Although Mike Larsen is now moving to a district office, the last 12 years he has spent as an elementary school principal were a dream come true for him.
At the beginning of his undergraduate career at then Utah Valley Community College, Larsen knew he wanted to be an elementary school principal. The advisor in the college of education told him that to reach his goal he would need to become a teacher first. Larsen didn’t hesitate.
Larsen told the advisor, “Sign me up.”
At his first teaching job at Utah’s Mapleton Elementary School, Larsen was fortunate enough to have a mentor that would help to shape his career. In a conversation with Mapleton’s principal, J. Lynn Jones, Larsen expressed his desire to become a principal himself and Jones gave Larsen many opportunities to learn and lead while he was at Mapleton.
After teaching fifth grade for several years, Larsen was made a “teacher on special assignment,” assisting with administrative duties and working with student teachers. He was later made a facilitator, working with and mentoring interns at the school.
Larsen earned his master’s degree from the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations in the McKay School in 2004 and then became principal of Reese Elementary. He stayed there for seven years before opening up Sierra Bonita Elementary, where he has been for the past five years. He has loved the time he has spent as a principal.
“I feel like I’ve been living my dream job.” Larsen said. “In education we are helping children and adults learn, grow, and be the best they can be. We are truly helping others, and that’s what I love most about it.”
As a principal, Larsen has also had the opportunity to be a mentor to aspiring principals. He has enjoyed giving his mentees opportunities to lead and learn. Larsen feels that the school and the students benefit from the new perspectives and experiences of the mentees.
“Being able to mentor has been one of the highlights of my career,” Larsen said. “I’ve enjoyed their excitement and thirst for knowledge.”
Larsen is currently preparing to become the director of special education in the Nebo School District. The position was previously held by Larsen’s mentor, J. Lynn Jones, and Larsen is looking forward to continuing the work Jones has started.
“[Jones] has done remarkable work, and I am looking forward to being my best at filling those shoes,” Larsen said. “He’s kind of like my father in the profession, and I’m excited to continue his work.”
As Larsen has previously worked with only elementary school students, he is looking forward to getting to know students of all age groups in his new position.
“I appreciated this opportunity to serve,” Larsen said. “I love being a principal, and I look forward to taking that love to the district.”
Larsen looks fondly on his time as a graduate student at BYU. He found the combination of theory, practice, and research to be ideal. He also found his cohort and his professors to be a great source of help and strength, and he loved learning to work with them.
“We became like a family,” Larsen said. “We laughed, cried, learned, and grew together.”
Larsen felt this bond especially when his young son was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease and was in extreme pain. His professor Cliff Mayes became aware of the situation and offered a prayer in class for Larsen’s family. This experience and the spiritual atmosphere he found in his classes helped Larsen to understand the importance of teaching.
“This is part of a bigger plan to assist children and each other,” Larsen said. “It all ties back to a loving Father in Heaven.”
Larsen is passionate about the education field and offers this advice to those considering a career in education:
“Do it. It’s worth it. It’s wonderful. If you have a desire to be a part of education, come. You will be one of the happiest people on the planet, because you’ll spend your time helping other people.”
Larsen and his wife have been married for 23 years. They live in Salem, Utah, and have five children. Larsen loves to travel with his family.
Writer: Kirsten Clancy
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922