Ben O’Dell is the new principal at Onaga for the 2022-2023 school year, his 25th year in education. During his career he has experience teaching Social Studies, Science, and Special Education at both the middle school and high school levels. He also coached for most of teaching career. He has four years of prior experience in building leadership; three years as a middle school assistant principal and athletic director in the Newton and Hutchinson School Districts, as well as one year as head principal in the Santa Fe Trail School District.
Ben was born in Alabama as the middle son of three. His father’s employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, moved his family from Alabama to Tennessee, Kansas, and South Africa during his elementary and secondary school years. After graduating from high school in South Africa he came back to the University of Kansas for college, earning his bachelor’s degree in education in 1990. He later earned a Master’s degree in Building Leadership from KU as well.
Ben enjoyed various work experiences outside of education. Right out of college he owned a construction company. After teaching for three years he left education to sell local radio advertising in Lawrence and Topeka for over seven years, and later worked for Sprint in Kansas City. Ben came back to education for the right reason – he feels that education is what he was born to do.
His world has been and continues to be driven by relationships – with his family, friends, students, and colleagues. His core belief is that people need other people to thrive and succeed in our modern world. He sees his task as helping people develop the skills that they need to do so.
Ben’s wife of ten years, Belinda O’Dell, has been a lifelong Special Education teacher. She is now an Assistant Director of Special Education for the Keystone Learning interlocal at Ozawkie. Their blended family includes three grown children; a daughter Kennedy (28), son Ben (28), and daughter Chloe (26). Their family also includes cats Rocky and Drago, and their dog Archie.