After a half decade of being an administrator with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, David Larson is heading back to the classroom.
"I'm going from being the principal here at Homer Middle School to a high school language arts teacher for the district," Larson told the Homer News.
Where exactly he will be when the 2013-2014 school year begins is uncertain at this point. The placement is the district's decision, Larson said.
This is his third year as the HMS principal. Prior to that, he spent two years as assistant principal at Homer High School.
Larson is a Homer High graduate "from back in the Dark Ages," he said, with a laugh. "What really dates my graduation is that I attended the school that is now the Boys & Girls Club. My graduation commencement exercises were held in the Homer Theatre."
After completing his education to become a teacher, Larson said he realized he wasn't ready for teaching.
"Rather than jumping into something that I couldn't see myself being successful at, I dove into the world of work and found through doing that, that the old adage was true that once someone puts their mind to something, they can pretty much do anything they want to do and be anything they want to be," he said.
Along the way, Larson developed a "pretty eclectic" employment history. He drove truck on the Kenai Peninsula, hauling fresh fish, freight and oil field equipment. He worked in retail at True Value stores. He worked for Westinghouse making products for the Navy and items related to nuclear energy. He did construction work in the Seattle shipyards, including working on the U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers Polar Sea and Polar Star.
"When I finally decided to get back into education, I found that all of that experience translated very well into the classroom," said Larson. "For kids that came into my classroom saying they could already read and write so why did they need the class, I could say let me give you an example from my life why I needed to read and write."
Finally, armed with a post-baccalaureate teacher certification from Southwestern University in Texas, Larson decided the time was right to launch his career in education.
"To get to work with the kids that we work with every day, the professionals we work with, it is an experience that I cherish," he said.
In 1997, Larson was a teacher intern in Wasilla. From 1998-2000, he taught English at Kenai Central High School. He spent two years as principal of Noorvik School, a K-12 facility of Kotzebue. Leaving Alaska for a short time, he was principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Coquille, Ore., before becoming the HHS assistant principal in 2008. He is now looking forward to returning to the classroom and focusing on language arts.
"It's not just teaching the mechanics of writing, the construction of writing, but using literature, what we see in society and our culture," said Larson. "It gives me, as a teacher, the ability to look at students and say one of the major things we'll do is think and process what is relative to our life experience and express that through either oral or written communication."
Larson said he has enjoyed his time with Homer's students in the middle grades.
"I can't speak highly enough of our kids at Homer Middle School," he said. "They rise to the challenge when we put a challenge out to them. And yet, at the same time, they're just that unique group of seventh- and eighth-graders that is so different than elementary kids and not quite in that realm of high school."
As an example, Larson pointed to a recent food drive benefiting the Homer Community Food Pantry (see related story, this page). He noted the stellar performance of this year's wrestling team, participation in the state spelling and math competitions and the school's partnerships with such facilities and groups as the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center and Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies that "are really exciting."
Changes at Homer Middle School during Larson's tenure include daily physical education, a full semester of health and the introduction of robotics to enhance the school's math and science programs.
"I think whoever gets this job will be a pretty fortunate person to step into a facility like this and continue to move forward in the innovation and learning of the kids, and get them to take it one more step higher than we've already got going," said Larson. "There is unlimited potential in this place."
Interviews for the next Homer Middle School principal will be held at the school at 3:30 p.m. March 22.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.