Mixdorf hopes to impact his students’ lives through education

Monticello Middle School math teacher Zach Mixdorf works with eighth-grader Tyrese Gudenkauf. Mixdorf has been teaching for the MCSD for four years now, working with middle school students since he began. He grew up in a small town and always saw himself as a teacher. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Panther Professionals
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Panther Professionals is a weekly series highlighting educators, administrators, staff and aides who are dedicated to the future of the Monticello Community School District.

     Monticello Middle School teacher Zach Mixdorf said his teaching philosophy is to push his students to be and do better.

     Mixdorf teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math classes, and is now in his fourth year of teaching in Monticello. His classes include: general math, geometry and algebra.

     “I always saw myself as a teacher,” he said.

     Mixdorf taught Sunday School classes and worked as a camp counselor growing up, so being around children and instilling knowledge isn’t anything new.

     “I’ve been working with kids my whole life,” he said.

     Mixdorf grew up in a small town, so working for a small-town school district was the perfect fit.

     “I’m from the Dunkerton area,” he shared. “I enjoy the feel of a tight-knit community where you can get to know your students and their families.” Mixdorf said it’s nice being able to see his students out and about in the community, not just seeing them in the halls or the classroom at school. It provides a different perspective on their lives.

     He taught fifth- and sixth-grade math and physical education in Houston, Texas for several years after earning his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Northern Iowa. Mixdorf went on to further his education by earning his master’s degree in education administration.

     “At some point I’d like to be an administrator,” said Mixdorf.

     Before becoming a full-time teacher for the MCSD, Mixdorf came on board as a substitute teacher.

     “I enjoyed teaching here so I applied when they had an opening,” he said.

     Mixdorf’s wife is also a teacher at Strawberry Hill Elementary School in Anamosa, where the couple resides.

     Mixdorf said working in the teaching profession means having a lot of patience.

     “You learn to take nothing personal,” he said, especially in working with the middle school age demographic.

     Mixdorf said his job involves preparing a lot of classroom material and lesson plans, and really motivating his students.

     “It requires quite a bit of giving of your time before and after school to meet the students’ needs,” he said. He also works with students one-on-one if needed during his prep time as well.

     “It’s tough because you have to make a lot of choices every day and be comfortable with those choices that will affect these kids’ future,” he said. “It’s easy to blame someone else.”

     Mixdorf admitted as a kid himself, he struggled in school. So it’s important to him to work with his students as much as he can.

     “A lot of teachers end up putting in a lot of extra time,” he said, “to make sure the students are successful. There’s a lot of dedication that’s not seen on the surface.”

     Before settling in his role as a math teacher, Mixdorf was a special education teacher at Monticello High School during his first year with the MCSD. Then he transitioned into the sixth- and seventh-grade math teacher. Now, he works with just seventh and eighth-graders.

     “I thought I would be an elementary teacher, but once I got into it, I felt the kids were too young for me,” Mixdorf said. He said he feels he could make a bigger impact working with middle school students who learn to take on some responsibility.

     “I like to joke with my students, too,” he said.

     Mixdorf has taken on a leadership role as the district math curriculum leader, helping the other math teachers plan and map out their teaching materials. He also serves on the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) committee.

     “After my first year here, I felt I wanted to get more involved,” Mixdorf said of his professional leadership goals.

     Outside of the classroom, Mixdorf is also the eighth-grade basketball coach.

     Having worked outside of the MCSD, Mixdorf said he sees the positive atmosphere Monticello schools provide.

     “The students are good-hearted and free spirited,” he said. “This is a good town, and people clearly have pride in their school.”

     When he’s not teaching, Mixdorf enjoys spending time outdoors. Since the age of 14, he worked summers de-tasseling, and still maintains a crew of 20-plus workers who head to Dunkerton every summer for work.

     “I just enjoy being outside and work like this builds character,” he said.

     Mixdorf and his wife have a two-year-old son and are expecting another little one soon.

     The family enjoys going to the pool in the summer, being active, and attending concerts together.



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