By Nick Pedley
News Editor 

Middle school principal focused on building culture

Matt Van Voorst getting acquainted at H-M-S 5-8 grade building


September 1, 2022


New H-M-S Middle School Principal Matt Van Voorst previously served as West Sioux's 6-12 grade dean of students.

The new school year ushered in a new era of leadership last week at Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Middle School.

Principal Matt Van Voorst began his tenure at the helm of the 5-8 grade building. He most recently served as West Sioux's dean of students for grades 6-12, and has liked what he's seen so far at H-M-S.

"There is a lot of pride in the H-M-S school district," he said. "The district cares. Every person I have met has been excited about what is happening to help all students succeed."

Van Voorst knows the area – he grew up in Sioux Center and lives in Rock Valley with his wife and three daughters. Being only a county away, he heard positive things about H-M-S and was interested in the middle school principal position when it came open.

"This is a great community," he said. "The size and new facility offer great opportunities to make an impact on all middle school students and staff members."

Aside from getting acclimated to a new building, staff and students, Van Voorst has noticed some distinct differences between his old job and new one.

"Things that I know are important as an administrator are helping build upon the culture and positive climate of our building for our students and staff," he said. "As the new principal, I realize I am now the leader in that effort. When a great culture is established with a shared vision, it lends itself to great things happening instructionally and witnessing student successes in all areas of school."

Van Voorst believes a team mentality is needed to continue building a great culture at the middle school. He knows a thing or two about that, as he played basketball at Wayne State during his college days.

"I have always felt like I am a pretty good team player. Being a leader to me is influencing others," he said. "I get excited when other people improve and succeed at a goal. I also see myself as a lifelong learner with a growth mindset. I am always trying to get better and feel that is important for everyone on our team."

Accordingly, Van Voorst has simple, but clear, expectations for junior high students.

"My overall goal is that every student looks forward to coming to school every day. I have challenged students to leave each day a little better than when they came in the morning," he said. "I hope that improvement continues and enables them to be successful as they move forward in high school."

With the hectic nature of the first week of class under his belt, Van Voorst said he is excited for the rest of the 2022-23 school year.

"We will work hard, but we will have fun," he said. "I felt the first week went very well. Our staff worked hard on preparing for our students to arrive, and I'm looking forward to a great year."


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