Harper’s Unsung Heroes

November 2023

Written by Gale Fischer 

The Power of Community

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

When I began my tenure as a teacher for Wattles Park Elementary it didn’t take long for me to understand the strong community bond that existed. Many of our students have represented a second or third generation in their family to call Wattles Park their elementary school home. Most have lived within our school borders but there have also been school-of-choice children who were enrolled at WPE because of the positive experience their parents had at our school years earlier. As I became acquainted with teachers and families representing our district’s other schools, I realized that our strong community was district-wide and not just restricted to WPE. Many families choose Harper Creek over other area school districts. This is true for our staff as well with many of our hires choosing Harper Creek over other districts and spending much if not all of their career here. This month’s Harper Unsung Hero, Corrin Buck, is a perfect example of this, having called Harper Creek her home for three decades, mentoring and providing positive experiences for our youth throughout her journey. She is well respected by students, staff, and community members. She credits much of what she has accomplished to the support from our Harper Creek family. 

Corrin was born and raised on the east coast but family ties to the area are part of what brought her to Battle Creek early in her teaching career. Corrin tells the history of her family in our community. “My dad was born into the Convis family. They settled in Battle Creek several generations ago. The Convis family is a big part of our local history with a township and other landmarks taking the family name. My dad was born and raised in Battle Creek.” Corrin’s dad would go on to college where he and her mom would meet, unite in marriage, and eventually pack up and move out of state. “After graduating from Battle Creek High Central School, Dad enrolled at Michigan State. He graduated from MSU in the early 1960s, eventually accepting a job in Maryland. My brother, Brad was born in 1962 in Lansing. I was born two years later just after our family had moved to Maryland.” 

Corrin and her family resided in Hungerford, a tiny community located in Rockford, Maryland. They lived very close to the elementary school that she and Brad attended. The two of them would walk to and from school every day. Childhood memories for Corrin involved growing up in a small community. For those of you who know Corrin, it should come as no surprise that her favorite childhood memories involve a swimming pool. “We had a neighborhood pool. I can remember spending hours at the pool each summer. I lifeguarded at the same pool and coached swimming later as a teenager.”

Corrin loved swimming and hanging out at the pool. She carried this passion with her, competing as a swimmer some as a young child, and would continue as an athlete in the pool, later in high school. “We moved to another town, Gaithersburg, Maryland, about twenty miles away when I was in Middle School. I competed as a swimmer from the age of eight years until I was twelve and then swam competitively for Gaithersburg High School. I began to excel and decided to swim year around starting my junior year. I also ran track all through high school but swimming was my passion.”

Corrin swam on the USA club team in her junior year in high school. She eventually developed a shoulder injury due to overuse and improper technique but was able to manage the pain and continued to swim through it. When she began to experience success as a high school athlete, she began thinking about swimming at the next level. Her search for where to attend college would be decided by her career path as well. Because of her experiences with aquatics and swimming as a child and as a teenager, Corrin had a pretty good idea of what kind of career she wanted.  “When I was in high school I wanted to be a physical education teacher. I had experience as a teenager, coaching a local youth team and I also wanted to add coaching to my career path. I looked for colleges with a physical education program in my search for colleges that I might want to swim for. I began reaching out to college swim coaches during my senior year. I visited MSU because of the family connection and considered enrolling there but I decided to go to Slippery Rock University, a D2 college in Pennsylvania, to swim and study education” 

Some highlights for Corrin as a competitive teenage swimmer include qualifying and swimming in the Metro swim competition in high school and also qualifying to swim in the regional meet while swimming for the USA club team. Corrin talks about how this success followed her to Slippery Rock. “I had an accomplished freshman year at Slippery Rock University, earning All-American status as a D2 athlete.”  With the achievements out of the gate in her first year as a college swimmer, Corrin considered challenging herself and swimming at the D1 level but decided to stay at Slippery Rock to finish her degree and her college swimming career. She continued to focus on her sport and would be rewarded for the next three years. “I was an All-American twelve times in my career at Slippery Rock. As a sophomore, I started to practice with the men’s team to give me a bit more competition. I’m glad I stayed at Slippery Rock. I was eventually inducted into the Slippery Rock University’s Hall of Fame.'' 

Corrin earned her teaching degree and used her eligibility as a student-athlete but she was not yet ready to leave her alma mater. “After graduating from Slippery Rock I stayed and began coaching swimming as a graduate assistant, completing my MA in athletic administration.” Coaching seemed to fit Corrin so she continued in this arena after completing her master's degree, taking a full-time coaching position for Clarion University’s swim team, located in Pennsylvania.

Things were going well for Corrin as a young coach for Clarion University but just a year after starting her first full-time coaching job Corrin received an unexpected call that was a turning point in her life. “As I began my second year at Clarion, I received a call from Michigan State University's athletic department. They were looking for an assistant head coach for their men’s and women's teams. I was a bit surprised but also excited. I started my second season at Clarion but went to MSU mid-season in 1988.” 

Corrin was thrilled to be coaching for a Big Ten school and working and living near where generations of her family had established roots was exciting as well. As much of a surprise as it was to receive a job offer from MSU, she would be hit with another unexpected opportunity just a few short months after arriving in East Lansing. “After three months of coaching for MSU, the head coach quit. I interviewed for the head woman’s coaching position. I was offered the job.”

Corrin was only twenty-four years old and was now a head coach at a big-time D1 University. Her inexperience was good in a sense that she wasn’t blinded by the big lights but it also came with a price. “Recruiting was challenging for me but there was more. Our facilities were outdated compared to other schools we were competing against. Our budget made it difficult to keep up with our competition as well. Coaching at a school as big as MSU without the support I needed to succeed was hard and I decided it was time to get out of D1 coaching and start utilizing my teaching degree.”

Corin met Buddy, her first husband while coaching at MSU but after she quit coaching the two of them would be apart for a short time. “I went back to Maryland to teach Health and PE, coach swimming and teach aquatics. Buddy and I continued to date and we stayed together long distance. Eventually, he accepted a job as a substitute teacher in Maryland. We were engaged after Buddy joined me in Maryland and later married.”

Corrin and Buddy spent two years in Maryland before deciding to move back to the Midwest. “Both Buddy and I wanted to get back to Michigan to be near family. I interviewed for jobs in Holland and Harper Creek in 1995. Harper Creek offered me a job as PE and Health teacher, aquatics director as well as boys and girls swim coach.” In an attempt to develop a culture for swimming for Harper Creek, Corrin also brought competitive swimming to the Middle School, adding another coaching job to her schedule. While Corrin was immersing herself into the Harper Creek community, Buddy accepted a teaching position for Lakeview, later joining Corrin at Harper Creek, teaching and coaching the men’s basketball team. 

Corrin was burning the candle at both ends as a physical education teacher, aquatics director, and swim coach for two seasons each year as a boys and girls coach. She was in her element but would adjust and scale back slightly with the expansion of their family. “I stepped down as boy’s coach and focused on the girls' team in 1997 when our oldest daughter, Kara, was born. Although I gave up the winter coaching season, freeing up some time, it was still a challenge being a full-time teacher, a mom, and a coach. This challenge grew a few years later when our youngest daughter, Kelsea, was born in 2000.”

As a dedicated teacher and coach, Corrin has been a positive presence for staff and students for Harper Creek but she humbly admits she could not have done what she has done on an island. “Many sacrifices were made through the years from my kids, from Buddy, and from my current husband Andy.”  Her appreciation for the sacrifices others have made and the support that they have provided is heartfelt.

What those in her family have given up to allow Corrin to find success in her career is undeniable but Corrin has also shown sacrifice in her role as educator and coach. “A great deal of commitment is required in being a coach. I continued to enjoy swimming and competing as an adult but during each coaching season, my focus had to be on my team and athletes. I chose not to swim during the season.”  

Corrin dedicated twenty-six years as a varsity swim coach for the Beavers. She has been blessed to see team and individual athlete success as a result of her mentorship. Many memories were made including having the opportunity to coach both of her daughters. As passionate as she is about coaching high school athletes and as enjoyable as it has been for her, the time would come for her to move past this chapter in her career. “It was hard to give up swimming during the swimming season. It would take a long time to get back into shape each year and eventually when I retired from my role as the varsity girl’s swim coach in 2020. One of the reasons was so that I could swim year-round.”  Corrin remained as coach for the Middles School swim team and continues coaching the team today. 

Corrin was able to resume year-round training, allowing her to reach beyond her comfort zone as an athlete a few years ago. “I have always stepped outside of my box in the arena of swimming. The summer of 2021 I decided to train for the swim around Mackinac Island.”  In her journey as a swimmer as a child and well into middle age, Corrin primarily competed with shorter distances within the confines of a swimming pool. She summarizes the challenge of this unique event. “This was an eight-mile swim and the longest that I had gone before taking this on was two miles. I made it but it was a mental challenge and a physical challenge. I was very proud of myself after finishing. It was definitely one of the most difficult things that I had ever accomplished. It felt good to challenge myself.”

Corrin’s experiences around being a competitive athlete, a teacher and a coach have given her a great perspective. Her advice to others is as follows. “Find that one thing that keeps you hungry. This could be your job but it doesn’t necessarily have to be your job. Finding this interest will keep you balanced in all aspects of your life.” 

Corrin’s passion has always been swimming but she has found joy as a teacher as well. “As a physical education and health teacher, my philosophy and desire is to motivate kids to feel and be physically active and at the same time challenge themselves. It’s difficult sometimes to get kids who have been stagnant to get excited about being physically active and enjoying it but it is always something that I strive for.” 

Competing as an athlete, earning All-American status, and going on to coach college athletes may seem to be much more glamorous than working as a public school teacher. Making this change had to have been a huge shift for Corrin, but I think that although it may lack the glamor that she experienced through her youth and as a young adult, it appears that she has found a similar level of joy and excitement at Harper Creek. Corrin talks about the blessings that have come for her here at Harper Creek and the family that she has been a part of. “I feel lucky with the career that I have had here. There were connections from generations back in my family. The Harper Creek Community is great. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work and the last thirty years.”

Corrin was recently inducted into the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, a much-deserved honor. This induction is a testament to her skill, knowledge, and commitment but on some level, this is an award for the entire Harper Creek Community. This is a great example of the strong community bond that exists in our school district. As members of the Harper Creek Community, we are all blessed.

 

Gale Fischer has spent most of his career as a special education teacher for Wattles Park Elementary dating back to 2001. He is an avid runner and began writing the stories of local runners twelve years ago. Many of these stories have appeared in the Battle Creek Shopper and the Battle Creek Scene Magazine. Recently he started capturing the stories of Harper Creek staff members. His column, Harper Unsung Heroes, features a different staff member each month. He believes that everyone has a story that can inspire others.

Harper's Unsung Hero - Lauren Crockett

Lauren’s path that led her to work as a student support specialist for Beadle Lake Elementary is not a traditional journey. Experiences working with the elderly nearing the end of their time on earth, teaching youth how to implement a healthy lifestyle, being a stay-at-home mom, and working for the foster care system helped her to develop a skill set that aligns well with meeting the needs of our students.

Bond Proposal Frequently Asked Questions

Bond Proposal Frequently Asked Questions 

Harper Creek Community Schools 

Election Date: May 7, 2024 

Estimated 0.6 mill increase over the 2023 levy 

$24 million 

Harper's Unsung Hero - Maria Kloosterman