Hillsboro Elementary School principal Joe Arbogast didn’t have to travel far to find a school where he could get his feet wet in administration – just over the county line.
“I live in Valley Head so it’s about forty-five minutes,” he said.
Arbogast was a special education teacher and football coach at Tygarts Valley High School. Although he enjoyed the job, Arbogast knew in his heart he wanted to be a leader.
“I’ve always liked being in a leadership role and I watched my principals do it at my former school and they were good at it, and they made differences and they helped me make a difference,” he said. “The curriculum, the kid’s lives – that’s a pretty powerful thing and a pretty big thing; something I’d like to be a part of.”
In his first year as a principal, Arbogast said his goals are common among all principals – leading the students to success.
“Some of my goals, and I think this is any principal, they’re going to tell you that they want to increase their test scores, they want to become a blue ribbon school and that’s ultimately what we want to do. What I want to do here,” he said. “It’s what I want to get my staff on board here to do.”
Being from a small town himself, Arbogast was drawn to Hillsboro and has felt a very warm welcome from the area.
“This is a small school,” he said. “I love the rural setting. I grew up in Valley Head, a lot like Hillsboro. Everybody has been great here so far and the people of this community deserve it and they deserve a school that’s going to provide a great education for their kids, prepare them for the future and be able to move on up to the middle school level, and to give them a good educational foundation for the rest of their lives. That’s what we’re going to aim to do here.”
The move from teaching teenagers to a PreK through fifth grade school was a little of a culture shock for Arbogast, but a shock that he is taking in stride.
“It was a very big step coming from high school into PreK through fifth school – a true grade school,” he said. “You walk through the classrooms and you see carpets and colors, and shapes, stuff you really had to do a complete turn around in your mindset of where you were to where you are. So far, I’ve met some of the kids and I haven’t met one yet that wasn’t smiling, and they were happy to meet me. It’s been a true warm welcome from the kids and the parents and staff. It was definitely a big adjustment that I’m still trying to make and still having to make.”
Arbogast followed his mother into the education field, although he took a slightly different route. He began as a coach at the middle and high schools before he entered the classroom as a special education teacher.
“There was a high needs area in Randolph County,” he said. “They needed special ed teachers and that’s what I did. Initially, it was a career choice where I knew it was a high needs area and it would get me employment quickly, and then I fell in love with it. I love working with special needs kids and kids with different learning styles. It was a great experience.”
Arbogast feels his time as a special education teacher has helped him to be a better principal. He understands how important it is to reach each student, regardless of their learning abilities.
“I think anyone who works in that field has an upper hand on education because as a principal, I have to ensure that the teachers are reaching every kid,” he said. “As a special ed teacher, you appreciate that fact. Not only does every kid deserve that chance and deserve to be reached out to, but every kid can be reached, one way or another. That’s why I’m here. That’s what I want to promote here.”
Although no one knows what the future holds, including Arbogast, he says he hopes to spend some quality years at HES and earn his Red Devil status.
“I have no plans of going anywhere, as of right now,” he said. “If my year continues to be as good as it has been in the past two weeks, and the teachers continue to believe in my system, to work alongside me and with me, and the community continues to support me the way they have – if that support continues to stay strong and true, which I think it will, I think it’s a great place to make a career. I do.”
It doesn’t hurt that Arbogast’s wife, Alicia Broce, is a native of Pocahontas County and still has family here.
“This is like a second home to me,” Arbogast said. “Ever since I started coming into Pocahontas County, I’ve always been welcomed. It’s a great place. It’s a small town feeling. It’s a family style environment and it’s a great place to work. So far, it’s been amazing.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org