A morning with the man behind it all, Dr. Arnel

Dr. Arnel answers questions given to him by the FHC’s very own students. The students were allowed to ask any one question for him to answer.


Zoe Lentz

Dr. Arnel continues through the workday, going through the numerous tasks required of him daily. He has been the principal of FHC for 11 years and counting.

Craig Eddy, Reporter

A handful of students were asked one simple question. If you could ask Dr. Arnel one thing, what would it be? Dr. Arnel, principal and ubiquitous head honcho of FHC, answered their questions, giving insight into the mind of our leader, and perspective into our educations overall.

What did you teach before you became principal?

“I taught three years at Howell North, and there I taught special education courses with the focus of science, and then I came here, when the school opened up, and I taught social studies, psychology, and world culture.”

Do you miss teaching or do you enjoy being principal more?

“I really miss elements of teaching and teaching itself, I think I’ve tried to bring a lot of those things into administration. I miss the classroom, because that’s really why we become teachers, right? Because we really enjoy interacting with our students, seeing the progress, and really just all those unique exciting opportunities of interactions is really tremendous. A lot of those things I still do as a principal, I get to interact with our students a lot, I have a principal’s council I meet with, I try to interact with the kids in the hallways and at games, and try to make sure we do a lot of fun academic celebrations with our kids.”

What did you coach before you became principal?

“I coached track and football at Howell North, and here I did football and wrestling.”

Do you miss coaching?

“Same reasons, it’s a different interaction with students. I enjoy the weekly game plans we create, and then try to implement those plans and have success or not and then have adjustments.”

Did you go to Mizzou and did you enjoy it?

“I did not [go to Mizzou], as a high school kid I wanted to go to Mizzou, and I wanted to play football there, but I wasn’t that level of athlete. So I played football at Lindenwood, and went to college at Lindenwood, but when I got out and coached, and then when I stopped coaching, I started paying attention to college football games, because I had more time on the weekends, and so I’m just the big Mizzou football fan.”

What is or was your favorite thing about high school?

“I think it’s the same as my favorite thing now, opportunities for the fellowship, the friendships developed, the camaraderie of all trying to be the best we can be together, the social aspects, the learning opportunities, all those things. The sense of taking care of each other, the ‘We’re in this together’ aspect.”

If there was one thing you could change about your high school years, what would it be?

“Oh man, I don’t think I would change anything. I had a blast, had great teachers and coaches, lot of great friends, I think it’s the same thing we try to do now, you know, you only get one go-around, go enjoy it.”

What is your favorite part about being a principal?

“Being a part of this environment, all the things we’ve been talking about. I think those are passions of mine and I love seeing our students come in as freshmen, and see them leave as seniors.”

Why did you go on from being a teacher to a principal?

“You know, my whole life I wanted to be a teacher and a coach, the principal at the time was Mr. Muench, and he approached me and said ‘Sonny, I see some characteristics that I think would make a good administrator.’ He encourages me, and offered to be my mentor, help me grow, and I looked up to him a lot, and had a lot of admiration for him.”

In an educational system that stresses numerical grades and test scores so highly, how much should students favor real learning over grade?

“I think there’s a misconception there, I don’t look at it that way, in this world we all need some feedback, grades should be feedback on our levels of current learning. So, as we tackle things in a formative assessment kind of way, we learn and develop and grow, teachers should be giving you feedback on your growth. Sometimes, you can achieve things at different rates and different levels of accomplishment. Not everybody is going to achieve everything in this world at 100 percent level, right? I don’t! So sometimes the best I can do is a 72. And that just tells me my feedback level right? Am I considered a master or an expert in this field? Probably not, I still have growth areas to tackle. But it gives me a feedback level of where I am on my journey of learning. So I look at grades that way, we all need some feedback to tell us where we are, and sometimes there are measuring dipstick points where we say hey here’s where it is right now. Doesn’t mean you’re finished, because you’re always becoming right? So right now this is where you’re at, and we need that right? We need someone to be honest with us and tell us where we are, how to get better, how to grow, how to keep moving forward. I look at grades that way.”

Why do you believe education is important?

“We are in a global market. It’s no longer something that we can just isolate. We really owe it to our community and our kids to make sure that when you guys leave here, you’re better as a result of our time, and you’re going to be able to tackle your next phase of life. And that’s going to be very different for you than it was for me, and it’s going to be very different for your kids than it will be for you. So you’re going to have to be the best you can be in how you think creatively, think critically, how you communicate, and how you work with others collaboratively. So hopefully, high school teaches you how to learn, how to enjoy learning, your weaknesses, your strengths, and how to attack it. So when you leave here you continue to own you, and continue to follow your passions and apply those concepts.

What is one idea that you have that you are okay with sharing that you think will help the school?

“I use my principal’s council to talk about these kind of things, and talk about what’s going on in this school that we can improve on, what are the areas where we are doing well, what are the areas where we aren’t doing well. I get feedback from them and hopefully we adjust things as we’re going.”

How do you feel about the student section overall?

“I’m very very proud of it. We work every year, I identify Yell Leaders, that’s what I call them. We meet with them at the beginning of the year, that’s why you always notice at the football games, I start down there, I make sure that only our five or six leaders are in front, everybody else is in the bleachers. We try to empower them, I want you guys to have a lot of fun. My goal, is when visiting teams come and see you at a football game or a volleyball match, and they think, man i wish my kid went to that school because that student section seems to be so attached, so involved, and it’s not about the student section, it’s us being there to support our teams, and enjoy our high school experience. I am very, very prideful of our student section.”