KENTLAND — On his last official day as South Newton High School Principal, Charles Huckstep set up the football field to get ideas for the outside graduation July 5 and helped with food distribution for needy families.
His actions on his final day at the school provide a glimpse of his dedication to not only his students but his profession after 41 years in the education field including the last eight as South Newton Principal.
“I have always told new teachers coming here that there’s no better place to start your career than at South Newton,” said Huckstep. “We have such good students and good families here. I also think that there is no better place to end a career than here. I am thankful and blessed for the eight years I have had here.”
Huckstep spent 11 years as a teacher, 15 years as an assistant principal, and a total of 15 years as a principal.
Looking back as his time at South Newton he has many fond memories that stick out in his mind.
“When I first came to South Newton High School our school letter grade was a C,” said Huckstep. “We as a school were able to improve that to a B, and then this last year we scored an A because of what everyone here did. The hard work of the staff has just been amazing.”
Huckstep is also extremely proud of the two Every 15 Minutes programs he put on at the high school. The Every 15 Minutes Program offers real-life experience without the real-life risks. This emotionally charged program, entitled Every 15 Minutes, is an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol and texting while driving.
“It was amazing to see how the community worked together,” said Huckstep. “Loretta Wernert and Diane Vissering were just outstanding with all of their help and it was refreshing to know that we live in a community that really cares about its kids.”
Working together with North Newton and the Newton County Council to secure a major Ag Tech Grant for both schools was another key moment at South Newton for Huckstep.
“That was a whole new experience and it was great to work with North Newton,” added Huckstep. “It was a lot of work but it really paid off for the schools and the students.”
Huckstep gives a lot of credit to his secretary Joyce Hollingsworth and to all of the office staff for making his job so much easier at South Newton.
“Joyce is just an outstanding, hardworking secretary,” said Huckstep. “I have appreciated her so much and I am going to miss working with her. I have also been fortunate to work with Chris Bell and Laura Robins and all of the office staff. Working with people who really care for the kids makes a huge difference and I think that is what made it work here.”
It is fitting that Huckstep’s final act as principal will be helping with graduation since that is something that he truly enjoys and looks forward to each year.
“Getting a diploma is truly life-changing for the students,” said Huckstep. “A diploma opens a lot of doors for them. I have always heard that getting your high school diploma means around $800,000 to $1 million more to someone over their lifetime compared to those who don’t get that diploma.”
In retirement, Huckstep plans to spend more time with his wife Jayne and their six grandchildren.
“My wife has put up with me for 43 years including 41 years as an educator,” added Huckstep. “Her support through the years has been remarkable.”