Although Mr. Dave Helinski majored in English at Washington and Jefferson College and even got his masters at Penn State, he never thought he would serve as Canon-McMillan High School’s principal for the last 13 years.
“It’s truly an honor to have been at the same school for the last 13 years.” says Helinski, who started at Canon-Mac in 2006. “Most principals don’t last more than six years so it’s really saying something that I’ve been here for 13. I’ve really gotten to know the families and I’ve been with the past few graduating classes since they were little!”
He believes what contributed to his success at being with one school for so long is his varied background. Though his first big job in the educational field was as the attendance director for the Altoona School District, he worked his way up from there to Assistant Principal and then Principal. From Altoona School District he served as the Principal for a few other school districts from Stow Rox in McKees Rocks to Bethel Park and more. He feels that he could walk into any school and feel comfortable in any type of atmosphere because he’s worked in all types from small, to large, to city to rural.
Though his educational work history is strong, Helinski never pictured himself in the educational field at all, let alone principal. “I hated school growing up.” He laughs. In fact immediately upon graduating college he entered the Aviation program. “That lasted about three month. Once I left there I decided I did want to pursue something in my major of English. My very first job in the educational field was actually as a substitute teacher at Canon-Mac so it’s kind of cool that my career has come full circle.”
While Helinski loves his job, he feels that there are two big challenges with being the principal at Canon-McMillan High School: One is trying to make sure that he’s doing right by everybody and another is keeping up with change and the times. He feels that the second one is actually also not only a challenge for him as principal but also for the students and teachers as well. Technology, in particular, is always changing and almost growing too fast. He worries that the kids of today miss too much because they spend so much time on their phones. Some of them also use their phones in inappropriate ways that will haunt them.
Yes his job can be challenging but it is also incredibly rewarding as well. When asked what his favorite memory of being Canon-Mac’s principal is he says there are so many, but anything involving the kids. Some of his favorites include: his involvement with the Canon Crazies (the group that cheers at sporting events), coaching the girl’s Powderpuff teams, and even being Santa Claus for the Preschool kids.
Though he loves his job he says his greatest achievement would definitely be being married to the same woman for 34 years, raising two very good sons and having them find amazing partners and start families of their own. Hands down his greatest achievement is his children. Hanging out with his family is also one of his favorite hobbies and one of the big reasons he’s retiring,
“13 and a half years is long enough. There’s a bucket list of things that I still want to tackle that includes a trip to Maui and Bora Bora and also a 15-day walk to stand at the bottom of Mt. Everest.” He says with excitement, “Oh and I have a granddaughter coming in January so that’s another big reason!”
“Over the last thirteen years, Mr. Helinski has been an integral member of this community and Canon-McMillan High School. The students, staff, and residents of this community are better off for having a great person and educational leader at this school. He has impacted and touched countless lives and his legacy and values will continue on at Canon-McMillan High School well beyond his retirement.” says Mr. Ken Crowley, current assistant principal of the high school.
“Personally, Mr. Helinski has had a profound impact on my educational career and has given me countless opportunities to grow and become a great, visionary leader. I cannot thank him enough for his mentoring and I look forward to be given the opportunity to become a principal of my own building and make him proud by continuing on with his values and ideals.”
Mr. Helinski would like to thank the people of this community, his administrative colleagues, the teachers and most importantly the almost 5,000 students for being their principal. He also wants to thank his wife and family for all of their support.
Canon-McMillan School District is sorry to see him go and will certainly miss him but hope he enjoys his retirement to its fullest. He certainly deserves it!
Click here for some fun facts about Principal Helinski.