‘The ship is going in the right direction’
Jacob (Jake) Schwarz says he is "blessed" and "honored" to be the new principal at the Blooming Prairie Elementary School.
"I have some big shoes to fill," Schwarz said in making reference to succeeding Chris Staloch, previous BP Elementary principal who has now become the Blooming Prairie superintendent of schools.
Schwarz, the former principal of the Grand Meadow High School and Middle School, says he is very impressed with the quality of education that is present in the Blooming Prairie School District. "The ship is going in the right direction," Schwarz remarked.
"I can see why they added AWESOME to the Blossoms' nickname," Schwarz said in paying tribute to the Blooming Prairie students, staff, parents and community.
Schwarz had a notebook full of observations about the Blooming Prairie School District when he applied for the principal's job. His collection of data on the BP district came over the past four years as he and his family became part of the Blooming Prairie community.
Schwarz, wife Pam and their four children moved to an acreage in Blooming Prairie from Austin in 2015. All four children have been students at the BP Elementary School.
Claire is the eldest of the children, entering sixth grade this fall. Triplets Andrew, Joseph and Elaine will become third graders this fall.
Pam Schwarz teaches fourth grade at the Neveln Elementary School in Austin. She and Jacob met while both were students at Winona State University.
Prior to accepting the Grand Meadow administrative positions in 2016, Schwarz served as an instructional teacher at Neveln. He worked with teachers, assisting them with their teaching methods. To this date, Schwarz continues the supervisory work.
Schwarz was in charge of 450 students in Grand Meadow's high school and middle school. He now will lead an elementary school enrollment of nearly 500 students. He officially took over his principal duties on July 1.
Proud to be a full-blooded German, Schwarz grew up on a farm near Preston. His family farmed "a couple thousand acres" and had beef cows.
Schwarz' older brother Jason continues to live on the home farm located between Preston and Fountain. His parents, Mike and Debbie, live near the home farm.
Jake attended Fillmore Central High School, graduating in 1998. Schwarz competed in football and track at Fillmore Central, then a part of the Southeast Conference. "I had some good memories in sports and this led me into coaching," Schwarz said.
He then furthered his education at Winona State University, majoring in elementary education and middle school social studies. He graduated Winona State with a BS Degree in 2002.
Following college, Schwarz student taught at Chatfield. He served as a long-term substitute at Chatfield in high school agriculture and special education. He was an assistant varsity track coach and coached ninth grade boys basketball at Chatfield.
His next step in education came when he accepted a third grade teaching job at Banfield Elementary School in Austin. He taught nine years at Banfield.
Schwarz earned his MA Degree in 2008 from Southwest State University at Marshall. His specialist degree came from Minnesota State University in Mankato.
While in Austin, Schwarz coached eighth grade football and ninth grade boys basketball.
In 2013, Schwarz made a major life decision, stepping away from teaching by taking a two-year leave of absence and helping his family with the farm. His father retired from farming.
"I'm glad I made this decision but I missed education too much," Schwarz informed. He then dabbled in education again, this time supervising student teachers through a program at Winona State. "This re-ignited my passion for education," he related.
Schwarz' first principalship came in 2016 when he was hired in Grand Meadow as high school and middle school principal.
He spent three years at the Grand Meadow schools. "I really enjoyed my time at Grand Meadow and was fortunate to be given that opportunity," he said.
Schwarz said he tried to be the best teacher he could be and then followed that mission with a principal's job. "I worked with some outstanding principals over time," he commented.
His early goals as principal will be to "get to know" the students, faculty and staff, he said. He said students like to be called by name and he plans to do that as principal.
Schwarz actually took time off from his administrative job in Grand Meadow to come to the Blooming Prairie Elementary School and read books to kids.
He picked up a copy of "One Smile" and said this is a book that emphasizes starting the day with a smile and hello. "All too often, we get wrapped up in huge projects," he said.
Schwarz is proud to be a part of the administrative team, which includes Superintendent Staloch, BPHS Principal John Worke and Associate Principal Ali Mach.
"It is a team game," Schwarz believes. He also tossed a compliment to the school board and said it is the administration and the board who puts kids first.
Schwarz said his children had a great start with schooling in Blooming Prairie. He says he believes Blooming Prairie students believe they can be what they want to be in life.
An open door policy will be embraced by Schwarz during his time as principal. He also said he plans to be visible. "I also believe in supporting my teaching staff and other staff. We are here for the kids and our impact on them can be powerful."
Schwarz said he does not assume a role of a "bad guy," intent on hard discipline. "I have high expectations, however," he said.
"I like to tell kids that with discipline, they are in control and without discipline, things control them. We should try to be as proactive as we can be and show model behavior.
"Kids will make mistakes and we want to be there to help them make safe choices."
Schwarz said he has "high expectations" for his own children. "They are taught to work together," he said.
Not afraid to become human with kids, Schwarz said he dressed up as Batman to participate in a reading challenge in Grand Meadow. He also has become a human sundae and once he was duct taped to a school wall.
A major role Schwarz feels he has is to make students better students and to help teachers become better teachers.
When not minding to the care of some farm animals, he enjoys hunting, fishing and playing golf.
He also loves completing some woodworking projects. Schwarz is a member of the First Lutheran Church Education Board and he soon plans to join the Blooming Prairie Lions Club.