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By Mike Scott
Ben Taylor has been selected by the Clark County R-1 school board to become the new principal at the High School. Taylor will officially take over the position on July 1. He replaces Jason Harper, who served as the High School principal for 16 years. Harper has accepted the position of Superintendent at the Palmyra R-1 school district.
Taylor, 36, is a native of Canton, graduating in 2004. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Physics from Drury University in Springfield.
“I hadn’t originally planned to teach. I originally was going to be mechanical engineer. I was going to have a double major in Physics from Drury and Mechanical Engineering from MU.”
“I realized that the actual practice of engineering looked to be kind of boring. I realized that the learning about engineering and math appealed to me a lot, so I thought education might be the way to go, because I get to learn,” Taylor said.
He earned his teaching certificate through the originally ABCTE (American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence) program.
“It is an alternative method of getting a teaching certificate,” he explained.
Taylor started his teaching career in Clark County 11 years ago.
“As part of the ABCTE program, I had to do some substitute teaching, and we were doing it in Canton. I saw the science position come open in Clark County. I applied for it and was offered the position. When I came up and toured, I really like the atmosphere in the school. It was very clean, very well maintained, and spoke very well of the school district,” he said.
“Since moving to Clark County, we have just fallen in love with the community. It’s an incredibly warm, welcoming community, and we’ve been blown away by just how quickly people have jumped in to support us in a variety of ways,” he added.
After teaching a few years, Taylor entered the Master’s program at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
“I got my Master’s in Curriculum Instruction. At that point, I was convinced I was going to be a classroom teacher, and I was very happy as a classroom teacher. Over time, I started to find there was a part of me that wanted to have a little more say or sway in the decisions of the district,” he continued.
In 2016-2017, Taylor left teaching briefly, and worked as the director of MK Phillips Construction.
“I did that for several months. That’s where I found my taste for being a leader, but I missed education. My favorite part of the day was lunch, when the Amish guys would sit around and ask me science questions,” he said.
“When the opportunity presented itself for me to come back to the school, I realized that I think I would enjoy working with the adults and having a wider influence on the students by sitting in the principal’s chair,” Taylor said.
“The culture and climate at the High School is very good. I want to see that maintained. I’m interested in maintaining the positive climate and culture.”
Taylor said that he is asking for feedback from the staff on anything that might need improvement.
“I, personally, am not coming in with big plans to shake things up. I want to gather the lay of the land from the perspective of that (the principal’s) chair. I recognize there are a lot of things I don’t know yet. Information gathering needs to be done.”
One of the first problems Taylor faces is rebuilding the science department. With his promotion, and Mr. Harper’s departure, Nicole Harper’s Biology position is also open.
“Mr. Harper and I interviewed a candidate for that position last night,” Taylor said.
In addition to teaching, Taylor has served as a half-time assistant principal this year, and is finishing his Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from William Woods University.
Taylor’s wife, Sonya, is a Title Reading teacher at Black Hawk. Their daughter, Nora, age five, is a kindergartener at Black Hawk. In their spare time, they enjoy the outdoors and undertaking home renovation projects.
Fun Fact: Taylor enjoys video games, and is the E-Sports coach for Clark County R-1 High School. “I like puzzle games, so my favorite is probably the Zelda series,” he said.