New principal takes the helm at M-S High School

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Mahomet-Seymour High School students will find a familiar face behind the principal's desk when they return to classes this August. Following the retirement of Marty Williams, former assistant principal Shannon Cheek has taken on the role.

He's still getting settled in the job—last week, he was working out of both his old and new offices. He's also helping industrial arts instructor and golf coach Nathan Mills, who is stepping into Cheek's old role as assistant principal.

As he looked forward to the start of another school year, he had plenty of praise for his students.

“They're motivated, respectful and well-behaved,” he said. “We get good kids here.”

Cheek is now in his 13th year with the district and, unusually, he's spent all of that time in the same building. He's served in a number of roles; most recently, as assistant principal, but also as a physical education teacher and a member of the football and basketball coaching staffs.

A native of Bement, Cheek did his student teaching with Tom Shallenberger and Randy Sallade at Mahomet-Seymour High School while earning a degree in kinesiology from the University of Illinois. After graduation he took a teaching and coaching job at Heritage High School in Broadlands, Ill. Not long after, though, Shallenberger called him at work to say that his job as a physical education teacher would soon be open. Remembering his days as a student teacher, Cheek jumped at the chance.

While teaching at Mahomet, Cheek eventually returned to the U of I to earn a master's degree in educational administration. As he neared the end of the program, the assistant principal job at Mahomet-Seymour opened up. It seemed like the perfect chance for Cheek to take an administrative role within the district that had grown to feel like home.

“I wasn't necessarily ready to give up coaching and teaching, but the opportunity was there,” he said.

When he first became an administrator, he worried that he would miss the sense of closeness with the students.

“I really enjoyed interacting with the kids on a daily basis,” he said. “That was my favorite part of being an educator.”

But he found that the bonds he forged with students remained the same, even in an administrative role.

“It's a different type of relationship, but it's still good,” he said.

Cheek said that the skills he used as a coach have influenced his philosophy as an administrator. Organizational abilities are key, he said, as well as the capacity to connect with the students.

“You have to be a good leader,” he said. “It's the same skill set.”

He also had high praise for his co-workers. “They're the reason we're successful,” he said. “It never ceases to amaze me that the staff are so student-centered.”

His experience as assistant principal also prepared him to take on his new role. Former principal Marty Williams fostered a collaborative atmosphere, working closely with Cheek and assistant principal/athletic director Matt Hensley. Although Cheek's area of focus was attendance and disciplinary issues, he gained a wide understanding of all the duties that the administration fulfilled.

The biggest challenge of being an administrator, he said, is that a principal “has to wear a lot of different hats.”

“You don't realize it until you're in that position,” he said. “You never really know what you're going to deal with on a given day.”

Cheek's wife, Kim, is a 1989 graduate of Mahomet-Seymour High School. They have two daughters: Morgan, who'll be in seventh grade this year, and Raegan, who'll be in third grade.

So how do Cheek's daughters feel about someday going to a high school where their dad is principal?

“We've talked a little about how it's going to be,” Cheek joked. “I think it's starting to sink in with them a little bit.”

Cheek hopes to continue to develop the Professional Learning Community initiative that Williams put in place during his tenure. The initiative works to create a collaborative culture among students and staff—an idea that Cheek knows the value of. He plans to carry on the tradition of open discussion and collaboration that Williams created.

“I can't imagine doing any administrative job without having somebody to bounce ideas off of,” he said.

Categories (3):News, Education, People

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