BASD welcomes Johnson as new elementary school principal
Bangor will be welcoming a new elementary school principal to its district this upcoming school year. Mike Johnson, who has a real love for the smaller school and tight-knit community with a hometown feel, will replace former Principal Jac Lyga, who was with the district for eight years before taking a new position with the School District of La Crosse.
“Jac left this school is such a great place. She left her mark here and in this community and that’s awesome. I’m inheriting a school that does very well because of her,” Johnson said. “The staff is incredibly talented; they’re completely dedicated. I think the cool part about coming from such large districts is that you can feel there’s something different about smaller districts. It’s a feeling of caring that you get.”
Johnson is excited to be stepping into the role at Bangor Elementary as he and his wife Kari, who is a teacher at the middle school in Bangor, have lived in the district for many years. Their two sons, Sam and Drew, both attended school in Bangor from the time they were little kids and are now attending college.
“I had the opportunity to be closer to home and I think knowing the teachers and how they molded my boys into who they are, is the reason they’re so successful,” Johnson said. “That has a lot to do with this facility and to come back here and be part of that is really cool.”
Johnson earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse and began his teaching career in Sheboygan. Him and his wife found themselves driving back to La Crosse every weekend so she took a job in Sparta and he took a job in Cashton where he taught for one year.
Following his year in Cashton, Johnson accepted a job in La Crosse teaching an environmental education program called School on River for 18 years.
“It was a lot of work but it was so rewarding and a great experience,” he said, adding that before he decided on education, Johnson was planning on studying forestry. “My passion is the outdoors. I love sports in every way and I started out as a double major in health and PE but I started thinking maybe I’d get tired of the game side of it.”
He decided to look into studying elementary education and fell in love with the feel of it and really liked serving the community in more of a service role. He found a niche as a teacher and to him it felt really natural.
Johnson began to evolve and numerous people began encouraging him to do something more, telling him he was an exceptional leader that could make a bigger impact and that he should pursue his administration licensure, which he obtained from Viterbo University.
Johnson served as the assistant principal at Tomah Middle School for two years before taking a position as the associate principal at West Salem Middle School last year.
“I had the benefit of working for two really outstanding principals in Tomah and West Salem,” he said, adding that although he loved working in both school districts he had a hard time feeling a quality connection to the community since he lived in the Bangor School District.
Johnson helped coach basketball at Bangor up until his youngest son graduated. He taught at UWL in its education program for several years and he also taught an outreach program for the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.
“The administration world pulls on you. I love the classroom; you miss that part of education. I love this, but I loved teaching science and math,” he said. “I just want to be around kids and lead a school. I never thought this opportunity would come up to be right in the town I live in.”
While he was working with adult learners as teachers at the university level to help them identify needs and work through it to come to solutions, he realized the impact he could have.
“I’ve had a lot of really great experiences and so much good training,” Johnson said. “I feel like at this stage of my career, I have the opportunity to embrace those things that other people saw in me that I didn’t really see because I was just doing my job and having a great time doing it.
He is excited to help the teachers at Bangor discover their strengths and needs and work in a collaborative setting to find solutions to better the education of their students.
“The rewarding part is seeing a kid learn something from a teacher that you helped get to that point and it is pretty cool,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day it’s all about what we can do for these youngsters to get them there. This school taught my boys to read, the teachers that taught my boys to read are still here. That magic for me to experience watching teachers teach kids to read, I am so jacked for that.”
Johnson is excited for the first day of school on Sept. 3 when the halls will fill up with smiling, happy students eager for another great year at Bangor Elementary.