Faces in the Crowd: Kristin Huttenga

September 27, 2019

By Aaron Michell

Kristin Huttenga has spent the majority of her life at McBain schools.

The daughter of Jack and Diane Hoekwater, Kristin graduated from McBain High in ’97. After earning her bachelor’s degree in social work from Ferris State, she was hired on at McBain Elementary in 2002 as a school success worker, and later as the Dean of Students.

Kristin loves her job, and she loves her home- town.

the school, she loves seeing the growth and progress from each one of her students, and cherishes the relationships made along the way.

While Kristin – along with her sisters Kaci, Kelly, and Katie – used to spend her high school days playing sports at McBain, she now gets to enjoy watching her own kids do the same. Her son Carsten, a 10th grader, currently plays football for the Ramblers, while her daughter, Emerson, an eighth grader, runs cross country.

We caught up with Kristin recently, to find out what she’s all about. We learned a little bit about her job, her hometown, and her family. Most im- portantly, we learned that Kristin Huttenga is more than just another face in the crowd.

Marion Press: So you’ve pretty much spent your whole life in McBain?

Kristin: Yep, I grew up in McBain; graduated in ’97. I started working at the school in ’02

MP: What were things like growing up in the Hoekwater family?

Kristin: I have two older sisters, and a younger sister; four girls: Kaci, Kelly, myself, and Katie. We were always in sports. I played basketball and softball, but my sisters played softball, ran track, played basketball and volleyball. We were always at a sporting event of some kind. I was always close with my family; hung out with friends – the normal things back then. Nothing too exciting!

My two sisters who are older than me both played in college, and my younger sister was a pretty good athlete as well.

MP: What was your favorite sport?

Kristin: Basketball. I played for Bruce Koopman. He’s a great coach; love him to this day. He’s still coaching [at McBain]

MP: What made you want to get into social work?

Kristin: I think I just knew. My aunt is Shelly Marcus, who works for the ISD. I just kind of grew up liking what she did – she was the preven- tion worker for the ISD. I knew that I wanted to work in the school. I knew I didn’t have the talent or the patience to be a teacher, but I knew that I wanted to work in the school system, and that I wanted to work with kids.

I interned in McBain my senior year at Ferris, and then I got hired in. And I’ve been there ever since – going on 18 years.

MP: So your job title is Dean of Students?

Kristin: When I first started, I was a school success worker. That was actually a grant through DHS – I was paid through a grant through DHS, but I was a McBain employee. I was doing the same thing, working with at-risk kids, that I’m doing today. The job title has changed but the work hasn’t changed: It’s always been working with kids and their families, discipline, behavior plans, connecting them to resources in the community.

MP: What is your favorite part of the job?

Kristin: It really is when you see things click with the kids. Making progress, and seeing the success of the kids. Seeing the maturity and the progression and the skill building… seeing that they’re becoming good humans.

MP: You’ve been a so cial worker in McBain for 17 years, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?

Kristin: I think that it’s become a little bit more challenging – and I think that’s probably the case wherever you go; it’s not specific to McBain, or Marion, or Cadillac. We have some fantastic parents, so I think it’s im- portant that we’re coming in alongside the parents; teaching them, and work- ing with them, and helping to show them a better way.

be doing pretty well as a school district, enroll- ment-wise. Kristin: At the elementary, we’re up over 50 kids this year. It’s a good problem to have. We have a good staff, good curriculum; we have a lot of parapros, we have a lot of good things in place. We’ve also had some good things coming. We were lucky enough to have the auditorium donated; the same [anonymous donor] just donated another 2.5 million towards building a new preschool.

MP: What keeps you busy outside of work?

Kristin: My children. Carsten, he’s in 10th grade and he’s in football right now. And then he does basketball and baseball He’s a good athlete – now if we can just keep his ego in check, that would be another thing! The other night he says, ‘Did you see my hit?!’ And I don’t know anything about football!

Emerson, she’s in eighth grade. She’s running cross country right now, and she’s doing really good. And she’ll do basketball, and she might do track – we’ll see what she wants to do. It’s her third year running cross country, and every year she says I make her do it!

My kids keep me very busy.

MP: What is it about McBain that keeps you here?

Kristin: All my family is here. My cousins are here; my aunts and uncles. Can you imagine leaving your family? I like the area; I love the small town. I like that my family’s here. Katie lives in Cadillac; Kaci lives in Lake City; my sister Kelly – who moved away – they built a house on Lake Missaukee, so they’re up all the time in the summer too. And all of our kids are close in age, so they all hang out too.

MP: What’s the best advice that you’ve been given?

Kristin: To take care of you. To take care of you first – and honestly, that sounds terrible – but I think that you’ve got to take care of you; whether that’s with your friends, your family, your faith, whatever that is, I think you’ve got to take care of you, first, so that you can be there [for others]. We all have those days, where we’ve got nothing. That’s when you’ve got to do what it takes to take care of you.

Emerson, she’s in eighth
grade. She’s running cross
country right now, and
she’s doing really good.
And she’ll do basketball,
and she might do track –
we’ll see what she wants
to do. It’s her third year
running cross country, and
every year she says I make
her do it!

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