Working in a 'dream district'

Mikael Modeer, the newly appointed assistant principal at Thurston Middle School, never thought he would be a teacher.

After graduating from UC Davis in 2000, he went on to become a financial adviser but reached a roadblock. He wasn't enjoying his job and couldn't picture turning it into a career.

"Every teacher I met absolutely loved their job and their life," he said.

So he decided to become one, starting out as a substitute.

In 2003, he received his teaching credential from Cal State Fullerton and went on to teach AVID, math and technology at a middle school in the Rowland Unified School District.

In 2007, he went to Chapman University to get his master's degree in educational leadership and administration.

Since then, he's held administrative positions at Las Flores Middle School in Las Flores and at Oak Crest Middle School in Encinitas.

The Irvine native said it's good to be back in Orange County.

"The district itself is a dream district," he said.

Modeer said he loves that the Laguna Beach Unified School District is small and that teachers, parents and children are supportive of the middle school.

Because of his professional background, he is excited that Thurston is already ahead of the game in terms of incorporating technology into its curriculum.

Teachers write blogs to keep students and staff on the same "digital" page, both literally and figuratively. They use them daily to post homework or spur class discussions.

Modeer said they also look to social networking sites like Facebook, which most students use, as inspiration for new ways to use the Web in their curriculum.

"We've got kids that are learning in a 21st-century environment," he said. "We have to be just as comfortable with technology as they are."

Modeer credits the PTA and SchoolPower for making sure the school has the resources it needs.

"I'd just like to see us move forward and train students how to use it as well," he said, regarding new technology programs.

Another goal of Modeer's is pretty simple. He finds it important that students feel safe and comfortable at school, and it starts with a few words he tells students on a daily basis: "Everyone is entitled to a good day."

Modeer said he had a great middle school experience and besides a kid stealing his lunch money once, he didn't have many confrontations with bullies. Still, he knows many kids do.

"It's hard to learn if you have to worry about what will happen at break or lunch," he said. "The counselors and teachers are great. They do feel comfortable talking to adults here."

When asked if the career and the new position is what he expected, Modeer responded: "It's more than I expected. I really feel like I'm the luckiest person that I get to come here and do this job."

Twitter: @joannaclay

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