Jeff Eckley has always been the kind of guy who uses a pad of paper and a pen to keep himself organized. He outlines his day, knows what he has to accomplish and for the most part gets it done.
Come July 1, when he is officially retired as the Principal of Bellbrook Middle School, Eckley’s pad of paper might have a little less on it.
“I still don’t have (a plan) and it’s really starting to freak me out,” Eckley said with only a hint of jest. “It’s a little uncomfortable, to be honest. There’s projects and things we’ve wanted to get done. We want to travel, we have a new granddaughter, Lillian Grace, so we want to go and see her. Our second daughter is getting married in December … There’s always plenty to do, but as far as the specifics, we’ll just take it day by day.”
Eckley started in Bellbrook in 1997, coming in as a social studies teacher, but that soon changed. In fact, by December of that year he was named Dean of Students and he was on his way to more than 20 years as the Assistant Principal at the Middle School. He spent most of his career in Bellbrook under Jenness Sigman.Jenna Hill and Jeff Eckley
Getting him to take a step up to Principal, though, took a little convincing.
“I turned it down at first,” Eckley said. “I really enjoyed the role I was in as assistant principal and athletic director. I had my life the way I wanted it.”
But when Sigman moved on, Eckley said he was convinced by the staff at the middle school.
“They told me we can’t allow it to go any other direction,” Eckley said. “That we’re a big family here. We do good things for kids and we can’t allow someone else to come in and change the direction, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring.”
Eckley said he doesn’t have any regrets after taking the top job at the middle school.
And while he doesn’t have any specific plans on what’s next – taking the day-to-day approach – Eckley knows he is going to miss those he encounters in his school on a daily basis.
“Undoubtedly, the people I’ve met through the years,” Eckley said of what he’ll miss most. “So many great people I’ve formed relationships through the school and outside of it. Many of them are still my closest friends.
“We’ve partnered to strive to do what’s always best for kids. That’s been our catchphrase for many years. We’re very proud of the product we put out.”
Jeff Eckley Speaks during the NJHS Induction.Doing what’s best for kids is more than just a catchphrase for Eckley.
It doesn’t exist on a wall in his office. It’s not hanging on a banner in the middle of the school. It doesn’t need to be. It’s woven into the fibers of who he is as a person and an educator.
When Eckley speaks, people listen. He’s revered within the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local School District.
Not having him physically in the building will be a loss, but the time he spent leading the middle school will continue to have an effect long after his retirement. As it has for so many already.
“The kids that I’ve met – to watch them grow (as people), makes this such a unique and important time,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have been around thousands of kids in 25 years. Not only as students but as athletes, as musicians. Just to watch them grow into the person that they are – I’ve been to countless weddings – seeing them grow up, go through college, graduate from college, go onto different things is so rewarding. To have the opportunity to be a part of a profession where you can affect people’s lives – but believe me when I say, they have affected my life just as much as hopefully as much as, maybe, I’ve affected theirs.”