Educator Spotlight: Jan Bigalke of Ludington Area Catholic. 

November 12, 2021

Jan Bigalke

Educator Spotlight: Jan Bigalke of Ludington Area Catholic. 

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Educator Spotlight is a presentation of is a presentation of Smith & Eddy Insurance, with offices in Scottville, Ludington, and Manistee, offering discounts for MEA members and school employees.

LUDINGTON – Ludington Area Catholic principal, Jan Bigalke said she was called to education by God and knows it’s where she is meant to be.

“I am in my second year at LAC as the principal,” she said. “I feel very strongly that God called me back into educational leadership.”

Beigalke left education for three years and worked at Munson Home Care as a home care registered nurse.

“I believe that Catholic and faith-based schools not only teach high academic standards, but we prepare students for life as good citizens, family members and in preparation for our return to heaven one day. I also believe in the task of keeping my staff and students safe and healthy to the best of my ability, encouraging all students to reach their full spiritual and academic potential and leading my staff in academic and spiritual excellence.”

Bigalke graduated from Marquette High School then went on to receive a degree in nursing from Finlandia University in 1990. She didn’t return to college to seek an educational degree until 2005. She attended Ferris State University to receive her secondary education degree and then she received a master’s degree in educational leadership from University of Dayton in 2010.

Before moving to LAC, she worked for Manistee Catholic Central School for many years.

“I worked at Manistee Catholic Central School for 16 years,” she said. “I was principal for seven years, a high school English teacher, religion teacher, and I was the mentor and advisor to many extracurricular programs.  I have also been an adjunct teacher at Baker College and WSCC. I am also a registered nurse in Michigan and have been since 1990. I have worked in oncology, ICU, and home care.”

Working with so many great educators, Bigalke said as a student, she looked up to many of her teachers as positive influences in her life.

“I was that child who always played ‘teacher’ growing up with my siblings,” she said. “I always looked to several of my teachers over the years as role-models, and later as adults, friends. I still keep in contact with some of my former teachers. I love to facilitate a love of learning and for me particularly a love of the written and spoken word through literature and various types of writing. I love the thrill of the ‘ah-ha’ moments and watching students unlock their potential and the experience the thrill of discovery.”

Building relationships with students and seeing each student’s potential has always been Bigalke’s favorite part of education and she really enjoys working as a mentor to co-workers to help them reach all of their potentials in education. She stated that letting every child reach his/her individual goals in education has also been a very important part of her job.

“If I could change anything in education, I would allow all students to discover a love of learning,” she stated. “Don’t hold students back because they are in a particular grade or an age. Teach students to be critical thinkers and to look for answers to their questions. Schools need to support parents to help their students to become independent learners, thinkers and doers. They can aspire to great things if we allow them, but without doing it for them. We also have to be sure that students can handle failure through education on life skills, relationship skills and perseverance.”

Bigalke, like many other educators around the country realize that there is a shortage of students seeking education as a career path, but for those who do feel passionate about the field, she has some advice to share.

“Think about all of the great traits your favorite teacher possessed,” she said. “How did they inspire you or teach you not to give up? How did they help to spark a love of learning for you? Then, become that teacher; let his/her legacy live on in your career as a teacher. It is so worth it when a student comes back, sometimes even years later, to thank you and to share their success.”

Educators who have taken on the roles of administration have seen more and more feedback from the general public, whether good or bad, and even though they are in a higher position of power, Bigalke stated that that doesn’t necessarily mean they will use that power against students.

“It isn’t always a ‘bad thing’ to be sent to the principal’s office,” she said. “I like to celebrate the good things more than anything and our student leadership team is helping us to lead the students/staff in daily prayer, announcements and events. I will roll my sleeves up and help where needed so I think my staff appreciates that. I like to think of myself as being the ‘friendly/helpful and fun’ principal (students described me in cards that way).”

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