When Kris Fortune recently opened his first email addressing him as "Principal," he says it took him a minute and he had to read it twice.

At the heart of Fortune’s smile and excitement he feels for his new role at Hauser Junior-Senior High School is an immense sense of gratitude. Fortune’s journey to principal has been a learning experience in its truest sense and is something he wouldn’t change for anything, he says.

“I was thrilled [to get the position] because I love the community,” Fortune says. “And I’m so excited I get to stay with kids and families I already know.”

When asked what brought him to Hope three years ago, the 30-year-old father of two credits meeting his wife, Emily, and his teaching tenure at Southwestern Elementary in Shelbyville as helping to set the wheels into motion that have landed him where he is today.

The Indianapolis resident says teaching at Southwestern wasn’t too different from teaching in Hope as both are relatively rural areas, but he appreciates Hope’s small town feel. Fortune has a deep appreciation for smaller communities since it’s essentially an integral part of his own roots.

“It wasn’t too much of an adjustment,” he says. “It is still that small town feel, which is what I grew up with and what I love.”

Influenced by his mother, Jeanne, who taught for more than 40 years, Fortune says he grew up watching her “do all things education” and recalls being out in public and seeing kids coming up to her and thanking her for all she’d done.

“That gave me a good role model to look up to,” he says. “She didn’t pressure me at all to go into education. She wanted me to do what makes me happy and she’s still a good person to have in my corner if I have questions.”

Growing up in Hatfield, Ind., which is located near Evansville, is the bedrock of Fortune’s affinity for small towns. After graduating high school, Fortune went on to graduate from Indiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a certification in middle school math in May 2013.

Fortune’s approach to teaching is quite simple in that he firmly believes that everyone can learn. Period.

“You can find their strengths and weaknesses and differentiate your instruction to meet their needs,” he says.

After teaching several years at the elementary and junior/senior high levels, Fortune went on earn his administration degree in 2017. When Hope Elementary had an opening for dean of students Fortune applied, was given the position and went on to serve in that role for a few years while also serving as the school’s safety coordinator.

Emily says in those days it was easy to tell when her husband had had a rough day.

“When he was dean he did a lot of discipline stuff but disciplining is hard because you have to put your foot down and say what is wrong and be that person,” she says. “But he has a big heart and the disciplining he had to do would still weigh on him. I think it’s not that he’s some big tough guy all the time, he really does take it home and care about the students and families.”

The path to the principal’s office hasn’t been an easy road, Fortune admits.

He says there have been a few challenges during his career and being tasked with the role of special education coordinator over the past couple of years proved to be one of the most demanding since he didn’t have much experience in that arena.

“Getting to know the laws comes with a lot of different expectations and curveballs you deal with,” he says. “But it’s been the best thing that has happened to me professionally because it pushed me to grow and get out of my comfort zone.”

Fortune admits he is not a big fan of change and says he wasn’t actively looking to leave the Flat Rock-Hawcreek school district, but his desire to further his career didn’t necessarily leave relocating off the table either.

Luckily, for Fortune and the town of Hope, the avenues of patience and opportunity intersected at the right time.

“I had hoped that I would stay with the Flat Rock-Hawcreek school district long enough for some type of advancement opportunity to come about,” he says. “I’m not one who likes a lot of change, so I wasn’t necessarily actively looking to the point I was willing to leave the district, but I’m certainly glad that I’m able to stay there and continue to advance my career.”

Emily, who works as a registered nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, says she couldn’t be more proud of her husband.

“When he succeeds, I succeed,” the 30-year-old says. “I feel so blessed with the school corporation he is in. It has been all great things and he has built some great relationships professionally.”

Between juggling family and this new role, Fortune says he gets some free time every now and again. If the weather is nice and time allows, you will likely find him fishing, hunting or playing guitar, he says. But above all else, Fortune is an educator and that is where he is currently funneling his focus and energy, he says.

With the start of the 2021-22 academic year just days away, Fortune says he is still in the process of meeting with staff and getting settled. However, he’s already given much thought to both short- and long-term goals that he hopes to put into motion while principal.

Fortune says that above all he will strive to create a school where the kids can leave prepared to go out into the world and succeed no matter whether they choose to continue on with their education or enter the workforce.

Looking ahead, Fortune says he would like to continue to develop the partnership the school has with C4 Columbus Area Career Connection, as well as possibly offering dual credit or college level courses so students can graduate with associate degrees.

“My biggest goal is to create a culture of community where everyone feels that they belong, they’re safe and they can learn there,” he says. “And where we foster relationships with one another.”