Mike Kolff is picture perfect at Beloit Turner
Community: Town of Beloit and Beloit Turner School District
Job: Principal at Turner High School. He also has worked as an assistant principal at Delavan-Darien High School and as a teacher and coach at Whitewater and Milton high schools.
Hobby: Bow hunting. "I like to go sit in the woods and relax. It's a great place to get your thoughts together."
Family: Wife Diane, whom Kolff thinks should be awarded "Human of the Year"; kids Betsy, Shayna and Ty; five grandchildren.
What makes a good principal: "As an administrator, you have to remember what it was like to be a kid."
What makes a good teacher: "You have to be willing to put away your fear that some kid in the classroom is going to know more than you do. You have to let go of some of that power and control, which is an illusion anyways. You get it by giving it away."
BELOIT TOWNSHIP Mike Kolff was in coach mode—not dad mode—when his youngest child walked off the football field for the last time as a Whitewater Whippet.
At the last second, Kolff grabbed someone's camera on the sidelines and snapped a photo of his son, Ty.
Ty's not a kid anymore, but Kolff keeps on snapping pictures.
Kolff has worked since 2007 as the principal of Beloit Turner High School. He spends much of his free time at school sporting events, theater productions, choir practices and local pancake breakfasts. At every one, Kolff takes photos of Beloit Turner students in action.
He gives the pictures to parents.
"He's our biggest fan," said Tim Rosenthal, choir teacher and drama director at the high school.
Kolff has been known to spend hours at a rehearsal and give Rosenthal a disc with hundreds of photos. Some go home with students, and others are used for displays during performances, Rosenthal said.
Kolff knows first-hand that parents sometimes get too caught up in the action to remember to take pictures during games and performances.
"I think every parent ought to have a picture of their kid playing," Kolff said.
Camera or not, it's also important to Kolff that Beloit Turner students see him taking an interest in their activities.
While he's there, Kolff treats students with the same respect he would give a colleague, Rosenthal said.
Kolff has been an educator for 36 years. A West Allis native, Kolff graduated from Milton College and has spent most of his adult life living and working in Rock and Walworth counties. He holds master's degrees in educational technology and administration.
Kolff's job is to "remove obstacles from students and teachers to let them do what they need to do."
In Rosenthal's view, Kolff does just that.
"He's a wonderful facilitator and supporter of anything we're trying to do to help kids," Rosenthal said. "I think he sees himself helping not so much by being hands-on but by getting out of the way and letting us use our natural talents."
Kolff doesn't see the extra time he spends at Turner activities as extra work.
"If my children were of school age, it might be different," Kolff said. "But now that they're grown and gone, now the priority can be my children in my school."