Same district, new role
Mike Nicksic is the new Marshfield Middle School principal, but his experience within the district has prepared him well
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Mike Nicksic seems like a man unaffected by the pressure of taking over as the new Marshfield Middle School principal, and that is likely because change has been a constant throughout his career in the Marshfield School District.
If experience is the greatest teacher, Nicksic, who is taking over for retiring middle school Principal Dave Schoepke, is well schooled. He worked with the adolescent age group he will now oversee at the middle school for 15 years as an instructor in global studies and history. Following that, from 2005 to 2008 he worked as an instructor at the alternative high school, from 2008 to 2011 he was the district’s athletic director, and then he became assistant principal at Marshfield High School and principal of the alternative high school.
Nicksic has also coached football, baseball, and basketball.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1986 at UW-La Crosse and began his career teaching at Kickapoo High School. Nicksic then earned his master’s degree in education — also at UW-La Crosse — and came to Marshfield in the fall of 1990.
Having prolonged experience with the adolescents is something Nicksic feels will benefit him as he assumes his role as head of the middle school.
“You just (have) got to understand that middle school age and adolescence and the wide range that you deal with from the emotional to the social to the cognitive and physical development they go through,” Nicksic said. “It’s always about helping kids grow. That’s one of the neat parts about middle school is you just don’t know what to expect all the time.”
“I always like their energy. There’s just a lot of energy with those kids,” Nicksic said.
Nicksic, the teacher
What drew Nicksic to education in the first place is something many teachers share, an appreciation for educators in their past.
“There were just various teachers along the road that drew you into it and made learning fun, and at some point I just felt, ‘You know what, I think I can make learning fun.’ I felt there are also teachers that didn’t. … I just wanted to find out, hey, can I engage kids? Can I make it a classroom where kids say, ‘Hey, this is a good place to be’?” Nicksic said.
In order to engage students in his history courses, Nicksic used to come into his classes dressed as famous historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or Christopher Columbus. He said that while he does not miss grading papers as a teacher, he often gets the urge to jump back into the classroom setting.
As assistant principal at the high school, Nicksic was charged with enforcing discipline and attendance standards and was not able to be in the classrooms or hallways making connections with students as often as he would have liked.
“I want to be in the classrooms more and more observing teachers, seeing what’s going on,” Nicksic said.
Nicksic, the principal
In terms of goals for his first year as middle school principal, Nicksic said he will focus on establishing trust with the staff and implementing the system of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is defined by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction as “a systemic approach to proactive, school-wide behavior based on a Response to Intervention model. PBIS applies evidence-based programs, practices, and strategies for all students to increase academic performance, improve safety, decrease problem behavior, and establish a positive school culture.”
Nicksic also noted that it would be a learning year for him, but the fact that he is known and established in the district will help students, parents, and him adjust to the new role.
“The one thing I’ve learned, change is good. I’ve found it invigorating, so I’m looking forward to that. I’m blessed,” Nicksic said. “I don’t know how many people in one school district get (to) experience all the things I have.”
It seems likely Nicksic’s appetite for change, his energy, experience, and passion for education will serve him well as he embarks on his next journey.