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Meet Eric Ewald

New Van Allen principal already at “home” in North Liberty
Eric Ewald stands with a Van Allen Rocket in the school where he is now the new principal. (photo by Nora Heaton)

NORTH LIBERTY – Eric Ewald is two months into his new job as principal of Van Allen Elementary, and he’s feeling right at home.
That’s partly because he is home. Ewald, his wife and their two kids live and spend their days in North Liberty already. For Ewald, living and working in the same community is a major plus. Moreover, Van Allen is a great fit, he said.
Ewald will bring to Van Allen an emphasis on what he considers his two biggest strengths as a principal: relationships and communication.
Relationships start with kids, he said.
“Interacting with students is the reason I got into education to begin with,” he said. “I get to have a positive influence on 500 kids on a daily basis.”
Ewald maintains these relationships by showing children that their principal takes an active interest in their schoolwork and their passions. His style is to be present, playing with students at recess or popping into classrooms during the day to read a book with them.
“My time is well spent interacting with them,” he said. “I want to really give students the opportunity to do things that foster learning and let them enjoy school here. Schools should be fun, enjoyable places for everyone to be.”
Many Van Allen students and their families have met Ewald at the ice cream social or during summer programs. Since he lives in the community, some families already know him. Around the time the announcement was made of his appointment as principal, for instance, Ewald was assistant coaching Little League for his son, who is entering kindergarten at Garner Elementary. The Van Allen kids on the team arrived at the next practice excited to ask whether their assistant coach was the same Eric Ewald who would be their principal come fall.
The importance of positive relationships also extends to the adults who work in the building, parents and family members, and the broader community.
Part of what helps Ewald nurture those relationships is his focus on communication, both in the school as a workplace and in the community of Van Allen families.
“With active communication, people can share in what’s going on,” he said.
Schools are doing amazing things, and are doing more than ever before– especially with advances in technology, which Ewald believes levels the playing field and makes children “the owners of their learning.” With so much going on in school, Ewald said it’s important to take the time to brag about the students, teachers, and staff of a school.
One of the easiest and most accessible ways to get the word out is through social media. Ewald has been managing Van Allen’s social media accounts all summer, posting announcements and reminders as well as some fun posts, like a video that Ewald uses to introduce himself to social media followers.
As a parent himself, he is especially appreciative of social media posts. Many parents, especially those who work during the day, are seldom able to make it to their children’s school during school hours to help out or participate in activities. He and his wife, who is a first grade teacher in Solon, can relate to this. Despite this, Ewald and his wife are very involved in their children’s education, he said.
Parent involvement can look different for different families. One way to participate in a child’s learning is to discuss their school day and talk through what they’ve learned. And if the parent already has an idea what their child did in school that day, such as by seeing a photo or video on social media, the conversation gets more specific and becomes easier.
“If I tweet a picture of our classroom, the activities you see happening can now be a talking point around the dinner table,” he said. “Instead of asking, ‘What did you do in school today?’ and getting the standard answer of ‘nothing,’ parents can bring up something they saw the kids do on social media.”
Garner Elementary Principal Nick Proud said he is excited to continue working with Ewald.
“Eric has brought a great level of excitement and enthusiasm to his new position,” Proud said. “In my short time working with him, it is obvious that he has a kids-first mentality that will serve him well at Van Allen and in the Iowa City Community Schools.”
Ewald can’t wait to get started on the new school year as principal of Van Allen.
“I love being a principal,” he said. “I can be having a bad day or bad moment, then have it turned around instantly by the kids.”