TIPP CITY — For Steve Verhoff, returning to Tippecanoe High School is like coming home.
The new high school principal is happy to be back at the district where he started his teaching career.
“There’s only two places I wanted to be — in Vandalia, the district we live and where I spent the last two years, or here where I started my career and have roots,” Verhoff said.
Verhoff started at Tippecanoe High School 10 years ago, teaching social studies, American history, and government. During that time, he also coached varsity football and track.
He taught for seven years before taking on the assistant principal role at the high school. In 2014, he left Tipp City Schools for a position in the Vandalia-Butler school district as the assistant principal at Morton Middle School.
In June, Verhoff was hired back to the district where it all began.
“It does feel like home,” he said. “Because of cutting my teeth as a young teacher here and a young coach, and then transitioning into a leadership position here, this place will always be special to me.”
With school starting Aug. 24, Verhoff is excited to get students in the building and start the year.
“I’m just looking forward to having people in the building. Having students, having teachers back,” he said.
Over the summer Verhoff met with many of the high school teachers — about 40 of the staff members came in on their own time, he said — and talked about where things are and where they want to go.
The biggest thing he wants to focus on is building a positive culture, he said.
“We’re all well aware of some of the things that have been going on the last couple of years,” Verhoff said. In recent years the district has lost teachers to other districts, formed a teacher’s union, and seen the resignations of several administrators. “But that doesn’t define this school and that doesn’t define this community. It is a great school and it is a great community.”
His goal is to foster a climate where teachers want to teach and students want to come to school, he said.
Verhoff has also been meeting with members of the community, hosting a “coffee talk” last month that was open to the public.
The discussion included topics such as school security, dress codes, and the football stadium, among many others.
“I thought that went really well. I enjoyed the topics that they brought up and they’re definitely things that we’re going to focus on,” he said. “We’ve already done some things to address items that were brought up.”
Another coffee talk is planned for Sept. 8 from 7-8 a.m. at the Old Tippecanoe Coffee Co., 22 N. Second St.
The location offers a neutral setting, he said, since many people might not feel comfortable dropping into the principal’s office. It also supports a local business, he added.
“I wanted to do something in the community where people can freely just drop in and have a cup of coffee and talk to me about what’s going on with the schools, concerns that they may have, or positive things that they may share,” he said.
Outside of school, Verhoff prefers to spend as much time as possible with his wife Amanda and their two small children. The Verhoffs will welcome another addition to the family this fall.
“I’m a very family-oriented person,” he said.
He and his wife met at the University of Dayton, where they were both student athletes. They live in Butler Township, about a mile from her parents.
“My life outside of school is totally consumed by my family,” he said. “The one thing that I do enjoy doing is running.”
Steve and Amanda are both runners and train heavily — both have achieved Boston Marathon qualifying times.
“We haven’t run it yet,” he said. “But that’s the plan.”
Reach Cecilia Fox at [email protected]