Sometimes in life the path you think you will follow all of a sudden curves just at the right time. New opportunities and challenges that weren’t originally planned become your next great adventure.
As new PCM Middle School Principal Levi Marx made his way through school, from elementary to high school, then during his career, he has embraced the curves that brought him into the leadership position. While not what he predicted his future would look like, it is exactly where he wants to be.
“When I was younger and even in elementary school, most of the time, just naturally the girls would say they want to be teachers and elementary boys just not,” Marx said. “Once I got into high school I had a couple of teachers that were pretty influential.”
Originally, Marx wanted to be a physical therapist after having been a wrestler in high school and having damage to his shoulders. He had also always worked with his hands, which is kind of the family business with his dad a machine builder and uncles in plumbing.
It was in his high school drafting classes he first got the itch to look into teaching
“My senior year, I had advanced faster than most people through all of my drafting courses and of course that was paper and pencil back then. But the last drafting class there were two computers that had CAD on them and I was the one that used them,” Marx said. “In that class, there were also Drafting I students that I started helping and that kind of got me thinking about teaching.”
Once he made the decision to go into education, he never looked back. After growing up in Michigan, he attended Western Michigan University for his undergrad degree and completed his graduate courses through the University of Northern Iowa. His first job was as a shop teacher in Okoboji.
“Once I decided that I never changed my major, which kind of hints to my decisiveness,” Marx said. “Then, the same kind of thing, once I got into teaching I thought, why would anyone want to be a principal, that is ridiculous. But the principal who hired me is still to this day, almost 14 years later, the best principal I have worked around. He had a special dynamic that if you were sent to his office and you were in trouble, you were in trouble but when he retired, kids were crying.”
When the new principal started, Marx found he had different philosophies than the new administrator. Not wanting to be one to just complain, he started down the path that eventually led him into administration.
“I don’t like to just complain and not do anything, so if I was going to complain about how leadership was then I needed to be part of the solution,” Marx said. “I was a part of the building leadership team and teacher leadership and I really enjoyed that. All of those things pushed me to get into leadership.”
Feeling the need for a new challenge after 10 years as a shop teacher, he was ready to further his career. He did have one last accomplishment that he hangs his hat on as a teacher.
“My first year I had a kid as a freshman take my class who had grown up on a cattle farm and that is what he was going to do. He took my class and from then on was in my room constantly,” Marx said. “He went to college for woodworking, has done amazing things and then he took over my job when I left Okoboji. That kind of stuff is, to me it shows the program that I built.”
Marx moved to Moravia and served as the 7-12 principal, which really helped him realize his interest in middle school education. It was there he decided that this is the age he really enjoyed working with.
“Middle schoolers, it is an interesting age. Even a lot of educators whether they are high school or elementary, middle school is something a lot of people just don’t do because developmentally it is just interested. I really enjoyed teaching those students,” Marx said. “They are different than high schoolers, you can still help to mold them a little easier, guide them and have more of a positive influence on them.”
When the PCM position became available, Marx knew middle school was what he was looking for and it was a chance to get back to a familiar area. His wife, who he met in Iowa but is also from Michigan, has family in Pella.
“It is kind of weird how the world works, our third child was born in Pella,” Marx said. “This area, I still really enjoy. When you do your research about a school there were a lot of good things but also things that need to be improved. I do not enjoy not being challenged. I wouldn’t want to just come somewhere and everything is perfect, which I don’t think that exists. Being able to still help to make improvements and support students and teachers is appealing to me.”
While he can count his time at PCM in weeks and not months or years, Marx is already hard at work learning about the district, meeting the staff and preparing for the new school year.
“I’ve started having conversations with teachers and trying to get their input because really it is my job to support the teachers to help make the students successful. Overall, I think things need to just be tightened up and expectations put in place and followed and consistency. And that doesn’t matter what model you follow, that has to happen. That will be my main focus to begin with, making sure everybody knows what their role is and that they are supported in the role. And if they don’t fulfill that role properly that they will be held accountable for those things,” Marx said.
For him, education and teachers are the most important jobs there are. Although he said he is a little biased, he stressed the importance of quality education for the future citizens of the communities, state and world.
“It is important that everybody knows what they are doing and that they are doing it well,” Marx said. “If they are not it is my job to help them do it well or help them find a different career.”
With the first days less than two weeks away, Marx is ready to have kids in the hallways and start his first year at PCM.
“I was telling someone I have never been a fan of a school building without kids in it. This time of year is not fun for me. It is necessary to do all of the prep work so when the school year starts we are ready but when there aren’t kids in the building, it is just more boring,” Marx said. “Getting started, getting to know the kids and finding ways I can help them be successful and build those relationships is exciting to me.”
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or firstname.lastname@example.org