The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Mr Phil Geiser has been selected as the new High School Principal by the Board of Education at West Central
Mr. Geiser had his beginnings in education in Henderson County when he was recruited as a high school English teacher by former Stronghurst Superintendent Mr. Duane Fryrear.
He began teaching at Stronghurst High School starting in the fall of 1968. This year will be his 39th year of public school teaching, all at the high school level.
Mr. Geiser taught at Stronghurst High from 1968 to 1971 when they consolidated with Media High School in 1971. From 1971 until the county's recent consolidation into the West Central District #235, Mr. Geiser taught at Southern High School.
At West Central Mr. Geiser continued to teach high school English, mostly upper-level classes. In addition to high school classes, however, he also teaches a dual credit English class with Carl Sandburg College, and an evening English Composition class for Southeastern Community College in Mt. Pleasant, IA.
Mr. Geiser had the good fortune of teaching many different high school English classes from grades 9 through 12. In addition to the "regular" classes like general 9th and 10th grade English, Mr. Geiser taught speech, journalism, mass media, creative writing, American literature, British literature, desktop publishing, college preparatory English, writing lab, and practical English.
The dual credit English class West Central offers now gives students ready to tackle the challenge of college-level writing an opportunity to get their feet wet with a college course that they take in the familiar atmosphere of their home high school.
Mr. Geiser has been known for his creativity and motivational teachings.
He has helped students with a number of class projects that they would remember.
According to Mr. Geiser, "Aside from "The Lively Art of Writing" which is our study of college-quality writing, I think some of the best projects involved students getting out of the normal classroom routine for that assignment. Examples might be the magazine we've published off and on over they years like last year's "Everyone's a Story" in which students interviewed a person around school with a unique personality or story to tell. Students learned journalism skills and illustrated their articles with photographs to go along with their interview. I'd rank their writing on that project right up there with the best from any school around. And of course our school newspaper and yearbook give students an opportunity to present publications for community information about what is happening in the school.
One other favorite assignment many juniors from years past will remember is our simulation of The Oregon Trail to go along with our study of American literature. In that simulation students assumed a new identity of a person from the 1800's traveling across the country in a wagon train. The three-week study attempted to simulate the unplanned events, both good and bad, of the adventure of a wagon train trip. Students always became very competitive to make sure that their wagon train had the best change of beating the competing group's train to make it to the destination with the most points.
Mr. Geiser says, nothing breeds success in the classroom like success. Once students know that they can succeed (especially in some challenging activity,) they are much more confident in tackling another project because they have seen that they can really be successful. Another big factor in classroom teaching success is the teacher having clearly communicated goals and having high expectations of the students. He believes almost all of his former students would tell you that they knew he had high expectations for them to complete in his class.
The West Central School Board just adopted a mission statement for the school district of "Providing Opportunity, Expecting Excellence." Mr. Geiser said he could not agree more strongly with this belief. He feels it is the teacher's job in the school to give the students a broad and challenging range of learning opportunities; then they need to have the expectation of themselves and the students that the results will be excellent. He thinks it is a wonderful mission statement for the West Central School District, and he pledges to work his hardest to have West Central High School live up to that mission.
He has had the opportunity to complete his Masters of Arts degree at Western Illinois University, and also did administrative coursework at WIU. Beyond those degree programs, he has been fortunate enough to study at many prestigious universities across the nation, sometimes funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mr. Geiser could be called the poster child for "Lifelong Learning" because he has studied at so many different colleges in so many different academic disciplines for so many years now.
He has also had the opportunity to work with several grant programs, notably historical grants sponsored by the Illinois State Library. He worked with Janet Shinkle and Henderson County librarian Carolyn Fry on a number of projects to digitize and computerize historical information about Henderson County One-Room Schools and the Henderson County Museum. They're still working on getting those sites online again after the consolidation of the schools, and the library in Biggsville will be taking over that project.
Mr. Geiser feels he is fortunate to inherit a strong, highly qualified staff to work with, but that doesn't mean they don't have challenges to face together. "One person cannot make a school, but I have great people to work with", he said, "and together we can make a stronger, more academically successful school". "Parent involvement, of course, is extremely important in this effort, and we expect to work hard to get parents even more involved in academic life at West Central High School", he said. Student achievement is also an issue, and the school improvement plan addresses some key issues that they have to work on together to develop.
Mr. Geiser said his goal as W.C. H.S. principal is to develop a staff more closely focused on quality student achievement and personal faculty growth to become even better teachers for our young people - the future leaders of Henderson County.
He takes responsibility very seriously to be the "educational leader" of the school. He will ultimately be responsible for the quality of learning and teaching that goes on in the building. He will be working closely with faculty and students to achieve academic excellence. Some studies show that most principals spend about 60% of their time in routine building management issues. But with some assistance from school personnel, he hopes to minimize the amount of time on these chores so that he can spend more time in classrooms helping teachers do their very best at their passion in life: educating students.
In regard to the Student Hand Book, Mr. Geiser says it is an evolving document that they evaluate each year. His goal is to make it understandable and clearer to both teachers, students, and the community. If the school board approves the content of the handbook, then it is pretty much the principal's job to stay true to the guidelines therein. In this way, the handbook represents the community's standards of conduct for students in the school. It's a good thing to have clearly stated rules for everyone because he feels most people appreciate knowing the rules of the game before they begin to play, so to speak.
Mr. Geiser said, "At the end of the day I need to be able to lie down and go to sleep knowing that I have done my personal best for myself, my students, my community, and my staff". Any educational leader will have to make some decisions that may be unpopular for a while, but his hope is that he'll have the wisdom and understanding to make the very best decision for everyone involved.
With a dedicated school board, a strong leader in our superintendent, a community that wants the very best schools, a caring staff, and students who are bright, creative, and energetic, he can't think of anything a principal could ask for beyond that support system. Of course, the school is always looking for input on how to make it better and more meaningful to all the stakeholders. In that light they welcome comments and observations about the school that will help them make it better.