Eric Hoops has settled in nicely as Chanute Elementary School principal.
As a first-year principal last year, Hoops was thrust into the many obstacles presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had several students that were confirmed cases, and a lot of students quarantined,” he said.
With 713 enrolled students, Hoops said it’s challenging to lead a building of that size, noting that the pandemic has exacerbated matters.
“When we have several adults that are out, that makes it a challenge to educate kids,” he said. “But I’m proud to say, every day that we’ve been open since August, we’ve had a licensed professional in front of the kids.”
Hoops said the substitute teacher situation “got interesting” at times.
“That’s the great thing about this staff. There were a lot of days where teachers subbed in different classrooms and subbed at different grade levels,” he said. “And our assistant principals were willing to step into the classrooms, all to make it work for the kids. With the ‘Students First’ motto at Chanute Public Schools, it was all with the intent to make it the best for the kids.”
Hoops said he couldn’t be more pleased with his staff’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“It was one thing in June and July when we discussed putting additional protocols and procedures in place,” he said. “It was one thing to put them down on a piece of paper. But it’s the staff that has taken those and put them into practice and made us successful this year. The credit for that goes to them.”
A Nebraska native, Hoops earned his degree in Elementary Education from Bethany College. He then spent the following 12 years teaching in various capacities in the McPherson area. One such role that helped Hoops gain a better perspective of his profession was as an instructor for emotionally disturbed children at McPherson Middle School.
“I learned a lot about kids and myself during that time,” he said, having also spent many years as a special education instructor. “Not all students come to school ready to learn. Sometimes, we as educators need to provide (a positive) environment for those students to be successful.”
After earning his licensure in Building Leadership, Hoops accepted an offer as Chanute Elementary assistant principal in 2017. He spent two years in that job before ascending to his current role.
“There’s quite a transition as you move from assistant principal to principal,” he said. “As a teacher, you see your classroom. As assistant principal, I oversaw roughly half the school. Now as principal, the challenge is you have to see the entire building. That includes everybody from maintenance to custodian to kitchen staff to every teacher that’s here. In a building this size, that is a challenge.”
Hoops said his fondest memory of his time in Chanute was when he was oversaw the fifth-grade leadership team, as he tasked them with the pop tab challenge.
“They collected pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House and if we reached our goal, I had to kiss a pig,” he said. “And sure enough, they reached the goal.”
Hoops said one of his mentors is Assistant District Superintendent Matt Koester. Koester served as CES principal prior to Hoops taking the position.
“Eric was a brand new administrator when he arrived in Chanute and I think he’s grown a lot in that time,” Koester said. “He’s certainly dedicated to the students at CES and our district as a whole. He has an extremely high work-ethic. He probably works too much, to be honest.”
USD 413 Superintendent Kellen Adams echoed Koester’s sentiments.
“Eric’s got a ton of drive, very hard work-ethic,” Adams said. “In my opinion, really unmatched. I appreciate his level of diligence. He’s extremely detailed and goal-driven. You never walk into a meeting in which Eric is not fully prepared for all aspects of it. And his passion, specifically for special education, is unmatched. I really appreciate how much he advocates for those students. His heart bleeds for them. Which is great, because they need a passionate advocate like him.”
Hoops and his wife, Wendy, have two young children, son Kyzer and daughter Korbyn.