A La Porte County Life in the Spotlight: Ben Tonagel

By: Erin Parker Last Updated: January 1, 2014

ben-tonagelLa Porte is used to seeing the Tonagels lead the Slicers to success on the basketball court, but Ben Tonagel has traded that role in for a new one—LPHS principal.

Tonagel is in his first year as principal after spending three years at the helm of Fairfield High School. He loved his time at Fairfield, enjoying his staff and the area, but his heart was always back home in La Porte. When longtime LPHS principal Greg Handel announced his retirement last spring, Tonagel jumped at the opportunity to be a Slicer once again.

"My wife and I always wanted to come back. We are family oriented people. This job is a very service oriented job. I try to see it as using my talents, skills, education, and service to help others. I think doing that in your hometown is special. I have always felt that I wanted to give back in some way," Tonagel said.

Tonagel has jumped head first into his new position at La Porte. Through learning the ropes, a school tragedy, and implementing new policies, he has been busy leaving his mark on LPHS. His biggest goal for the school lies within the classrooms.

"We have to find ways to meet the individual needs of students. We can no longer present one brand of education and hope it fits every kid. We have to show them that what we are teaching them today will help them in their future. Every kid has potential. It's the schools job to figure it out and tap into it," Tonagel said.

Meeting those individual needs of students is more than attainable in Tonagel's eyes. Besides being impressed with his new administrative team, he has a great deal of respect for the teaching staff at LPHS, many who even taught Tonagel themselves.

"We have a staff that cares about kids. We have people who want to work with kids. You obviously need teachers who can teach, but you also need teachers with empathy. We have that," Tonagel said.

It is hard for Tonagel to find time outside of his duties as principal, but when he does, his family is his top priority. He and his wife Amanda have four young children, which clearly keeps them busy, but it is a busy that Tonagel would not trade for anything.

"I feel like I was given a great start by my parents and family. I have parents who care, so I am motivated to try and be like that, too. My kids motivate me because their eyes are watching me. I need to be a role model for them," Tonagel said.

La Porte High School finds itself in great hands for the future. Even though Tonagel led the Slicers to the Final Four on the hardwood, his success leading our school will far and away outshine any trophy in the case.

"I feel blessed to be in a role to lead by serving. I am very humbled by this opportunity to be back in my home town as La Porte High School's principal," Tonagel said.