From DSP to School Superintendent—Eric’s Story
Bertha-Hewitt Superintendent Eric Koep chatted with us about his time at CCRI and how working at CCRI helped in his career. Eric was a caregiver (DSP) from 2005–2008 while going to school at MSUM. He spent six years teaching at Henning Elementary School and in 2014, was hired as the Superintendent of Bertha-Hewitt schools. At the age of 29, Eric was the youngest Superintendent in Minnesota!
Who did you work with while at CCRI?
I worked with several individuals with disabilities in the Options Department. Throughout my years at CCRI, I probably worked with more than 20 individuals. The main person I worked with, however; was Mr. Dan Brendemuhl.
Describe the culture at CCRI.
The culture at CCRI was second to none and I understand why they are being recognized as a Top 150 Workplace by the Star Tribune. Everyone from the Executive Director, to the Direct Service Professionals (caregivers) had the same goal which was to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. The environment was extremely positive as everyone was happy to celebrate the abilities of the individuals we worked with.
Describe what your job entailed.
With the numerous clients I worked with, I was fortunate to have many tasks associated with my job; I had clients from 3 years old to 90 years old. With the young kids it was important get involved in the community with their peers. The activities included bowling, swimming, dances, dinners, movies, and much more. With the adults, I helped with grocery shopping, exercising, playing cards and their individualized needs.
Describe the training you received.
CCRI did a fantastic job of preparing you for every situation that may arise. I believe before I even started I had a couple days of straight training. That training involved CPR, First Aid, Crisis Intervention and Protection, and much more. I always felt confident working with each person. My supervisor always ensured I was well prepared.
What was your favorite part of working at CCRI?
It is pretty difficult to beat the CCRI dances that I took several individuals to—wow, we had a lot of fun! Also seeing the smile on the people’s face I worked with when they got a strike bowling, got asked to dance by someone, or beat me in a hand of cards—those moments are what got me excited to work everyday.
Was there anything you were apprehensive about doing that you then became okay with? Describe what it was and how you came around.
To be honest—we were able to see client’s schedules and many times there was a client that didn’t have a consistent caregiver on their schedule. I noticed that one person had open 5:30 A.M. shifts and I felt like I had to inquire about it. Turns out it was one of the more rewarding tasks I took on while working at CCRI. Even though the job including a lot of personal cares; it was a rewarding job as the young man was my age and doing the same thing I was—going to college. After I got him cleaned up, showered and ready for the day—I helped him get on the bus and off to college.
What skills did you obtain that you were able to transfer over into your current role?
As a direct service provider I assisted many people with about every task you could imagine which helped me have an appreciation for what all of my staff do on a daily basis. Patience was important with the individuals I worked with and that transfers into my current position; I face many situations daily in which patience is vital in working to a find a resolution.
What about your experience at CCRI was the most valuable to you?
Well I guess I have to say the most valuable experience I had was being nominated for an ARRM Cares Award. Getting that nomination was valuable for many reasons, but the most important reason is because while I attended the ARRM annual conference, I met my future wife! (oh how cute)
Would you recommend CCRI as a place to work and why?
CCRI is a great job and you could spend your entire career there, but I think it is important for college students to give CCRI a try. CCRI provides a lot of options for their employees and they are extremely flexible with your schedule. The skills you learn while working with individuals with disabilities will help you become a better person in numerous aspects.
What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel as a DSP?
Patience, Trust, and Enthusiasm are important qualities for a DSP to possess. They need to be patient in order to give the best care to each individual they work with. They need to be trustworthy as they may be working with some fragile individuals. Lastly, they need to be enthusiastic to be sure to give the individuals they work with the best lifestyle possible.
Eric now lives on Belmont Lake, just outside of Battle Lake, MN with his wife Kari, 2 boys—Beckam (6) and Calahan (4) and their springer spaniel Finley.
If you are interested in joining the CCRI team, visit our website at www.CreativeCare.org for more info or to apply.