Meet Maria Yoder
When Maria Yoder was named principal of Jefferson K-7 three years ago, she said she felt like she was “coming home.”
Yoder began her career in education as a classroom teacher at Jefferson, and taught special education, first and second grades at the central Holland school for 17 years.
Subsequent teaching assignments took her to Harrington Elementary and West K-7, and then she served a year as assistant principal at East K-7. When Superintendent Brian Davis promoted her to principal, Yoder said she was happy to be returning to Jefferson, where she felt comfortable.
“Obviously, the specific families associated with Jefferson changed because I’d been away eight years,” Yoder said, “yet the climate and culture of the building remained familiar. It really felt like I was coming home.”
Jefferson enrolls just over 400 students in grades from transitional kindergarten through seventh grade. Yoder oversees a staff that includes 23 classroom teachers, plus two dozen education specialists, paraprofessionals and support staff.
The school also benefits from the support of many community volunteers and mentors, including more than 60 from the Kid’s Hope program at nearby Central Wesleyan Church.
“At Jefferson we have a mostly veteran teachers who are very tapped into the community,” Yoder said. “They’re very experienced at relating to our students and their families.
“This is all so important,” Yoder added, “because it takes a team approach to help kids be successful and become good learners.”
Jefferson’s PPC (Parent Participation Committee) gives parents opportunities beyond involvement in their own child’s education to benefit the school. PPC members raise funds to support field trips and other special activities. They also help teachers organize Family Nights at school. In addition, the PPC provides the “person power” to help kindergarten through third-grade students choose books at their reading level to take home and read to their parents, the focal point of Jefferson’s Read At Home program.
Yoder grew up in New Buffalo, Mich., but her family moved to Holland while she was earning her undergrad degree in education at Grand Valley State University. Her father, Ron Stella, served as principal at Holland High School from 1984 to 1987, his last year before retirement overlapping with her first year of teaching.
Yoder – who married her husband, Dave, 30 years ago – earned a master’s degree in special education and a certificate in education leadership, also at GVSU. The couple has two daughters: Delaney, a graphic designer living in Atlanta, Ga., and Darby, a junior at Western Michigan University whose major is elementary education.
Away from school, Yoder is likely to be found reading mysteries or spy novels. She said she also loves spending time during summers in her backyard swimming pool.
Parents and community members who wish to contact Yoder are welcome to use whatever communication method is easiest for them, but noted that email is usually the fastest way. Email Yoder at email@example.com.