Jeff Nolte
Jeff Nolte

After seven years as principal of the Mabel-Canton School, principal Jeff Nolte has officially resigned after accepting the position of principal at Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School.

Nolte said his reasons for accepting the position are both personal and professional.

“It’s just a great opportunity…I’ve done a lot of wonderful things here at Mabel-Canton and just need that next opportunity for professional growth,” he said. “I also think it is a good opportunity for my family. It was a great match at the right time.”

Nolte started as principal at Mabel-Canton in the 2007-08 school year. “We’ve made a lot of nice changes since then,” he said.

Among those changes, according to Nolte, are better technology, teacher performance evaluations, more parental involvement, increased student achievement scores, improved student climate and staff additions.

“One of the first things I had to do at Mabel-Canton was move away from chalk boards to marker boards,” Nolte said with a chuckle. “It seems a little bit of ancient history right now — but one of the fist things I did was to order skins to put inside the chalk boards so everybody had marker boards.

 “And then I think there was just one or two overhead projectors mounted in the ceiling — and that was the next realm of technology updates that we did…. Now we are at the point where we are putting computers into nearly every kid’s hands in the high school with our ‘one-to-one’ initiative.”

Nolte added that he thinks the district has done some “neat things” with teacher evaluations — solidifying a method so teachers can continue to grow throughout their careers, be supported by their peers and have a really good evaluation system that allows them to reflect on what they do.

Developing the school district’s parent group has also been important to Nolte.

“We have an active parent group here at Mabel-Canton now,” he said. “When I came we didn’t have a ‘PTO’ or any other parent group. I think it’s important to have parents and community supporting your school.”

Another area in which Nolte felt was improved during his tenure was in student achievement scores. He said they went up solidly while he has been at Mabel-Canton.

“When I came here, one of the first things we did was to put together a school improvement team in the area of math because math scores were low at the time and I was a former math teacher,” he said. “We worked on that and to the staff’s credit we tackled that and made great improvements on math scores and made some nice improvements in other scores…(but) I think there is always some more work to be done in student achievement.”

Nolte worked hard to create a positive environment for the Mabel-Canton students.

“As far as creating a really neat, solid climate for kids to learn in — a safe school — we have a great group of teachers that has supported kids by creating what’s called our ‘Cougar Pride’ initiative,” Nolte continued. “We’ve put together a real nice program where kids get tickets for doing the right thing. That’s really done a lot for our school as far as focusing behavior on the things we want to see in our school.”

During Nolte’s seven-year tenure at Mabel-Canton, he has seen a lot of staff retire or leave the district for other reasons. New teachers have been added and he complimented them for the great things they do for the students.

“We really do have a great teaching staff in our small school — they’re the ones that touch children’s lives every day,” he added.

Nolte, who originally began his career in education as a middle and high school math teacher, said being the principal of a grade 7-12 school is a “natural fit.”

However, he also said his K-12 experience at Mabel-Canton has made him a better principal “because I understand where kids are coming from in the lower grades.”

Nolte feels he was called to be an educator a long time ago. “I really appreciated being a teacher, turning the ‘light bulb’ on for kids,” he explained. “I still get to teach kids – most of my teaching is around good behavior and making good choices. I really take a lot of pride in setting up programs to offer kids great opportunities (and in) working with staff and students.”

He is most proud of the relationships he’s developed and the connections he’s made with some of the most “at risk” kids.

“I’m very proud of a few specific seniors this last year,” Nolte added. “We need empowered young people in this country to step up to the plate – there are a lot of challenges out there and we need the best-prepared kids we can get.”

Right now, Nolte said he has been busy logging in a great amount of “windshield time,” driving back and forth to Zumbrota, as he is commuting at this point. He said there will be a physical move to the Zumbrota-Mazeppa area at some point as he prepares to sell his home on Mabel’s Main Street.

Nolte’s daughter, Hannah, will be completing her senior year at Mabel-Canton and plans to participate in post-secondary education at Winona State University. His two sons, Isaiah, in ninth grade, and Eli, in sixth grade, will be attending Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

 “It’s a wonderful profession – making a difference in the lives of kids,” Nolte concluded. “I appreciate all of the support I’ve had over the years here.”