Dr. Larry Ben has made his way back to Cherokee County, and is now the principal of Grand View School.
A member of the Tahlequah High School Class of 1977, Ben's parents were from Mississippi, and he is Choctaw. He is a second-generation educator, as his father, Henry Ben, taught at Sequoyah High School for many years.
"As a young person in college, I think I wanted to go into education because I wanted to coach," said Ben. "Looking back, it was more than about coaching. It was broader; it's working with a group of people having goals, reaching goals - leadership and achievement."
Ben earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Northeastern State University. He began his career in education at Lowrey School in 1983, and was there for two years.
"Back then, the coach coached everything. We taught everything, too. I taught math, history and science to seventh- and eighth-grades, and PE to K-8," said Ben.
He then moved over to Tahlequah Public Schools for five years, coaching or assisting with a myriad of sports: football, wrestling, girls' tennis, golf, and powerlifting.
Life took Ben to Arkansas to coach football at Gravette for three years, and Rogers, where he stayed for 17 years and got into administration. He earned a doctoral degree from University of Arkansas while there.
After being assistant principal and principal of the sophomore campus in Rogers, Ben moved to Decatur, Arkansas, for four years to be superintendent. He was then assistant superintendent for two years in Fayetteville.
"I have coached off and on for pee wee leagues, but I'm not coaching any more. I'm just being a principal and a fan," said Ben.
The move back to the Tahlequah area was to be more centrally located to family. Ben has relatives, including children and stepchildren ages 18-28, in Oklahoma City, Northwest Arkansas, and Tulsa. He is married to Tammi.
"I really love the outdoors, particularly fishing," Ben said. "I love music, especially bluegrass, and play guitar and mandolin. I'm interested in finding musicians to play with."
From an education standpoint, Ben is looking forward to getting better acquainted to Grand View, and then making his contributions.
"Not only knowing the people, but the aspects, academically and culturally," he said. "I want to find areas that need support and improvement. It's a good school. We all need improvement. It's what any school or school board would expect an administrator to do."
Ben is interested in offering students more support, including in the areas of social work, and social and emotional support. He knows students are going through a lot with growing up and home situations, and that can lead to them acting out or falling behind at school.
He also plans to analyze the academic achievement markers of Grand View.
"I use what I call a teaching and learning feedback. It includes instruction - feedback on what students were instructed, then feedback on what was left out or missing. The intent, what they learned, and then address what they didn't 'get,'" he said. "There could be a variety of reasons they didn't 'get' it."
He said this represents what he has done in other schools and areas that interest him.
"It's a general philosophy I'd apply anywhere," said Ben.