Alcorn “left his mark” on Heritage HillsFebruary 3, 2020
By LEANN BURKE
LINCOLN CITY — When Heritage Hills High School Principal Nick Alcorn walks the halls of his school, students and staff often hear him coming.
He’s almost always whistling and happy as he makes his way around the building that’s been his work home for 32 years — first as a social studies teacher and then as a building administrator. It’s one of the ways he sets the culture of his school, and that presence is something that will be missed when he retires in June.
“That professionalism, the upkeep of school climate and culture, and teaching kids to take pride in their community and what they do — those were all things [Alcorn] was excellent at,” said North Spencer Schools Superintendent Dan Scherry.
Alcorn, 60, was assistant principal at Heritage Hills when Scherry joined the corporation in 2003.
For Alcorn, those traits followed naturally from doing what he loved. But it was a love he discovered later in life.
Alcorn grew up one of eight children on Evansville’s west side with a mom who was a school teacher. When he graduated from Mater Dei High School, he attended the University of Southern Indiana — then a satellite campus of Indiana State University in Terre Haute — and was pursuing a degree in biology. He thought he’d become a conservation officer. But that changed when Mater Dei called shortly after his high school graduation and asked if he’d like to coach.
“I absolutely fell in love with that,” he said. “Working with youth just seemed to be a natural thing that I just really enjoy. And so after wandering a couple years, through various college majors, I ended up in education, and have absolutely loved every minute of it.”
His love for education has kept Alcorn in high spirits throughout his career in education — a field he describes as ever-changing — and that permeated Heritage Hills culture when he became an administrator. Even on challenging days, Heritage Hills Assistant Principal Jeff Cochren said, Alcorn kept a positive attitude and looked for the good in situations.
“That’s important for the students and staff to see,” Cochren said.
When Alcorn retires, Cochren said, one of the things he’ll miss most is Alcorn’s consistent positive attitude and the laughter he brings to the school through his leadership.
Alcorn has intentionally created a culture where students and staff can feel free to laugh and enjoy their days. Sitting in his office near the cafeteria, he keeps his door open. He can always tell when lunch time is approaching because he can hear the cafeteria staff sitting together, chatting and laughing as they share a meal before serving the rest of the school. The sound always brings a smile to his face.
He’s also intentionally created a culture of teamwork and open communication. When teachers and staff approach him with new ideas, he keeps an open mind and reminds himself of what he felt like as a teacher presenting a new idea to his principal.
“It’s very easy for me to make the connection when I’m dealing with a situation or making a decision to remember how I felt as a teacher,” Alcorn said. “I try to be very mindful of those days from when I was a teacher, to try to communicate as best I can [with staff] and take those kinds of things into consideration.”
And while there’s no question that Alcorn is the leader of the school, Cochren said he’s also not one to micromanage. He trusts his staff and gives them the space they need to do their jobs the way they think is best for their students.
The trust seems to go both ways, Alcorn said, and the culture at Heritage Hills is one of teamwork and seeking what’s best for students, even when it’s difficult. That tight-knit team is something Alcorn will miss when he retires.
“I signed a lot of my emails to staff, you know, ‘patriot family,” Alcorn said. “We have a very close-knit staff. We have worked hard together, we’ve tried things, we failed at things. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried.
The staff here and what keeps you going every day ... You know you can you can do that not too popular thing because you know the staff [trusts] you, and they’re willing to follow your lead. And that makes things very easy.”
Although Alcorn still loves coming to work every day, he also knew it was time to retire. In the last couple years, two of his long-time friends in education — Elaine Daubenspeck and Annie Gunselman — passed away, and their deaths hit him hard. His mother is aging, too, and he’d like to be able to spend more time with her and his family, many of whom still live in the Evansville area. He and his wife, Annie, recently moved to Newburgh from Santa Claus, and he’s looking forward to spending more time with his kids — Tim Alcorn, who teaches at Mount Vernon; Meredith Alcorn, who works in human resources for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation; and Sidney Alcorn, who is a sophomore at Western Kentucky University.
Overall, though, he said he just feels like he’s given everything he can to the job, so it’s time to let someone else step up.
Although Alcorn won’t be returning to Heritage Hills in the fall, his legacy will still be part of what makes the school.
“He’s impacted many students and staff. If you think about it, probably thousands over his 30 years,” Cochren said. “He’s left his mark.”
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