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By Amber Hayden
BOYCEVILLE — For Tiffany Creek Elementary principal, Andy Hoeppner, the sense of belonging followed him to TCE after the last five years as an associate principal in Saudi Arabia.
Hoeppner is from Stillwater, Minnesota where he grew up with his parents. After graduating from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, the principal that he had known during his elementary years was the first principal to offer him his first teaching position.
He later moved on to become the principal at Starr Elementary in New Richmond, and his wife, Andi, took a position as a teacher as well.
After three years in New Richmond, the couple decided to pack up their home and take a position teaching internationally.
“We really wanted to wait until our youngest son was of school age,” Hoeppner explained. “Once he was, we went to a job fair, and that was how we signed up to teach.”
The Hoeppners have spent the last five years in Saudi Arabia with their sons Will, Joe, and Ben, making new friends and learning about different cultures. There were students at the school representing 60 different countries.
“What amazes me is my kids will get on the Houseparty app after they have coordinated with their friends and will just connect,” said Hoeppner. “So at any given time, they have friends on there from Pakistan, Malaysia and even Texas.” Houseparty is an app that kids can use to video chat with others all over the world.
He also explained there was very little difference between TCE and the school he worked at in Saudi Arabia, making mention that most kids want a sense of belonging somewhere.
Kids want some place they can feel safe and have other kids to interact with. For parents, it’s about making sure their children are given the best education they can get from the resources given to them, Hoeppner said.
So, in the month of May when the Hoeppners decided to finally move back state side to be around friends and family, Andy started looking at job postings and that was when his eyes landed on the position in Boyceville.
“The more I looked, the more Tiffany Creek ticked off each box on the list of a place I wanted to work at,” stated Hoeppner.
Hoeppner commented that the one thing he has noticed since starting at TCE on July 1, is the fact that the community and its members are always supportive of each other.
Be it by supporting a team or event at the school, or a community event that brings everyone together, he said, there is always a sense that everyone is important and helps to keep things on a forward path.
Hoeppner praises the work and effort Nick Kaiser, the staff, and the school board have continued through the years. He doesn’t see a huge area where he feels that needs to have an immediate fix.
More so his goal is to keep the train on the tracks that Kaiser put in place during his 12 years as the TCE principal before he moved on to become the district’s school superintendent.
“I want to keep things going forward, and every now and then add a little spice to it,” Hoeppner said.
He will return to Saudi Arabia to finish out his full five years before returning to the states on August 9. The reason for this is he has to be on Saudi soil in order to complete his five years as well as begin the exit process that is involved as well.
Hoeppner and his family will have to rely on memories, videos and pictures of their five years overseas as once he is given his exit visa neither he nor his family will be allowed to return to Saudi Arabia due to the country’s tight grip on tourism.