MEMSPA: A Community of Principals

We are a community of principals dedicated to advocating, leading and learning. We recognize the evolving nature of the principal’s role and support those committed to this important work. All who share in our purpose are welcome to join. Find out more about MEMSPA here.


  • The Machine

    • Tuesday, September 15, 2015
    • Jonathon Wennstrom

    In the late 90's I was teaching elementary students by day and coaching the varsity wrestling team in the evenings.  It was a crazy,busy and fun time of my life.  Coaching wrestling was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I have often said that one of my favorite titles I've ever had was "Coach".  Wrestling was a unique sport to coach in that my team members came from such diverse backgrounds.  I had the typical sports crew (mostly recruited from the football team), I had some members who had never been involved in sports at all. I had well to do members and some that came from pretty rough backgrounds.  It's amazing what kids will tell their coach.  Every member had a story to tell and I was amazed at how much we came together as a team given how different and diverse the students were.  I guess that was one of our successes...creating a true team atmosphere.   One of my hard luck wrestlers was Dave.  He had come through some pretty tough circumstances and to be honest, was a kid who could have easily gone down the wrong path. One of my early interactions with Dave was him asking me to listen to a song.  He played Kid Rock's "Only God Knows Why" for me and said, "That's my song Coach".  The song is about someone who has been through a lot of things that no one else understands.  In the four years I coached him, Dave became an incredible wrestler and he also grew into a respectful and responsible young man.  His record number of wins during the seasons earned him the nickname "The Machine" which he carried all through high school.  Dave was a kid who beat the odds and through hard work and dedication embodied everything I tried to teach those young men during my coaching years.  He demonstrated passion, energy, teamwork, growth, and respect.  The same things I try to teach and model today as a principal.   As close as we were, I lost track of Dave after his graduation.  Much to my surprise a few weeks ago, I got a letter in the mail inviting me to Dave's wedding!  Dave is now a grown man and living in Florida.  Luckily, the wedding took place in Michigan, allowing me the opportunity to see him and several of my former wrestlers.  What a wonderful event it was to see my old crew and to be called Coach again after all those years.  It was like that 15 years was a blink of an eye.  Yes, we were all a little heavier and I am definitely a lot grayer, but I felt very young at heart that night.  It was a chance to see the men those boys grew into and to tell them how much they meant to me.  I was happy to hear that the feeling was mutual.  As educators, we don't always get a chance to see the fruits of our labors, but every once in a while, we get to see the finished product.  This month I had the chance to revisit some old memories and friends and travel back to a time when I was still called coach and Dave was still called The Machine.   The boys are back in town!   Celebrating the wedding day of "The Machine"   PEARLS OF WISDOM "You get what you put in, and people get what they deserve." - Kid Rock   "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy." - Dan Gable   "Coaching is the universal language of change and learning." - CNN

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  • You can never predict

    • Thursday, August 6, 2015
    • Ben Gilpin

    One of my characteristics (or flaws) is the fact that I always try to predict the future.  During my days as a classroom teacher the class would work on career awareness.  Students would take quizzes that gave indications on what career fit their answers.  Looking back, we didn't take it ultra serious, I mean, the kids were in 5th grade.  To pigeonhole them into a career at ten years old is crazy. Yet, I did enjoy seeing the results and laughing with the kids about the careers.  One young lady who was extremely difficult to motivate had a fire lit under her when the results spit out telemarketer.  She was adamant that her life wouldn't be spent on the phone with strangers!  I got a kick out of her reinvesting herself into school.

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  • MEMSPA: Lead Positive and Use the Membership

    • Tuesday, July 21, 2015
    • Shanna Spickard

    This month I undertake the role of Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association President. I am so honored to be serving principals in the state of Michigan. MEMSPA has been a huge support to me over the past nine years. The connections, networking, professional learning, and opportunities have been extremely beneficial to me both personally and professionally. My goal in this year of both leadership and service is to remind you throughout the year to focus on positivity. As the leader of our buildings, students, and staff, we must bring back validation to the profession, teaching, and education. We can do that by being positive ambassadors for education. This year, I will use the theme "Lead Positive" as a reminder to be positive and model positivity.

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Meetings & Events

Save these dates!

Summer Leadership Institute - August 2-3 - Mission Pointe Resort, Mackinac Island

MEMSPA Annual Conference - December 7-9 - Grand Traverse Resort