Mike McGiles consistently brings a kind of infectious positivity with him. As a principal of a high school with a diverse population of students and staff, Mike believes that leading by example is essential. “A positive attitude is just as infectious as a negative one,” he explains. “If that’s what you portray, that’s what you get back.”
As principal of Jacksonville High School, Mr. McGiles also believes in building positive relationships throughout the school community. To achieve this goal, Mike leaves his office frequently throughout the day to interact with students and staff. “The kids know who I am,” Mike says. His administrative team strives to “go where students are,” whether it’s in the lunchroom or the hallways between classes.
Mike started at JHS as an assistant principal and is now in his 9th year at the school. He began his career as a math and social and social studies teacher, as well as a coach. He taught for 16 years, in addition to coaching football, basketball, and baseball at two different schools. While Mike enjoyed spending time with students in the classroom and on the field, he needed a new professional challenge and decided to earn his master’s degree.
Throughout his time at JHS, Mike has committed to supporting his students at school activities during and after school. “I don’t miss many ball games, theatrical events, or fine arts events,” Mike says. This can sometimes mean attending a school activity every night of the week, but Mr. McGiles wants JHS students to know that he cares about them and supports their interests. When Mike attends events, he is often asked, “Which one is yours?” His reply: “All of them.”
Joyce, Mike’s wife of 23 years this coming June, often attends JHS events with her husband. She genuinely enjoys being a part of the school community, but Mike jokes that sometimes it’s the only way they get to spend time together. The two mathematicians met in a class at Eastern Illinois University, both with an eye on teaching degrees. Joyce continues to teach math and Mike enjoys hearing about her classroom and continuing education, keeping him connected to a profession he loves.
The McGiles have two high school aged children, Molly and Jake. The siblings were not in high school when Mike began working at JHS, but Molly is now a senior and Jake is a freshman. While the McGiles children might prefer to have their father work elsewhere some days, Mike quips, “They always know where to find Dad for lunch money.”
The JHS community is focused on building a strong academic environment this year and Mr. McGiles is enthusiastic about the positive changes he is witnessing. The school is focusing on minimizing learning distractions, such as reducing access to electronics during school hours and focusing on a dress code that reflects a readiness to learn. The staff are also actively accessing curriculum to “increase the rigor of our curriculum.”
Mike is excited by the introduction of three Advanced Placement (AP) courses, bringing the schools total AP offerings to five. AP classes are connected to a nationwide curriculum that enables students to evaluate how their knowledge and performance compares to other students throughout the country. Students can also often receive college credits or even course credits for high school AP class participation at a higher institution of their choice.
The JHS staff is committed to reviewing their honors curriculum and they are working to strengthen their offerings. JHS strives to help students prepare for the future and this means ensuring that courses are relevant to the current academic and career environments.
Mike says that the school’s goal is to prepare students in a meaningful way, whether their goals involve attending a university or receiving technical training. The JHS staff work to provide core and elective options that are “relevant and pertinent to current careers,” Mike explains. The workplace is dynamic and changing and it’s important for schools to keep pace.