This week’s Portage Life in the Spotlight is Scott Hufford, the Principal of Crisman Elementary.
Hufford is a life-long Portage resident. He is a 1988 graduate of Portage High School and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating, Hufford moved back to Portage where he taught at Portage High School in the science department for 12 years. In that time he also coached Cross Country, Track and Field and at Willowcreek Middle School for Girls Basketball along with his wife Beth. They have four sons, all who go to Portage schools; Tyler, Trevor, Bryce and Blake.
After he taught at the high school, Hufford moved to Fegeley Middle School where he became the Assistant Principal. He then moved to his current job at Crisman Elementary as the Principal.
“I have always been connected to kids from the first time coaching to the first time in the classroom,” Hufford said. “I took a college class when I was a biology major and it was that first opportunity to get in to a classroom in St. Louis and I just fell in love with being around the kids.”
Hufford coached for many years in cross country, track and field and girls basketball. After running cross country and track for Portage while in high school, he decided to bring his knowledge to other student athletes.
“I began coaching right away when I got back,” Hufford said. “I ran track and cross country while in high school and I had an interest in helping share what I had learned with other kids.”
When Hufford made the transition from the classroom to the office, it was a change for the 12 year teacher and coach.
“As a teacher and coach, I came into contact with a lot of kids every year. Maybe 150 in the classroom and probably another 200 from coaching,” Hufford said. “One of the biggest changes I think was the number. When I became the Assistant Principal, the number became 750 that I was working with. The challenge is getting to know everyone. For me, it was very important from the beginning to get to know each student.”
Overseeing 500 students is a very difficult task for any principal. Hufford makes sure he knows each and every student so they feel welcomed at the school.
“I think being in the classroom, seeing them at lunch or going out for recess is key, because the more you know them and who they are, the better you are at your job,” he said.
As a long-time member of the Portage Township Schools, Hufford has seen it change over the years from the time when he was a student in PTS.
“I think for me I have always had pride in Portage so I have never seen it anything less than that [one of the top school districts],” he said. “That would be from the time that I was a student in Portage. I was part of teams that were the best in the state. I was part of academic teams that were very strong. I had no other expectation other than excellence. The desire for excellence at all levels speaks for who we are.”
Also being a life-long resident of Portage, Hufford remembers the days when Portage was half the size it used to be and when Willowcreek Road ended at Lute Road.
“Looking at it for me would be remembering Willowcreek Road being a two lane road and watching that about triple in size,” Hufford said. “Just the infrastructure change, the school system hasn’t changed that much in terms of size. For me, Portage is working on the development assets and critical values. I think these go from the individual school to the school district and even beyond that, to our parents and community.”
He feels that there are so many opportunities for not just students, but for parents to get involved with in the community.
“It is exciting to see a park department that has such an involvement,” he added. “My kids participate in soccer and Saturday at the park is so exciting to see hundreds and hundreds participating. I think there are numerous opportunities to get involved in our community. The opportunities are there.”
Since Hufford taught at the high school level and since moved to the elementary level, he has seen what some teachers do not see for quite some time as an educator.
“I am at that point now where I taught kids that were high school students that had me as a high school teacher that now have kids entering the building as first graders,” he said. “I think it is about relationships and I think parents want to know that the principal and the school care for their children and here at Crisman, a caring school climate is something we have chosen to focus on from the start.”
"Portage is a growing community but it is also very small too,” he said. “It is a lot of the same people that I grew up with that chose to live here and raise their family here.”
Hufford is very proud of what Crisman and all of the school in Portage have accomplished over the years.
“It is exciting to work in a school district that cares very much for kids and seeing them at the very best they can be,” Hufford concluded.
Because of his commitment to all of the students, not just in his school, but in the entire community, Scott Hufford is most definitely a Portage Life in the Spotlight.