When Marsha Potthoff was just starting out as a teacher, her father allowed her to teach at Sycamore High School only after seeing cows grazing in a pasture nearby.
Thank goodness for the cows. Now, 35 years later, Potthoff, who started out as an English teacher and ended up as a high school principal, is ready to write her next chapter.
As Potthoff prepares to retire this summer, her contributions to McHenry High School - West Campus -- particularly during the global pandemic of the last year -- earned her the recognition as the final Staff Member of the Month for the 2020-21 school year.
Administrators, staff and students credit Potthoff for her leadership at West Campus not only during this last year, but since she took over as principal in 2013.
“This district is in a much better place because of your impact and imprint on us,” said Jeff Prickett, East Campus principal who will take over as McHenry High School principal next year. “I want to thank you for all you’ve done for me personally.”
Other staff and students credit her for helping keep everyone on track with all of the changes brought on by COVID-19. During the 2020-21 school year, students have been learning digitally, in school and online, and finished out the year mostly in-person. “She is so kind and genuine and so approachable,” said Sarah Doherty, Class of 2022.
Potthoff knows how difficult this past year has been for students. She told Class of 2021 graduates that she can never remember a year with so many changes. “You have been forced to adapt to more change than anyone I can recall,” Potthoff said.
A native of Galena, Potthoff said she didn’t start out wanting to be a principal. After beginning her career as a teacher, Potthoff later worked as a school counselor then as an administrator in charge of the student services team. She met former District 156 Superintendent Mike Roberts during her time in Sycamore, and she eventually came to McHenry at his behest.
During that time, Potthoff also earned master’s degrees in school counseling and school administration. She has also served as an administrator and principal at Crystal Lake South High School.
Potthoff said she will miss being at school but she’s looking forward to starting her volunteer work in mental health counseling with the American Red Cross.
“It will probably hit me in August,” Potthoff said.
Throughout the year, the Staff Member of the Month program honors a staff member from both East Campus and West Campus for going above and beyond in their work. Thanks to sponsorship from Meat and Potato Eatery and Brunch Cafe, winners get a $50 gift card plus a personalized plaque.
Click here to see the video announcing Potthoff’s award.