Michael LeMier, who starts work July 1 as principal at Century Elementary School, comes to the Park Rapids school district with a strong background in literacy education.
“I got my undergrad and my master’s (degrees) in literacy education, both from Hamline University, and I did my principal license and my education specialist degree through Mankato State University,” LeMier said in an interview.
He said it was possible that this background had something to do with why the school board chose him for the job.
“I think it’s definitely a little bit more of a unique degree,” he said. “I was in the second cohort at Hamline University to get it. I think at least having an understanding of some of those literacy standards, especially in the content areas … is probably pretty helpful.”
This focus on teaching literacy may be significant because Century Elementary just completed a two-year Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program – a state grant providing a pair of literacy coaches to help teachers implement research-based teaching methods. Currently, the school is awaiting word on its application for a Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant.
After becoming familiar with the school’s structures and systems, LeMier said, “I’ll be looking to continue the great work on literacy that the school has done and continue to grow that.”
“We are very excited to have Mr. LeMier join the Century Elementary team,” said Superintendent Lance Bagstad. “Mr. LeMier came highly recommended and has the passion and skills to lead our school into the future.”
LeMier has been assistant principal at Pine City Elementary for the past five years. Prior to that, he was a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Inver Grove Heights Middle School for five years.
He grew up in Maple, Wis., on the south shore of Lake Superior. “I kind of grew up on my grandparents’ farm, and lived there, and decided to go to college in St. Paul,” he said.
LeMier admits having some family history of a career in education.
“My aunt is an elementary school teacher in Illinois,” he said. “She’s actually retiring this week, so it’s kind of a big week in our family. I’ve always had dreams (of being an educator), growing up, throughout elementary, through high school. There’s a large number, proportionally, of my graduating class size, of people who went into education. I think that really speaks to the teachers that we had and the community that we grew up in.”
Moving with him to Park Rapids will be his wife, DeeDee. “We met at Hamline, and we’ve been married for – this year it will be 12 years,” he said. “We have two boys, an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old.”
DeeDee is an extension educator with the University of Minnesota Extension, focused on community economics and tourism. Hubbard County is already part of her territory – which makes Mike’s new position a move in the right direction.
“It’s nice that we’ll both be in the same community, instead of commuting in opposite directions,” he said.
LeMier said he expects his first three months as principal to be about “getting to know everybody, building relationships with staff and the administration that I work with, the students and families … and figuring out how everything works in Park Rapids.”
He said he and DeeDee plan to spend time in Park Rapids, house hunting. The family has already visited town, fallen in love with the candy shop, and enjoyed visiting the Mississippi Headwaters.
Outside of work and school, the family enjoys hiking, cycling and fishing.
“We have little boys,” LeMier stressed. “They enjoy being outside, in nature. I really find myself centered in the woods, so if I can be out hiking in the woods, I’m a pretty happy guy.”
LeMier described himself as “really excited” to get to work.
“When I talked with the board and the teachers and everyone else on the interview committees, I really got a sense of the people in Park Rapids, in the community and in the school,” he said. “Everyone had such positive things to say. … Sitting in on the board meeting (Monday) night on Zoom, you really got a sense that it’s just a lot of great people working together, who care a lot about kids and the direction that the schools are headed. That was a big draw for me.”