Jon Chlebowski, Assistant Principal at Willowcreek Middle School, always carried a bit of a flare for the dramatic. He’d gone to college with the original goal of turning a theater degree into an acting career, but found something new.
“I eventually got into education, at first because I wanted something a little more stable so that I could have family,” he said. “Then I discovered that I really had a passion for education and working with children. So I got a bachelor’s degree in education from Purdue University Calumet and started teaching.”
A lot of that passion came from his own experiences growing up in Crown Point.
“I could remember two or three teachers that had a profound impact on me, all the way through elementary, middle, and high school,” Chlebowski said. “Then I thought, I was in school for 12 years, with multiple teachers for six of those years, and I could only really say three of them left an impact on me. That was mind-boggling.”
When he finished his degree, he started teaching in Portage Schools with a clear goal in mind.
“I wanted to be that teacher to kids, the one that had an impact,” he said. “Then, I started thinking, what if we can get every teacher to that level? What if we can get kids graduating to think about the impact all of their teachers had?”
He follows a teaching philosophy that Dr. Mike Livovich, his supervising professor during college, and Dr. Amanda Alaniz, his principal when he first started teaching and now Superintendent for Portage Township Schools, helped instill in him.
“Dr. Livovich always brought out the human aspect of teaching, and Dr. Alaniz reinforced that,” he said. “He’d always show me the social and emotional side of what students are going through, he helped me develop a lot more compassion as an educator. You have to get to know each child as a person and treat them as a human being. That’s been a huge drive of mine my entire career, and Portage has now made social-emotional learning their top initiative.”
While he loved teaching students, Chlebowski thought moving into administration would help him achieve his mission of getting every teacher to have a lifelong positive influence on Portage students. He settled into his role as an assistant principal just over a year ago.
“I get to see kids all day long, and I love trying to improve their behavior,” he said. “As a disciplinarian, my goal isn’t just to punish them for negative behavior, it’s also to reinforce good behavior and leave a positive impact. It’s really common for me to make a phone call home to parents with their kid in my office and just tell them how their kid is making good choices.”
One of his favorite parts of working in administration is that he gets to have a much wider influence.
“I get to have an impact on so many different groups of people,” he said. “I get to work with teachers, my fellow administrators, our kids, and their families. That is a bigger impact than I could have as a teacher.”
Chlebowski lives in Portage with his wife, Angie Runyan-Chlebowski, their two sons, Joshua and Joseph Chlebowski, and two stepsons, Jacob and Johnathon Runyan.
“There are so many things for families and people to do here in Portage,” he said. “When I moved here, I was blown away at how nice the parks are, and how many people are out there engaging with the community. There’s a sense of unity here, there really is.”