Retiring superintendent Helton reflects on career

Retiring Waterloo superintendent Jim Helton (center) is pictured with his family during an open house retirement party last week. They are, from left, daughter Jenna, wife Marilyn, son Jamen, son Joshua (holding grandson Jared), daughter-in-law Jenn and granddaughter Hannah. (Robyn Dexter photo)

After nine years as superintendent of the Waterloo school district, Jim Helton will be saying his goodbyes at the end of the month.

Helton has big plans for his retirement. He plans to finish up his PhD at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and get back into teaching at the college level.

“I enjoy teaching so much,” he said. “If I have an opportunity to get into a university setting to teach, I’d love to do that.”

He also looks forward to spending more time with his two grandchildren.

Prior to his nine years as superintendent, Helton served as Waterloo Junior High School principal for three years.

Though he’s taught all over the state in Robinson, Altamont, Seneca and Marseilles, Waterloo has a special place in his heart.

Two of Helton’s children graduated from Waterloo, and his wife grew up in Evansville and has family there, so staying in the area is important to him.

“It’s going to be a little surreal when I’m done,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed helping this district from year to year.”

Some of his favorite memories are of his time as principal at WJHS.

“As a principal, you have the opportunity to engage with the staff, students and community,” he said. “It was pretty special.”

He is most proud of the voter referendum for the new Waterloo High School and getting the educational fund passed in a time of need for the district, along with getting the new high school built.

“Those were both a lot of work, but definitely good memories from that,” he said.

Helton praised the school board members he has worked with over the years.

“We’ve all worked very hard to try to bring good things to

Waterloo for our kids,” he said.

Helton’s official last day is June 27, when current Waterloo High School principal Brian Charron will take over as superintendent.

Helton hopes the Waterloo community will give Charron the opportunity to come in and work hard as superintendent.

“He has a different perspective coming from the high school,” Helton said. “The challenges we had (while I was superintendent) are different from the challenges we’re facing now. It’s going to be a little different, but he has the opportunity to work with the community. I wish him the best.”

Working closely with the Waterloo community is the biggest aspect of Helton’s job that he’ll miss.

“We’re still planning on living here (in Waterloo), but the interactions with the kids and the staff will be missed,” he said. “Everyone I’ve worked with over the past nine years has a special place in my heart.”

Faculty, staff and family members came by Helton’s open house retirement party in the WHS courtyard on Thursday to wish him good luck.

“It was really great to see people I hadn’t seen in a while,” he said. “I’ve been lucky. This is a great place to retire from.”

Helton has worked in education for a total of 33 years and feels very fortunate to close out his career here in Waterloo.

“My philosophy has always been that every time there’s a challenge, you have to try to make it an opportunity,” Helton said. “I think that’s exactly what we’ve tried to do through the district’s tough times.”

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