Profile: Dr. Echols

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How do you like being a Mustang?

I really enjoy it, it’s been super so far. The students have treated me really great! A lot of students from the old Hill days see me in the hallways and remember me and that’s been positive. A lot of the staff members, some of whom I’ve worked with when I was at Waubonsie and some at Hill, are over here and they’re really welcoming. So, that’s been really nice. It’s a great start as far as I’m concerned.

How do you feel about stepping into Mr. Schmid’s shoes?

Tough. Those are big shoes to fill. Mr. Schmid was my boss when I was a dean at Waubonsie, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I know he’s a kind man, a great leader, and someone who cares about kids. And hopefully, I can do as well. He mentored me for a number of years, and even if I run into something right now that I don’t understand, I got him on my cell phone. We talk and we play golf together sometimes, so I’m not afraid to give him a call and say, “Hey, how would you handle that?” But he has been a terrific role model for many of us in the administration for us to follow.

What are the differences between being a principle for middle school and high school?

The principalship is almost the same, but the amount of programs, students, teachers, [and] systems are multiplied by 10, or 5 at least. There’s a lot more emails, a lot more checks and balances, a lot more teachers I have to observe. I’m observing, not quite double, but pretty close to double the amount of teachers. And it’s a much bigger building to keep track of the buildings and grounds and make sure everything looks nice. It’s just bigger and more, is what I would say. But it’s more fun because the high school kids are like young adults, and when you have conversations with them the conversations can go a little deeper at the high school level than middle school.

What were your strengths and weaknesses in school?

Oh boy! (laughs) I was just talking to somebody. When I was in school, I wasn’t a very good math student. I was a good writer, and I struggled with math a little bit.  I didn’t see myself as being an A student in highschool, so I got B’s and C’s. It wasn’t until I got into college and started to get some A’s and I said, “Hey, you know, I think I can get A’s now.” You know, I think I had a mental block — that you know, “I’m a dumb jock” — I was a football, basketball, and track guy, and most of those guys, you know, if we got a B that was something to celebrate. If we got a C, that’s okay. But I think, once I realized if I work hard I can get A’s, then school became a little easier to me. I struggled with math, I struggled a little bit with just putting in the effort to get A’s when I was in high school. Fortunately I found that out a little later on in life.

What’s your advice for your students here at Metea?

Just do your best.  Your best is always good enough. I tell kids that all the time. And treat others with respect because you never know, the same person that you’re being mean to next week, one day you could be at a job interview and that person is sitting there and they make the decision to hire you or not. I’ve been very fortunate: I’ve worked in four different school districts as a teacher and an administrator, and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve always been respectful of people. When I’ve left I’ve said thank you to the people who hire me and they said, “Hey whenever you want to come back, you can come on back.” I’ve never said bad things about another district or another school, if there were some things I didn’t like I kept them to myself. You do that, and I think as you go down the road, people will say “Hey, he was a pretty good guy (and a) hard-working guy,” and that way it keeps your options open. If you’re somebody who bad mouths the place when you leave there or you say unflattering things it always gets back to somebody. And that could hurt you in a situation when you’re trying to get a promotion or trying to get into college. So, just treat people with respect even when you disagree with them and that’s a toughest thing to do. Respect your classmates, respect your teachers, and respect your building.

Which letter of the L.I.F.E statement do you think is most important?

I think it’s Foster Positive Relationships. I think that’s huge. As I was just saying, everywhere I’ve gone I’ve fostered positive relationships with people and have had many people come back and ask me for letters of recommendation, not just for college but for jobs. I’ve had a few of my kids get into some trouble and need a letter for the judge and they might have been a previous student of mine or they played basketball for me and I always help them out. We all make mistakes. But I make sure they understand that, “I’m doing this for you, because I care about you and want you to be successful, but please understand if you keep making that mistake, you’re not getting any better.” So, I always have those conversations with kids and it’s through those relationships.  Over time, I think that’s helped me in my career to keep moving forward.

By Megan Arnold