normalcy, then really start progressing in a positive way from that point,” said Ketterling.
Ketterling said the success of students is another aim.
“Everything I do and all the decisions I make and all the conversations I have, they are all centered on what is best for the kids, what is best for the students,” he said.
Some of those decisions and conversation could be tough, he said.
“They may not be what certain adults want but that is part of my role in working with the board and trying to figure out what is best for our kids and how we can give them the best education and opportunities,” said Ketterling.
Ketterling, 37, said another pillar of success as an education executive is building relationships.
“A huge goal I do have this first year is making sure I meet and really get to know every single student within the district. And, obviously, getting to know the staff and getting to know them not on just a superficial level but on a deeper level. I build relationships so everyone can see that, yes I am a superintendent but I am also a normal guy that has a title,” he said.
Ketterling tends to throw himself into his work.
“The hard thing for me is that I also need to make sure I maintain that balance for my own family. I know because of my personality, it can be difficult thing for me,” said Ketterling.
Ketterling said he likes to “make sure things are done before I leave.”
“Sometimes I tend to put that before my personal life and family so I need to be aware of that,” he said.
For Ketterling, that means spending a lot of time outdoors with his family.
“Camping and hiking. We do a lot with both sides of our family. I enjoy wood working and building things for around the house and with my two girls,” he said.
For now, with school out, he arrives at the school at 7:30 a.m. and departs around 4 p.m.
That schedule, though, will change drastically when school is back in session, he said.
“This first year my days are going to be pretty long and won’t be set in stone just because of the amount of learning I will be doing,” he said.
Ketterling said when he reflects back on his career, the coaching job at Eagle High School is a clear demarcation line.
“Without that opportunity, things would be very different. That single instance and that year was a pivotal point for me,” he said.
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