Robert DeRoo was experiencing a lot of mixed emotions as he sat in a small conference area outside of what has been his office for the past 27 years, but didn’t think his successor would mind him answering some questions in the small work area.
For DeRoo, who this summer announced his retirement from , it's just starting to hit home that he will not be the administrator of the 60-student preschool through eighth grade school, where he also taught several classes.
“I love this school and I love Christian education, and I’ll still be here as a volunteer,” said 57-year-old DeRoo, a resident of Dearborn. “But it was time for new things and fresh ideas ... 27 years is a long time for one person to be in charge.”
A self-described country boy, DeRoo graduated with a degree in elementary education from Grand Valley State in 1975. The jobs situation for teachers was much as it is today, with very few opportunities for employment in the public sector.
DeRoo eventually found himself in Goshen, N.Y., where he was hired at a Christian School as an administrator and teacher. After settling in at the school, DeRoo knew he had found his niche.
“I knew that I would never go to a public school after that,” said DeRoo. He would go on to earn a master’s degree in educational leadership from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
DeRoo eventually got married and started a family with his wife, Bonnie. But a desire to be closer to home presented itself. It would require the pair relocate to the Dearborn area—a fact DeRoo was entirely confident about.
“I was from the country, and Goshen was also the country,” he said. “I considered Dearborn to be the big city, but it was 600 miles closer to our families. But Dearborn has turned out to be a wonderful, wonderful community, and I’m so glad we came here.”
In his tenure at the school, he’s spent half of his time as the school’s chief administrator, and the rest of the time teaching Bible, math, social studies and several other subjects. Though many might think that would be overwhelming, DeRoo said splitting his time has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his career.
“I think all principals should teach," he said. "That way, not one (teacher) can tell you that you don’t understand what it’s like to be in a classroom.
“But more importantly," he added, "it keeps you in touch with the students."
Dearborn Christian Board President Sherry Kollien said DeRoo has had a lot on his roster for a long time, but has handled administrating and teaching wonderfully.
“We’re sorry to see Bob go,” she said. “But at the same time we wish him well. He handled both the responsibility of teaching and administering for a long time, and he’s a big part of why the school is successful, and why the environment is as good as it is.”
Kollien also said DeRoo’s commitment to the school has steered the entity itself through some rough waters.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes, and it’s been a difficult local economy,” she said. “Bob has helped us deal with that and find solutions.”
What’s ahead for DeRoo remains to be seen. He said it’s possible that he would teach at another Christian school because he likes to be accessible to students, but said he’s not interested in being an administrator.
And though he said he has the utmost respect for public school teachers in light of their responsibilities, he said he likely would not seek a position at a public school.
“My daughters went to after Dearborn Christian, and they had wonderful opportunities there, and we’re blessed to have a great public school district in the city,” he said. “But I’m used to an environment where there’s a little more parent participation."
Wherever he lands, DeRoo will always carry in his heart the impact he’s had on thousands of children.
“I see former students that have graduated, and they stop by and say hi all of the time,” he said. “It’s really nice to see, and more than anything else, I’m going to miss seeing the students every day.”