By Don Lowe
It’s a new era in Aurora (Missouri) R-VIII School District with Dr. Ben Yocom now serving as superintendent of schools, and he envisions, “The Aurora community has a lot of potential. The community is supportive and appreciates the tradition and legacy of the school district.
“This presents an enticing opportunity to mesh the outstanding Houn’ Dawg history with new ideals to further prepare students for success.”
The timing for Dr. Yocom couldn’t have been better, and he confides, “My wife’s family is from Bourbon (near Rolla, Missouri), and my parents are still in Reeds Spring, Missouri. I’ve always wanted to return to Southwest Missouri. Everything fell into place.”
Reflecting on his path, Dr. Yocom says, “I’d always felt the call to lead. After serving as high school principal for 5 years and assistant principal/activities director for 2 years, the next step was to become a superintendent. I’m now beginning my 13th year as a K-12 superintendent. I feel it’s what I’m called to do.”
When considering his leadership style, Dr. Yocom explains, “My approach centers around three simple characteristics – being prepared, being professional and being present. Rarely do I begin any leadership position with predetermined ideals.
“I evaluate the circumstances within the district, then change as needed. But having said that, if there are things that need addressed immediately, I’ll do so.
“A public school is a representation of the community. My job is to serve the community by preparing our students to be successful in their next steps.
“The superintendent can only influence outcomes, not control them. The building principals and department directors run their teams as they see fit. I simply try to help them.”
Dr. Yocom knows there are challenges, and he conveys, “Public education is in a tribulation. Since 2020, the task has become more difficult. The specifics regarding the overall pandemic mitigation may have changed, but the assumed norms from that experience are difficult to adjust.
“School attendance has decreased, and the general negative perspective of public education has taken a hit. This has led to our biggest challenge, which is hiring teachers.”
Dr. Yocom maintains, “We must find ways to bring respect, honor and admiration back to the art of teaching. One of the best ways to do this is to provide positive environments for students and staff.”
Dr. Yocom offers anyone just getting started in this field terrific perspective in relating, “My mother worked as a cook and administrative assistant in Reeds Spring for 20-plus years. Being with her and growing up in school presented me with a great opportunity to see multiple facets of a school.
“That experience laid the groundwork for my future. I always encourage new educators to find their ‘why.’ Why are they pursuing a profession in education. Once a new educator finds their ‘why,’ they can build and plan for their future.”
Dr. Yocom found his “why” and affirms, “I absolutely love what I do. I love working in a school and cannot imagine doing anything different.”
Aurora R-VIII District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ben Yocom Fast Facts
Spouse: Wife: Michelle. The Yocoms just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary.
Children: Daughter, Brynna, a junior at Grandview University (Des Moines, Iowa). Son, Drake, and his wife, Caitie, live in Wichita Falls, Texas, with their two children, McKenna and Emerson. Drake is a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force. Foster son, Hayden, has been with Dr. and Mrs. Yocom since he was 2 years old.
Hometown: Reeds Spring, Missouri, from about
fifth grade until high school graduation
High School Alma Mater:
Reeds Spring High School, class of 1997
College Alma Mater and Year Graduated: Iowa Wesleyan University (Mount Pleasant, Iowa) in 2001; William Woods University (Fulton, Missouri) in 2005 and 2008; and Lindenwood University (St. Charles, Missouri) in 2012
Degrees: BA in Physical Education/Health; MA in Secondary Administration; EDS in District Administration; and Doctorate in Educational Leadership
Career: Milan (Missouri) Superintendent of Schools
(2014-2022) and Plato (Missouri) Superintendent of Schools (2011-13). Also spent time as basketball head coach at Greenfield (Missouri) and Cuba (Missouri).
Favorite Book: Leading Change in Your School
(Author Dr. Douglas Reeves)
Favorite Educator: Mr. Kim Marshall, who gathers a weekly synopsis of current educational events and shares in a publication called “The Marshall Memo.”
Hobbies: Enjoying family or cheering on the University of North Carolina Tar Heels as a super fan.