Retiring principal: Delphos St. John’s my life, students my kids

May 18, 2013

DELPHOS ?? At age 64, Don Huysman has spent most of his life eating lunches in the Delphos St. John??s High School cafeteria. Fifty-three years actually: 12 as a student and 41 as teacher or principal.

??There are not many who can say that,? he said this past week from his office filled with pictures, awards and Blue Jay memorabilia. ??You get in a tradition. This school has been my life so to speak. This is where I have been. There is no other place I wanted to be other than here.?

Huysman is winding down a 41-year carer at St. John's, the same school he graduated from in 1966 not knowing what he wanted to do next. He got his funeral directors license and served an apprenticeship before deciding on education.

??I always had in the back of my mind kids and that is what kind of led me back toward education,? he said.

After graduating from Ohio State University, Huysman landed a job back at his alma mater. He ??lived out of a briefcase,? teaching both high school and junior high social studies. He coached junior high football and was an assistant high school baseball coach during those early teaching years.

Huysman became faculty manager in 1976 and began his 16-year stint as athletic director in 1983. He took over as assistant principal in 1989 and then principal in 2000. Huysman credits his decision to go into administration to his admiration for his principal, the Rev.Tom Kuhn, and Principal George Adams, who hired Huysman.

??They were tough, but fair,? he said. ??I knew how much people cared for both men. I really admired what they stood for.?

The two taught Huysman lessons he has used throughout his career. The biggest, he said, is to remember that ??kids are kids? and they are going to make mistakes. Doling out punishment at times can??t be avoided, but it??s been the part of the job most hated by Huysman.

??After awhile you feel like you are the guy being the hard guy and that is not what your ambition is,? he said. ??I don??t come to school thinking I want to punish somebody. It is the last thing. It is tough. It takes a lot out of me.?

With no children of his own, Huysman considers St. John??s students his ??kids.? He tries to get to as many of their activities as possible, spends a good share of time in the hallways with them, and views it as a personal failure when he is forced to expel one of them.

??I have had very, very good relationships with people I have worked with, but the ones I love are those kids. The kids are first,? he said. ??I have had parents of these kids, even getting to the point of grandparents. I know these kids. They are human and they make mistakes, but they are great kids. I would not trade them for anything and that is what I am going to miss.?

Huysman cites changes coming from the state and a new world of technology as a few reasons he knew now was the time to retire. He will remain through June. His replacement has not been named yet.

Huysman is not sure of his future, other than that he will stay in Delphos and possibly eventually go back to work doing something.

??I am going to sit back and catch my breath a little bit and then decide,? he said. ??When July 1 comes and I am out of here, I don??t know, it is going to take some adjustment.?

In the meantime, Huysman has plenty of cleaning and packing to do. His office walls are lined with things, including 12 framed class pictures. There is one for each year Huysman has been principal. The 13th picture has been taken and will arrive soon.

??They are very important to me. That is why I put them in a frame and hung them up and they will go with me when I leave,? he said. ??I look at those and they bring back memories. ? A lot still stop in and see me. That means more to me than anything.?

Don Huysman