Among educators, there is often little middle ground regarding the middle school level. They either love it and would never leave it, or they know early on that it’s not the age group for them.
For new Clear Lake Middle School Principal Steve Kwikkel, middle school students are fantastic kids to work with, and the most rewarding of years.
“The middle school is our last, best chance to effect a positive change in our students’ lives,” he says. “They are wildly energetic, but they are extremely compassionate — an empathetic group. But people don’t often see that because we don’t often allow them to show that side of their selves,” he explains.
What Kwikkel enjoys is helping students discover who they are, and who they want to be.
“They’re learning to navigate life, and to me it’s the most rewarding level of education,” he adds.
A native of Rock Rapids, Kwikkel earned his undergraduate degree in elementary education from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., where he played college basketball.
“I played two years on a college basketball scholarship, and it was a lot of fun, and then I started to have Achilles problems,” he recalls.
On the court, he also learned a few lessons about life.
“I think my biggest take-away from playing college basketball was that there is always somebody better than you — no matter what you do. It was a real humbling experience,” Kwikkel says.
The lesson is to keep working at it, and the same is true in life.
After finishing up his degree in Grand Forks, Kwikkel returned to Iowa, where he took his first job at Rockwell City, teaching sixth grade. He later moved on to Correctionville, where he taught middle school science and technology courses.
Kwikkel then earned his administrative degree from the University of Northern Iowa and served as middle school principal in Tipton for five years before heading to his wife’s home state of North Carolina for one year.
Choosing Iowa over the East Coast, the family moved to Waverly, where Kwikkel served as middle school principal until accepting the Clear Lake position this year.
Kwikkel says he’s very happy to be in Clear Lake and has been impressed with the system and teachers.
“Everybody is eager to do what they feel is best for the kids,” he concludes.