With Shelli Otten retiring, students at Cherry Creek Elementary School will see a new face in the principal office this fall. Craig Veldman, 41, is taking over at the helm and may be a familiar face to some families. Veldman has been part of Lowell Area Schools for four years and previously served as the assistant principal at Lowell Middle School.
“Most of my time [as an educator] has been spent at the upper elementary and middle school levels so I’m excited to try lower elementary,” Veldman says.
He takes over the school at an unprecedented time when the COVID-19 pandemic is causing uncertainty about if and how in-person education will proceed in the months to come. Veldman says student safety will always be paramount, and he’s committed to encouraging a high level of learning from students regardless of how classes are structured in the fall.
From Teacher to Administrator
Veldman is no stranger to the life of an educator. His mother was a teacher, and Veldman was even in her 4th grade class. When it came time to select his own profession, he settled on education as well.
After graduating from Hope College, he went on to teach at Kenowa Hills Public Schools for 15 years. For the first 10 years, Veldman taught science, math and reading to 6th graders before moving on to 7th and 8th grade math for his final five years there. During this time, he also earned a master’s degree from Grand Valley State University.
When the assistant principal position opened up at Lowell Middle School, Veldman saw the opportunity to work closer to home. He and his wife Tara have lived in Lowell for 17 years, having fallen in love with the area upon visiting relatives at Murray Lake. Their children – daughter Elyse and son Drew – attend Lowell Area Schools, and Veldman was glad to be able to join the district as well.
Proud to be Part of Lowell
As he enters his new role as principal of Cherry Creek Elementary, Veldman says he plans to do a lot of listening and learning to start. He wants to see what’s working and build on that while also looking for any policies or procedures that might need to be adjusted. When it comes to what changes may take place in the near future though, much of that may be dictated by the state.
“The message to parents is that we are going to follow the lead from the state,” Veldman says. “Our top priority is student safety, but we want a high level of learning as well.”
While uncertainty is the biggest challenge facing educators, students and parents this fall, Veldman looks forward to building relationships with families as they work through his unique time together.
“I love what Lowell is and what it stands for,” Veldman says. As an educator, he know he has a chance to make a lasting impact on the lives of others and looks forward to being able to contribute to the community as principal of Cherry Creek Elementary School.