Anaconda Junior/Senior High School welcomed its new principal to town this week.
Monte Thacker, who most recently was principal for a middle school and high school in an Alaskan village near Bristol Bay, arrived in the Smelter City for the first time late Tuesday night.
“It’s nice," Thacker said Wednesday. "I really like it here so far."
A kind-faced man with a scruffy beard and glasses, Thacker was hired on as Anaconda High School’s new principal earlier this year after the public school district interviewed eight applicants, according to Justin Barnes, district superintendent.
“He had the most principal experience out of all the other candidates,” Barnes said. “I think he’s a great fit for the position.”
Barnes and Thacker are no strangers. Thacker said the two Texas natives worked together for a short time at a school in Texas and that he's excited to work with Barnes again.
“I know him from back in Texas, and I know he is a good leader,” Thacker said of Barnes.
After growing up in a small town near Dallas and serving over eight years in the Marine Corps, Thacker said he had his heart set on escaping the heat and moving to the Pacific Northwest.
First, he fell in love with Alaska, which is why he moved his career in education up to the Last Frontier about five years ago.
But although Thacker has over 15 years of experience teaching and serving as an administrator for K-12 students in Texas and Alaska, he didn’t always want to be a teacher and definitely didn’t always love school.
When Thacker was a student, he described himself as the “snotty-nosed stink” that most teachers didn’t want much to do with.
“I had teachers tell me to sit down and shut up if I wanted to get through,” Thacker said. “I hated school, but my mom had expectations, and if I didn’t meet them, I was in big trouble.”
As soon as he graduated high school, Thacker did not pursue school any further.
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At 17, he joined the Marine Corps, where he said he first felt that other people valued him and first saw the value in himself.
So, after Thacker left the Marines, he took on a new mission to look out for the kids like himself growing up and to ensure every student felt cared for.
The first step in Thacker’s mission was going to college to become a K-12 educator.
To help pay his way through Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, Thacker started his own handyman business before going on to earn a master’s in school administration as well as both his principal and superintendent certifications.
“It crushed me that I felt people thought so little of me growing up,” Thacker said. "I don’t know if they really thought that way, but that was my perception. I knew kids like me needed an advocate.”
Serving as this advocate for every student’s success is exactly what Thacker said he plans to do at Anaconda Junior/Senior High School next fall and for years beyond. His plan, he said, is to stay in the Smelter City until he retires.
“I have high expectations,” Thacker said. “Kids deserve the best and should be encouraged to attain the very best. … If we don’t push them to do their best, then I think we are failing them.”
Thacker will replace Shawn Hansen as Anaconda High's principal. A longtime district employee, Hansen was investigated for allegedly interacting inappropriately with students last fall.
Thacker said he did not know anything about Hansen and feels it best that he’s left in the dark about what allegedly happened at the school under Hansen's watch.
Since Hansen resigned in November, Allen Green, Anaconda High's assistant principal and athletic director, has served as acting principal.
Right off the bat in his new role, Thacker said he wants to improve Anaconda Junior/Senior High School’s dropout and attendance rates and that he will do his best to keep the high school on the cutting edge of education in general, which he feels is constantly shifting and growing.
Other than that, Thacker said he mainly wants to help Anaconda students and staff achieve whatever goals they set out for themselves.
“I want to be able to facilitate the implementation of their expectations,” Thacker said of Anaconda students, staff and the entire community. “I want the kids here to be able to have every opportunity to excel at what they want to do, whether that’s being a gas station attendant or the President of the United States. ... Every child is important, and every piece of the machine is important for it to run.”