During his 11 years at Toledo's Arlington Elementary School, Jim Heer was known as caring. After he retired, the auditorium was named in his honor.
TEMPERANCE - Jim Heer was so popular when he was principal of Arlington Elementary School that they named the auditorium after him when he retired after 11 years at the South Toledo school.
“And I didn't even have to die to do it,” joked Mr. Heer, an energetic 54-year-old who last week was named the principal at Bedford's Jackman Road Elementary School, a job he's held on an interim basis since September 10.
Mr. Heer was the unanimous recommendation of a 10-member panel of parents, teachers, and administrators at the school.
The administration was swamped with letters from Jackman Road students asking them to let Mr. Heer stay. When told he would be the administration's pick for the job, the news drew a standing ovation, said Wes Berger, district assistant superintendent for human resource.
“It's like I've been adopted into a new family,” said Mr. Heer, who tried his hand at selling cars for a short time after retiring from Toledo Public Schools in 1999. But cars were never his bag - kids were, he said.
“I sold 91 cars that year - not bad for a new salesman. But it wasn't me. Every time a kid would come into the showroom, I would naturally gravitate toward them. I missed it,” Mr. Heer said.
It didn't take long for him to realize that he preferred a classroom to a showroom, so he went back to his old employer, Toledo Public Schools, and worked for a year as a substitute administrator before getting a call last fall from Mr. Berger, another former TPS employee.
At the time, Bedford was searching for a replacement for Jackman Road principal Deb Warns, who had decided to retire last summer. The district's search proved unfruitful and the school started the year with an acting principal until Mr. Heer agreed to take the job on an interim basis in September.
At Arlington, Mr. Heer had made a name for himself for the caring he regularly showed to his teachers and students. Teachers there told of their former principal brushing off their cars after a big snowstorm and regularly giving up his lunchtime to help teachers and meet students in the cafeteria.
Although his longest tenure during his career with TPS was at Arlington, Mr. Heer also worked at Chase, Old Orchard, and Martin Luther King elementary schools, as well as Robinson Junior High and his alma mater, Start High School, either as a teacher or administrator.
Still, he says he sees something different in Bedford.
“I've been around a lot, seen a lot of buildings ... and [Bedford] has got something special here,” said Mr. Heer, the father of two grown children who makes his home in Springfield Township with his wife of 30 years, Kathy. “The sense of family here is unbelievable. It's the big town/small town comparison.”
He has been warmly received by his adopted Bedford family, receiving welcomes from parents, students, and fellow administrators after last week's school board meeting where they offered him the $74,000-a-year job.
Mr. Heer said that elementary education is the place for him and for anyone who loves kids and loves helping them learn. The sense of achievement is palpable, and the results one sees when a child is educated are dramatic.
“Young people are so receptive. When I walked into the building this morning, four of my second grade students came up and gave me a hug. It just doesn't get any better,” Mr. Heer said.