CHAMPAIGN — The new principal of The High School of St. Thomas More said he's in it for the long term.
Ryan Bustle, who recently started his new job at the Champaign Catholic high school, said he's looking forward to finding ways to improve the school, and to getting acquainted with parents and students.
"I want to do the best job that I can for as long as I can," Bustle said.
Bustle comes to St. Thomas More from St. Mary's School in Metamora, where he was principal for three years.
Sharon Weiss, now the superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Peoria, mentored him for two years, as she was then principal of St. Patrick Catholic School in nearby Washington, Ill.
Bustle said Weiss, in her new job, talked to him about his career, and he told her he loved working in the diocese and wanted to continue in Catholic education.
Weiss asked if she could mention his name to St. Thomas More's board of trustees, and he agreed.
"And here we are," Bustle said.
He said he's looking forward to getting to know all the students, parents and staff members at St. Thomas More, and is looking forward to working with high school students.
St. Mary's is a grade school, so Bustle said moving to the secondary level will be a bit of an adjustment.
"It's a whole new realm of students," he said, adding that he's already met some students and parents and they were "phenomenal."
"It just seems like the right fit for me," he said. "I've just heard so many good things about St. Thomas More. ... I'm just pleased to be associated with a school (like it)."
Bustle said he's pursued a career in Catholic education because it allows him to take his faith to work, which isn't common in most professions. At school, he can share it with co-workers and students alike.
"What an opportunity," he said.
He finds that he learns from students in his work, and they help keep his enthusiasm fresh.
"You always leave with a good feeling," he said.
He also said his parents set an example by sending him and his siblings to Catholic grade school.
"It sends a strong message to students" about parents' priorities when they do that, Bustle said. "Parents need to be commended for that."
Bustle and his wife, Heather, just celebrated their first anniversary, and for now, they're living in Bloomington.
He said he wants to focus all his attention on his new job, and said they'll re-evaluate their living situation if necessary.
When he's not working, Bustle enjoys watching sports — "If it's sports and it's on TV, I'll probably watch it" — and has enjoyed cooking with his wife.
Bustle grew up in Bloomington-Normal, the eldest of five children and the only boy.
He went to University High School in Normal and then Illinois State University.
He started his career as a second-grade teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Bloomington.
He worked there four years while earning his master's degree education administration at Illinois State University at the same time.
The Rev. Robert Lampitt, the school's chaplain, said he knows Bustle wants to get involved in the classrooms at the school, get involved with and support the teachers and "strive for excellence," Lampitt said.
Kay Reiser, the school's director of advancement, said a group of students have already approached Bustle about researching changes to the school's dress code.
"They are so excited that he will listen," Reiser said.
Weiss said Bustle has a sense of humility and is constantly trying to better himself and his school, and understands the mission of a Catholic school.
"He's not someone who is very pompous," Weiss said. "He does listen and that is a huge part of who he is. ... He is definitely very pro-family, and the family unit (and understands) how important Catholic education is within that unit."
Bustle is also youthful, Weiss said, which helps him relate to his students.
"He just has a wonderful sense of humor," she said. "He invites students to converse. He checks on them and asks how they're doing."
She said she believes Bustle has a talent for developing a vision and rallying people around it.
"I think he's a great asset to the diocese and I think he will be a wonderful leader for The High School of St. Thomas More," Weiss said. "I am excited for that and I am excited for the school."
Bustle said, in the short term, the goal is to learn everyone's name. In the future, he plans to pay attention to things like enrollment and staff members' goals, and find ways to make improvements from there.
"We're all invested in this together," Bustle said. "We're all here for the same reason."