Lincolnview Superintendent Jeff Snyder, Crestview Superintendent Kathy Mollenkopf, and Vantage Superintendent Rick Turner all are heading up the schools they graduated from. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Lincolnview Superintendent Jeff Snyder, Crestview Superintendent Kathy Mollenkopf, and Vantage Superintendent Rick Turner all are heading up the schools they graduated from. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – What do Superintendents Jeff Snyder of Lincolnview, Kathy Mollenkopf of Crestview, and Rick Turner of Vantage all have in common? They each graduated from the schools they now lead.

Snyder, a 1988 Lincolnview graduate, will be going on his sixth year as Superintendent at Lincolnview in January. Originally, he took a different career path after graduation.

“My first career path was in sports medicine, so I got a dual major in education and sports medicine at the University of Toledo,” said Snyder.

His first job was at Defiance College as an athletic trainer and program director. Snyder was interested in leadership in the college setting, but his father Ralph Snyder, who was also his high school principal at Lincolnview, suggested he look at leadership at the high school level.

Snyder worked for various districts until he took the Superintendent position at Lincolnview in 2013.

Turner, originally from Crestview, graduated from Vantage in 1979. After graduation, Turner wanted to teach machining but in order to teach at Vantage, seven years of experience in the field was required. Turner got his seven years, but at the time Vantage was not hiring. However, Apollo was, and with a good recommendation from Vantage, Turner spent 32 years with Apollo Career Center. He returned to his alma mater in 2017.

“Probably the only opportunity that would have caused me to leave a district after 32 years was the opportunity to come back here,” said Turner of coming back to Vantage.

While Snyder and Turner left their districts after graduation and eventually ended back at them, Mollenkopf’s first job in education was at Crestview. She has spent her entire educational career with the district – 12 years as a teacher and 20 years as an administrator. Mollenkopf is a 1976 graduate.

“In 1986, the then-superintendent, which was Clark Fleming and the high school principal to become the new superintendent, which was Steve Keller, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in coming back and teaching for them,” said Mollenkopf. “So that was my foot back in the door.”

Much has changed since each alum has left as a student. Snyder said, perhaps one of the biggest changes has been how much each school district works with each other with the interest of students in mind.

Soon each school will be participating in the CEO program which originated with Van Wert and spread to Lincolnview and Crestview. All four schools recently joined forces to create an economic advisory council to ensure students are best prepared for the future after high school.

While Lincolnview’s and Crestview’s buildings have certainly changed to encompass one k-12 building rather than several buildings throughout the district, and while Vantage has seen some major renovations to their building, the three Superintendents agree there is still a sense of nostalgia and familiarity while being back in each of their school districts, especially with school pride.

“There’s an emotional attachment to the community in which you grew up,” said Mollenkopf. “It just feels good to serve the community that gave you so much, that provided your foundation.”

Snyder noted that while much of the Lincolnview building is fairly new, two shop classes have been preserved which reminds him of his days in high school.

Mollenkopf said that a major change between students then and students now is how they interact, noting that students now make a lot of friends from other districts and can use social media to make lots of friends.

Each is grateful to have an opportunity to take what previous leaders gave the district and to build upon that to continue to usher their districts into the future.

“The goal is to continue to have our graduates love their experience, like I did, and hopefully someday they would want to come back, and when they do come back, it’s still evolving to be a great community,” said Snyder.

Snyder, Turner, and Mollenkopf agreed that Van Wert being a great community to live in drew them to want stay and live in the area they are native to. Each has family ties to the area and feel a great sense of pride for not only Van Wert County, but their districts as well.

“Whatever we do here in Van Wert County, when we compete in anything, we always do it very well,” said Snyder. “The foundation is there, the people are there, we’ve had a lot of tremendous success here; why wouldn’t I want to come back and continue that tradition of what we do?”

“It’s just a tremendous opportunity to come back, give back, and hopefully move this region forward because we do see so much opportunity,” added Turner. “The community has invested so much in the educational system, and I think that’s been attractive to me how supportive the community has been.”