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MEA Alumnus Hits the Roof to Inspire Students

November 2012

Story by David Hotle of the Washington (Iowa) Journal

RIVERSIDE - When students at Highland Elementary in Riverside went out Wednesday morning for their daily recess, they were surprised to see principal Eric Ewald standing on the roof smiling and waving down to them.

Ewald told the students that the reason he was working from the roof was because they had exceeded the goal of the school's walk-a-thon Friday. He said that the goal for the school had been to raise $7,500 and the students had raised over $10,000. He had agreed before the event that if the $7,500 goal were exceeded, he would work from the roof for a day.

"So, now I'm going to freeze for a day," Ewald said.

Many students yelled up to ask how he had gotten on the roof. Some he told about the ladder at the back of the school. Others he told that he had jumped. He also told the students that because he was on the roof, no one could get in trouble.

Ewald sat at a table and folding chair that had been brought up to the roof for him to work from, decked out in dark Ray Ban glasses and several layers of North Face clothing, topped with a Hawkeye knit cap.

He kept his laptop in a backpack sitting next to the table. He said that the battery wasn't working very well in the 40-something degree weather with the cold northwesterly wind. He said the computer had started running slower so he felt the cold had gotten the best of it. He spent his time reading a text on intervention. While he said the view would have been nicer if the leaves had changed color more, he still was a bit nervous about being on the roof.

"I doesn't look nearly as high from down there as when you are standing on top of it," he said, looking over the edge of the rooftop that dropped about 20 feet to the playground below.

Ewald admitted that sitting on the roof was taking him out of his comfort zone. When the school's Elementary Support Organization (ESO) had arranged the event, one of the parents had approached Ewald about the reward to the students of him sitting on the roof during the day. He didn't flinch when he agreed to do it.

"I'm extremely scared of heights," he said. "It's not so bad sitting here on the roof. The roof is not very high and it is flat. By far the worst part is getting up and down. Not only don't I like heights, I don't like ladders."

He said that he had already been up and down the ladder once that morning because of a situation that had come up shortly after he had just gotten situated on the roof at 8 a.m. When he first climbed the ladder, he said the only thing going through his mind was that he wanted to be on the roof instead of the ladder.

While he plans on staying on the roof until dismissal, Wednesday is a short day in the Highland School District. He said school is dismissed at 2 p.m. for professional development.

"Not soon enough," he said.

Ewald said that he had been afraid of heights ever since he can remember. When he was a child, his family would vacation in the Rocky Mountains. He said that when his family got out at scenic overlooks, he stayed near the car.

While he said that he was all right on the second-story flat roof with the rock coating, he said it wasn't his preferred place to be.

During the walk-a-thon, in which people had donated money for the walking, students circled a ¼ mile track for an hour Friday. Ewald said that the weather Friday was the coldest it had been so far this year. In all, the school walked about 600 miles.

He said the parent who suggested the walk-a-thon reward has given him an option for next year's event. He said that he has a choice of sitting on the roof or getting his head shaved.

"I would prefer to get my head shaved, but my wife would prefer me sitting on the roof," he said. "Well, we have some time to think about it."


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