Spartan Proud: Jimmy Newkirk, filling big boots.

April 28, 2017

mcc_newkirkSpartan Proud: Jimmy Newkirk, filling big boots.

#SpartanProud #MCCSchools.

Spartan Proud is sponsored by Mason County Central Schools. This series features alumni of Mason County Central telling their stories. Today we feature Jimmy Newkirk class of 1993.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

“You might say MCC is in my blood,” Jimmy Newkirk says. His grandfather was the legendary teacher, O’Neil “Boots” Newkirk, who is referred to often by the alumni featured in this series who attended MCC High School from the 1950s through the 1980s. In fact, Jimmy is O’Neil James Newkirk III, named after his grandfather and his father, Jim. Jimmy’s grandmother, June, and his mother, Connie, also taught at MCC.

Jimmy was the third generation of Newkirk to attend Scottville/MCC schools. His grandmother, June, attended MCC, as did his father, his uncle Bill, his aunts Susie, Cindy, and Paula, and along with his sister, Kerry.

“There is such a strong family connection to MCC that we started the Newkirk Family Education Scholarship for students attending Central Michigan University pursuing a teaching degree,” he says.

Jimmy began his career following in the family tradition of education (his father, Jim, was also a teacher at Hart High School and West Shore Community College). He graduated from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor of science degree majoring in political science and then received a teacher certificate in social studies and history from Saginaw Valley State University.

“I had always thought that my career path was to follow in the footsteps of my dad and grandpa and teach social studies and coach,” he says. “My Grandpa is remembered by thousands of MCC alumni and hundreds of staff.  I could write pages on the influence he had on me in life.  But from a MCC perspective the two teachers that had the most impact on me were my mom and Bruce Krieger.

My Mom worked harder than any teacher I have ever known,” he says. “She spent countless hours on preparing lessons and grading papers.  She was often one of the first staff at the middle school each day and spent much of the evening hours grading papers.  Her students were a big part of her life and she was determined that she was going to reach every one of them.  When I started teaching eighth grade it became clear just how hard she worked. Although successful, I never thought I achieved the same discipline, academic results, and overall educational experience she was able to offer. She truly was one of the best.  After she passed away last year the number of former students that sent cards and even attended the service reminded me of this. Even now as I write this I am hearing her voice remind me of the correct punctuations, proper tense, and to avoid my long, windy writing style.

“Bruce Krieger was the track coach my freshman year.  His influence inspired me to continue running and coaching for more than a decade.  Coach Krieger made sure to engage each student athlete and was always positive and encouraging.  I ran track at GVSU my freshman year achieving a sixth place finish at the GLIAC indoor championships in the 1500 meter.  I began coaching girls track at Mason County Eastern a few years later, followed up by teams at Arthur Hill and Manistique. My goal was to be the coach for my athletes that he was to me.  Until now, he probably doesn’t even know he had this much influence on me.”

Jimmy started his teaching career at Arthur High School in Saginaw and then to Manistique Area Schools in the Upper Peninsula.

“After layoffs at both districts my wife and I moved back to Scottville to regroup. My wife, Heather, was a park ranger at Ludington State Park and when another ranger job opened there I applied.  That job started me on a career that I never would have dreamed. Ten years later I can’t thank her enough for encouraging me to apply.  We have lived all over the state while I worked at Ludington and Silver Lake state parks then on to Tahquamenon Falls and the Porcupine Mountains.  I am very fortunate to have had so many adventures thus far in my career.”

In March of this year Jimmy was promoted to lead ranger for Harrisville and Negwegon state parks on the shores of Lake Huron south of Alpena.

“Heather and I, and our daughters, Savannah, 8, and Cassidy, 4, are all excited about the new opportunities and being much closer to family in Mason County.  We have always come back to Mason County a few times each year to visit family.  Living on the east side of the state will allow us many more frequent to Mason County.”

Mason County and MCC still hold a place for Jimmy, though.

My family connections to Mason County Central made it a special place for me from the beginning.  Whenever I return to Scottville and drive by MCC lots of positive memories come back.  I wouldn’t trade my experiences and education there for anything.”

 Story copyrighted © 2017 by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. All rights reserved. No portion of this story may be reproduced without expressed written consent. This includes publication and broadcasting. 

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