Sunday, May 31, 2020
Bangor Middle/High School Principal Don Addington will retire after 39 years in education at the end of this school year. Herald photo by Nicole Vik.

After 39 years Bangor principal set to retire

Those who enter the Bangor Middle/High School principal’s office will see a different face come next fall. Principal Don Addington, who has spent 33 of his 39 years in education in the Bangor School District, is set to retire at the end of this school year.

When he graduated from high school in Winona, MN, Addington wanted to study wildlife management and attended college at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. Addington’s father was an educator as are his siblings and he was familiar with the profession but he thought he might like to do something else.

“I ended up taking an interim class during winter break about finding your career and did some projects and interviewed some people,” he said. “I thought about a lot of different things but ultimately I settled on education partly because I still loved basketball and I wanted to be a coach and a teacher.”

Addington started his teaching career in 1980 for the Webster School District, which is nearly 200 miles northeast of Bangor. He taught and coached basketball in Webster until 1984.

He was interested in being closer to his hometown, Winona, and wanted to be back in the area. In 1984, he interviewed for the job in Bangor where he taught as a social studies teacher, basketball coach and assistant football coach.

“I told myself at that time that I’d stick around here for three or four years and then move on to something bigger and better and here I am, still here. I like a small school and I like a small town,” Addington said. “I think as a teacher, a coach and as an administrator in a small school you just stay so much more connected to what’s going on, whether it’s overall district functions or to be able to stay closer to all of the kids and get to know them better, it’s always an advantage. I’ve always liked the small school for that reason.”

Addington coached basketball as head coach in Bangor for 14 years before he had to give it up when he started the administration program at Winona State University. In 2000, he became the assistant principal at Onalaska Middle School.

“My idealistic goal when I got into education was to try to have a positive influence on as many kids as I could, whether that was in athletics or the classroom,” he said. “Becoming an administrator allowed me to expand that goal beyond just the classroom to a whole school. Being a leader and someone who wants to have a positive effect on kids, it just seemed like a natural transition.”

In 2002, he returned to Bangor as the high school principal.

 “As an administrator in a small school, you wear a lot of hats. You’re involved in almost everything,” Addington said. “It’s an advantage in a lot of ways but a disadvantage in some ways because you’re being pulled in a lot of different directions.”

He said he loves how every day is different as an administrator. He also enjoys interacting with the students, teachers, parents, the general public and board members.

“I truly believe that even if you’re a teacher in the building, you really can’t get an appreciation for everything this position encompasses until you’re here because there have been so many changes in just the 14 years that I’ve been principal,” he said. “I think the curriculum has expanded and we’ve tried to offer more options. I think for our size we still have a lot of options that you don’t see at small schools. We’ve tried to expand opportunities here because there’s so many things out there we want our kids to have exposure to.”

Addington will officially retire on July 1. One of the things he’s considering following his retirement is to get back into coaching.

“There are a lot of things that are still kind of up in the air as to what I might be doing come July but there are some other options like teaching at Viterbo or one of the other universities,” Addington said, adding that he also has a superintendents license. “I haven’t ruled out that possibility yet. I don’t think it’s strictly a total retirement yet.”

Until this year, Addington hasn’t had an assistant principal. Throughout this school year, Rick Muellenberg has been an assistant principal district wide.

At its March meeting, the school board unanimously selected Muellenberg to take Addington’s place as principal come July.

“I think he will be an excellent successor to me. He’ll be a great fit because he shares the same vision that I and the superintendent and school board have for this district,” Addington said. “For him it’s not just about the wins and losses. He truly approaches it from a character building and class standpoint. He’s been a big part in helping not only the football team but the general atmosphere of the kids around the school.”

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