Arkansas City High School Assistant Principal Jeremy Truelove recently was named as the next principal of the school.

He will succeed David Zumwalt, who is retiring after this school year.

Truelove is an Arkansas City transplant who has spent his entire 10-year educational career at ACHS.

“I was born and raised in Joplin,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I didn’t even know where Ark City was on a map.

“It’s funny now, because all I wear is purple.”

In his time at ACHS, Truelove has become attached to the community as a whole.

“I love it here,” he said. “I really feel like it’s a welcoming community. I never felt like an outcast.”

Military upbringing

Truelove’s own high school experience helped to shape how he connects with students.

“I decided that I wanted to live with my dad,” he said. “At the time, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.”

Truelove flew to Japan himself, including a connecting flight in a plane referred to as a “puddle jumper.”

“I got to learn a lot about culture,” he said.

He was able to stand on the same ground the U.S. military stood on during World War II.

“I went to school with other military kids,” he said.

Coping with transition

ACHS has a high transitory rate. Some of this is due to migrant workers and some of it is because the foster system uses Ark City regularly.

Truelove’s own learning experience was not entirely stable, either, because military personnel travel so much.

“My dad put in (for) an extension so that I could graduate in Japan,” Truelove said.

That was not true of other students who attended his high school.

“You were never sure what the next year would look like,” Truelove said. “I think what I went through will really help here.”

While Truelove has a passion for freshmen — particularly because ninth grade is a transitional year — those students who process in and out of ACHS experience that same sort of transition that he is familiar with from his own experiences.

Work and education

Truelove’s education came in two phases. During the first phase, he wanted to major in history.

“I got into retail, but I was never happy doing that,” he said.

Nevertheless, Truelove dropped school when he became a manager for a national shoe store.

During the time he spent away from school, he ran a store near Chicago.

“There’s a lot to do in Chicago. (But) I didn’t make a lot of money,” Truelove said.

Compared to small-town income, it seemed like he made a lot, but the higher cost of living dictated otherwise.

When he lived in Chicago, Truelove was in a tiny apartment and didn’t get to do a lot, outside of free events his employment made possible.

After talking to a friend about the future, he realized that he wanted to teach instead.

Truelove family life

Truelove and his wife, Melissa, have two children together, and each also has a daughter from a previous relationship — a total of four children.

“I am remarried,” he said. His daughter lives in Missouri.

The couple’s boys are younger than the students Truelove interacts with on a daily basis.

However, his stepdaughter attends ACHS and is involved in some of the programs he helped to create.

“She’s way too busy to be worried about what I’m doing,” Truelove said with a smile.

Professional adjustments

In his new position, Truelove will be able to help staff more through coaching them.

He said he sees himself as a “lifer.”

“I really do. If you’d asked me five, six years ago, I would have said no,” Truelove said.

For some time, he anticipated returning to Joplin.

“There have been opportunities come up there,” Truelove said.

But they never were enough to pull him back to Missouri.

“I count myself as lucky,” Truelove said. “I work in a place that has the same passion for kids that I do.”

Changes ahead

Going forward, Truelove sees a great opportunity to change the traditional student route.

“As you’ve probably heard, there is a big push for school redesign,” he said.

“No one knows exactly what that’s going to look like, but it could be more fluid scheduling. It could be more (exposure) to the community.”

He thinks the future is project-based learning — a style that is used in the district’s summer school programs. It includes hands-on learning.

“The one student that comes to mind is a young lady (who) helped keep a person alive in an ambulance,” Truelove said.

“Her story is inspiring — to hear about how her passion is in health science and she got to work firsthand (in it).”

Time will tell what education might look like in the future, but one thing seems to be clear — Truelove’s passion for students will remain.

“Everything I’ve ever done in education is: ‘What is best for the student?’” he said.