Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Rick Elertson grew up in Wisconsin and is a self-declared cheese head. He says he will cheer the Broncos on, but only if they are not playing the Packers. Outside of pro football, basketball, baseball and hockey, Elertson’s new favorite team is the Nederland Middle Senior High School Panthers. Elertson is NHS’s new athletic director/assistant principal and after showing up on the job last week, he has a lot of ground to cover before official sports practice begins.
Elertson takes over for Emerald Murphy who resigned from the AD/assistant principal position at the end of the school year. During his teaching, coaching and education years, Elertson has steadily worked towards earning a PhD. in administration and looks forward to working with the NMSHS administration and staff.
Last week, he and the other new teachers at the school joined in many meetings and getting-to-know-each-other activities as they acquainted themselves with the building and the town, preparing themselves for a new year in a new place.
The Colorado mountains have long been a destination point for Elertson and his family.
Originally from Muskego, Wisconsin, where he spent a good chunk of his life, Elertson was a high school athlete, playing baseball, football and basketball. He entered college at Whitewater, Wisconsin, studying K-8 education.
“School is the place where I enjoyed myself,” says Elertson. “I had good mentors and good coaches and I knew early on that I wanted to be that.”
After earning a master’s degree in curriculum instruction, he sought a second master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. During his college years he worked as a carpenter and owned his own business for five years after he graduated from college.
He then accepted a position with the Milwaukee Public School System, teaching fifth grade in an inner city school.
“That was a joy and a heartbreak. The kids were from difficult backgrounds and I wanted to save everybody, but there just wasn’t enough time.” He taught there for eight years and then signed on with the Whitnall School District where he taught US History and then held his first administrative position as associate principal and athletic director.
He found it hard to leave the classroom, the connection to the kids. He wanted to spend time with coaches and kids and jumped at the AD position.
Elertson and his wife Julie honeymooned in Breckenridge and at that time made the decision to raise their children in Colorado. In May 2013, he resigned from Whitnall and accepted a position as principal at Coal Ridge High School in Garfield County serving the New Castle, Rifle area. Then they had three children: Sophia, Hadley and Avery, the first Colorado Native in the family.
Coal Ridge is a rural community outside of Glenwood Springs. Elertson began working on his doctorate in Denver. He was also looking for an athletic director position and a world class school for his kids. He resigned from his position at Coal Ridge School and in May, when the position opened up in Nederland he applied and was hired a week before graduation, just in time for the three foot snowstorm.
“I remember that I was shocked at how high Boulder Creek is. I also realized that we are not at the top of the food chain. It is different out here.”
The Elertsons have spent the past couple of months moving and looking for a house, learning that Nederland is not affordable, especially when they haven’t sold their previous house. They found a small house in Golden in the meantime, giving them time to look for another place in town when their lease is up.
In the past couple week, Elertson has explored the town, shopping at the grocery store, grabbing coffee at the Train Cars and picking up snacks at the Co-op. His wife works from home for the Aspen Ski Corporation and while they live in Golden, the kids will attend Creekside Elementary School.
He looks forward to the upcoming school year, saying one of his goals is to promote the school; to rejuvenate the PTA, the Booster Club and make sure the students become involved and active in the school. He plans to put up posters of athletic schedules in the town businesses and create t-shirts for the elementary and middle school kids to wear to athletic camps.
“We need to have a team captain’s council and student leadership meetings. We all need to play a role in the community, establish clearer connections to Middle School and High School transitions. We should not have kids going to the middle school down below. We need inside out coaching, to develop a purpose, build a deep character education program in athletes, following Principal Yantzer’s passion, purpose, plan motto. We should be teaching the kids to be the best version of themselves.”
Every child should participate in something aqnd be connected to the school outside of the school day, says Elertson.
As of the beginning of the week, he is still looking for a head volleyball coach, and may be looking at one of the current coaches. There would need to be a team approach this year, he says. “For some reason, athletic directors all over the district are looking for volleyball coaches.”
There is a need for another assistant football coach, an assistant cross country coach and a middle school wrestling coach.
“I am always willing to talk with people,” he says. “We should maximize our potential and work with everyone in developing a vision to get there.”
Elertson says his immediate goal is to make sure that he has the best people in front of the kids every day.
As assistant principal, it his job to supervise and evaluate the teachers and keep things off the principal’s desk. He plans to play with the kids, be with his family and go to work at the greatest job in the world.
(Originally published in the August 10, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)