Mars Hill Academy welcomes new Head of School for its 25th year
A global pandemic couldn't keep Mike McKenna from a cross-country move to lead southwest Ohio's only PreK-12 classical, Christian school. McKenna and his wife, Chris, moved from Texas this summer after he accepted the position of Mars Hill Academy's Head of School.
"Mike brings the rare gifting of master teacher, successful administrator, tactful advisor and counselor, and mission leader to Mars Hill Academy," said MHA board chair Nick Kuechly. "He has more than 30 years of experience as an educator and administrator with a focus on employee hiring and training, performance management, curriculum design, accreditation tracking, budgeting, parent communication, and vision casting."
Read more to learn about MHA's new Head of School.
Q: What has been your educational journey?
A: After graduating from Montclair State College (NJ) in 1984 with a degree in Music Education, I was hired as a teacher and headmaster, got my Master's in Christian School Administration, and I've been in Christian and classical Christian education ever since. I've taught music, U.S. history and government, logic, pre-algebra, and literature. I also directed our school's musicals and variety shows. For 13 years, I led our rising seniors on a two-week summer study tour of Greece and Italy and taught a course to prepare the students for that wonderful educational travel experience.
Q: Why did you decide on a career in education?
A: While I was growing up, I had some really great teachers and, frankly, some really poor teachers. I always thought of the great ones, "I want to be like him or her. I want to be able to help mold and shape young people like that."
Q: What attracted you to the classical method?
A: I always believed that Christian education was not just nice, but it was necessary. However, I also felt we were doing something wrong; that we were imitating secular models of educating children and baptizing those models with prayer and Bible classes and chapel. It was too thin. When I discovered the classical model, it was as if the lights went on, or the scales fell off. I thought, "Finally! A model of teaching and learning that comports with the Scriptures!"
Q: What are you looking forward to as the new Head of School?
A: Mars Hill Academy is a nationally-recognized, classical Christian school. I feel very privileged and humbled to be asked to be a part of this impressive work. As headmaster, I hope to build on the good work and foundation that's already been laid, and with the help of this incredibly talented faculty and staff, to lead the school into a bright and prosperous future.
Q: How do you hope your leadership impacts the lives of MHA students?
A: It would be a great honor if the students I've taught and led over the course of my life looked back on me and thought that I was a servant leader, that I always pointed them to love Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, which ultimately find their fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Q: What is a favorite memory from your career?
A: Directing our musicals. There's an intensive amount of teamwork that goes into putting on a musical. It never comes together if the students don't work as a team. It’s an intense community effort to bring about a full-length Broadway musical, requiring hard work, perseverance, and physical stamina. Musical theater is also one of the few activities I know of that touches on so many different aspects of classical Christian education: the “grammar” of memorizing lines and basic stage directions. The “logic” of understanding the nuance of voice inflections, facial expressions, hand gestures, and how the characters interact. And finally, the “rhetoric,” or beautiful expression of the final performance. There's almost nothing else I've done in classical Christian education that fires on so many cylinders.
Second would be taking students to Greece and Italy. It’s a thrill to see these ancient, historic sites through the eyes of my students.
Q: What is something most people may not know about you?
A: I recently went skydiving with my youngest daughter, Molly. What an exhilarating adventure!
Q: What are some of your hobbies?
A: I play piano, cook, and I like to play racquetball. I also like to travel, although I don't get to do that as often as I'd like to. I'm always reading something.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your family?
A: I met my wife Chris when I was headmaster at a Christian school in New Jersey. She was putting her daughter Tonia in our Kindergarten. (Chris was a single mom.) We began dating a couple of years later and were married in 1989. I adopted Tonia a few months later. Our other children are daughter Colleen, son Michael (who goes by his middle name, Seamus), daughter Molly, and son James.
Tonia and her husband have four children. She is incredibly creative. Colleen has a beautiful singing voice and majored in vocal performance. Seamus suffered a traumatic brain injury last summer and he just recently returned to Boulder, CO, after living with us during his recovery. Molly is a travel nurse and just began a new assignment in Reno, Nevada. James recently commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marines. He reports to Quantico, VA this fall. And James just got engaged last weekend!
My mother is 85 and in good health and lives near Savannah, GA, just down the road from my older brother, John. We also have a dog. Raegan is a border collie and Anatolian shepherd mix.
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