Principal makes difference on and off campus
Being an elementary school principal might not have been the very last thing on Doug Escheman's list of goals while tending a small grocery store in Challenge in the early 1980s.
But there is no doubt teaching or, ultimately, becoming principal at Covillaud School in Marysville was not exactly at the top.
"It was one of the farthest things from my mind," Escheman said. "The only thing where I had worked with kids was when I was with Little League. Everybody said I would be a great teacher and I would always say, 'yeah, right.'''
But life for Escheman, 57, took one of those unexpected twists, with more than a measure of hard work. It took a friend to finally convince him to get his teaching credential and Escheman worked to reach a position where he seemingly was meant to be.
"It just shows that anybody who puts their mind to do something can do it," Escheman said. "When I went through college the first time I just slid by and now, all of a sudden, I had to study.
"But now my heart is here (at Covillaud)," he said.
Escheman is a nominee for an Appeal-Democrat's Spirit of Freedom award in the American Dream category.
He was nominated by Claudia Hollis, who met Escheman through a Yuba-Sutter LEAD class. In her nomination letter, Hollis noted the programs Escheman has started for children of economically disadvantaged families.
"Through Doug's personal trials and tribulations, he has a deep understanding of the outside factors that influence children's ability to learn ..." Hollis wrote.
Escheman, while running the store and his own wholesale grocery business in Challenge, went back to California State University, Chico, to get his credential in 1984. They were rough times, he admits, while living out of his car and going to classes.
With his credential in hand, Escheman did his student teaching at Yuba Feather School, taught for nine years at Covillaud starting in 1986, became a vice principal at Yuba Gardens Intermediate and went back to Covillaud as principal in 1997.
The latter job came after teachers at the school signed petitions supporting him for the position.
Since then, Escheman has gained a reputation for innovative programs and a relentless drive to help students both on and off campus.
Escheman was at the forefront of securing grants for a program that provided extra counseling, tutors, clothing and food for children of homeless parents. He also started a "Choices" program designed as an alternative to traditional detention to teach children about making better choices.
There are also workshops to teach parents how to help children with homework.
Escheman has also served as the focal point for academic programs that have been credited with dramatically raising test scores at the school.
At first, Escheman admitted he was worried about moving from teaching to administration, where it is easy to get bogged down in paperwork and budgets.
"But what I found was that I could touch more lives than just 30 kids in a class," he said. "I can't feel too bad about myself when you have little children give more love than I can give out."
Appeal-Democrat staffer Eric Vodden can be reached at 741-2400. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nominated by: Claudia Hollis.
"Because of (Doug), students are provided with the wings to experience the spirit of freedom." in her letter nominating Doug Escheman for a Spirit of Freedom award in the American Dream category