WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The start of the upcoming school year brings a new administrator to Williams High School (WHS).
Richard Van Nostrand comes to Williams from Window Rock High School, where he served as the assistant principal last year. He steps in after Tristan Heisley resigned from the principal's position to take a job in Oregon. The Williams Unified School District Governing Board approved a two-year contract for Van Nostrand at its July 23 meeting.
"We found a good one," said Governing Board President Albert "Bud" Parenteau. "I think he'll do a pretty good job for us. It'll be awfully hard to fill the shoes of Tristan, but I think he's up to the task."
Van Nostrand has eight years of teaching experience, as well as four years of administrative experience. He has a bachelor's degree in biology and psychology and a master's degree in teaching. Van Nostrand is now working toward his doctorate in school administration and leadership from Bethel University in Minnesota.
While teaching was Van Nostrand's original passion, a school counselor dissuaded him from going into the profession after high school, saying there were too many teachers on the market. So Van Nostrand worked in a few other areas, including as a pastor and as a rental car office manager, before deciding to return to his original career aspiration.
"I feel that teaching can really make a difference in kids' lives, so that's why I finally came back to what I wanted to do," he said.
Van Nostrand started his teaching career in Illinois where he taught math and science at the middle school and high school levels. In 2010 he moved to Arizona, where he became a middle school academic coach in Ganado before becoming the assistant principal in Window Rock.
Van Nostrand applied for the principal's position in Williams because he said he enjoys working in smaller towns.
"I like that everybody knows people and they care about what's going on at the school," he said. "I really wanted to work at a smaller school where I could get to know all the students and help them make wise choices for their futures. So I'm really looking to be a part of the community, and Williams affords that on a small scale where I can help kids and be involved with community activities and things like that."
As the new WHS principal, Van Nostrand's goals are to raise the school's letter grade from the Arizona Department of Education from the current C rating to an A rating, prepare his students for college or a career, and to build supportive relationships with his students.
"I think high school's a real transition time and (my goal is) to prepare them for the future, not to say that all kids have to go to college, but to help them in the decisions that they're making, making wise decisions," he said. "It's also to keep them accountable for bad decisions that they make in school as well."
Van Nostrand is married and has three kids, one of which still lives at home. However, his wife signed a contract for a job as a reading specialist at a school in Page before he was hired in Williams. So Van Nostrand's wife and 12-year-old son will live in Page during this upcoming school year. However, he hopes to eventually make Williams his family's long term home.
"I'm looking forward to getting to work and looking forward to the kids returning to school," he said. "It should be an exciting time."