The new principal of Waupaca High School (WHS) is no stranger to the area.
When Rob Becker was a student at Berlin High School, he competed in track here and also attended his share of football and basketball games.
Born in Texas, he was in third grade when he moved with his family to Poy Sippi. His parents were from the Midwest and wanted to return to that part of the country. His father was a Lutheran minister.
“Our doctor and dentist were here in Waupaca, and my dad was on the board of directors at Bethany Home,” Becker said.
Since his senior year of high school, Becker has lived and worked in Oshkosh. He hopes to eventually move to Waupaca with his family.
He began his new duties at WHS on July 12, replacing John Erspamer, who had been one of the two principals at the high school. Erspamer is now the principal at Waupaca Learning Center, following Boyd Simonson’s retirement.
“I missed being a principal – the interaction with students on a daily basis,” Becker said in explaining why he applied for the position.
Prior to accepting it, Becker was the superintendent of Unified Catholic Schools in Oshkosh.
Two years ago, the president of Unified Catholic Schools approached him, telling him they were creating a superintendent position for the system. Becker’s three sons were attending Unified Catholic Schools, and he accepted the position.
“I did that two years and oversaw four schools, a total of about 800 students,” he said.
Prior to that, Becker worked at public schools.
Before deciding to go to college and work in education, his plan was to enter the Coast Guard Academy.
“I spent all my time in the water,” Becker said. He was a lifeguard and a sailing instructor.
But due to being colorblind, he was disqualified from military service.
It was May of his senior year of high school that he learned he would not be going to the Coast Guard. “I quickly applied to colleges and was accepted,” he said.
Becker enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, starting as a business major before switching to a double major in special education and education.
After he graduated from UW-Oshkosh, he was a kindergarten through eighth grade cognitive disabilities teacher for one semester in Winneconne.
That was a long-term substitute position. Then, he was hired by the Neenah School District.
Becker was an elementary teacher for five years before moving into an administrative role at Shattuck Middle School in Neenah. He was basically the dean of students, dealing with truancy and discipline issues.
He had just completed his master’s in educational leadership at Marian University in Fond du Lac when the Neenah School District was looking for someone to fill an administrative position at Shattuck. Becker did that for one year before becoming the principal of Jefferson and Smith elementary schools in Oshkosh.
The schools are seven blocks apart from each other, and after two years in that role, the Oshkosh Board of Education decided it would be a good idea to have a principal at every school.
There had been a hostage situation at a house located between the two schools. Both schools had to be locked down; with one principal serving both schools, one school thus did not have a principal there during the incident.
Becker then became the principal of Jefferson Elementary School. He served in that role for 13 years. For five of those 13 years, he also oversaw the district’s summer school and English as a Second Language programs.
His 13 years as Jefferson Elementary’s principal were followed by his position in the Unified Catholics Schools.
When Becker applied for the high school principal position in Waupaca, he was not only a bit familiar with the area. He had also already met District Administrator David Poeschl.
“I have met Dr. Poeschl a number of times,” Becker said. “We both were on the board of control for KSCADE (K-12 Schools/College Alliance for Distance Education).”
KSCADE is the distance-learning network that is hosted by Fox Valley Technical College.
Becker has had many experiences in different places and plans to bring that knowledge to Waupaca.
He does not have an agenda to make a lot of changes during his first year at the high school.
“I believe in being a freshman a little bit – learning how things work,” he said.
He sees the job of a high school principal as being a diverse one.
Becker said he enjoys that age group. “With my own children, I have enjoyed them more as they get older,” he said.
Sons Andy, 19, John, 16, and Joshua, 14, all play the trombone and sing.
“I enjoy being active with my children. During the summer, we like to sail. In the winter, we try to ski as often as we can,” Becker said.
He and his wife, Cindy, met during college when they both worked at the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh – he in maintenance and she in the museum.
Becker looks forward to getting to know area residents and encourages those who see him to introduce themselves.
He is happy to be here.
“I have a good amount of time until the end of my career,” Becker said. “Being a high school principal is what I want to do.”