Sorenson: Veteran MISD educators reflect on careers

By Phil Major
Posted 5/18/23

As a coach, Mike Sorenson and his family led the nomadic life, moving from town to town, generally staying in one place 3-4 years.

That changed when they came to Mineola.

After a year on …

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Sorenson: Veteran MISD educators reflect on careers


As a coach, Mike Sorenson and his family led the nomadic life, moving from town to town, generally staying in one place 3-4 years.

That changed when they came to Mineola.

After a year on the Yellowjacket coaching staff, he transferred to administration.

When the 2023 seniors cross the stage at Mineola High School May 26, Sorenson will complete a 41-year career in public education, the last 13 in Mineola.

They found a home.

“It has been good for my family,” Sorenson reflected, winding down the last month of a job that he said was never a job.

“This community, it’s traditional – the way we grew up – for the most part people respect the school,” he said.

The community’s values match his own, as do most of the surrounding towns.

It has been a nice place to complete his career.

He had been working on his mid-management certification when he came to Mineola from Winona where he was head coach and athletic director. After he coached for a year, the assistant principal’s position came open.

He decided he liked that aspect of education, and getting out of coaching provided a needed mental break.

He did that for three years, moved to the middle school for three years as principal, then three years as dean of students at the high school and the past three as the high school principal.

“I still love what I do,” he said. “I hope I’ve done justice to what I’m doing. I’ve given to education and it’s given back to me.”

The decision to call it a career began last summer and was solidified in the fall with the announcement that the position was open. That was to give the district time to find the right person, something that was important to Sorenson.

The role educators play in the lives of their students impacted Sorenson from an early age.

His parents divorced when he was in eighth grade, and he notes that his life could have gone in another direction in high school, but it was teachers and coaches that were consistent in his life.

And that helped him to decide on a career in education.

“You can’t fix what they go home to,” he said of students who face challenges outside the classroom.

But you can be the most consistent thing in their lives every day, he added.

Sorenson recalled the words of the late John Abbott – an educator of 49 years who served as president of the Mineola School Board.

Every year he would tell the new teachers that one thing is non negotiable. To work in Mineola, you have to love the kids.

We want the kids to know that we love them, Sorenson said. Sometimes it may be tough love.

Sorenson earned his degree from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview following graduation from Ennis High School. That was to follow his high school sweetheart, now his wife, Rene.

Wayland was a good fit, he said, with a more structured environment that he needed, with chapel and curfew.

He returned to his home town to coach for 10 years before starting the journey toward his dream of being a head coach and athletic director. That included stints at Malakoff, Mabank and Winona for 11 years total in that position.

That’s when he got tired of moving his kids. So the youngest was in middle school and got to finish out his schooling in one place.

Sorenson described the biggest challenge of the principal’s job: ”The buck stops here.”

Everything that comes across a teacher’s desk, everything a student does is ultimately his responsibility.

“It’s a scary climate that’s out there today,” he said. The first thing he thinks about is safety.

He hopes society can get to a place  where that isn’t that case any more.

It’s also a challenge to hire teachers.

The days when there would be 10-15 applicants for one spot have transitioned to sometimes not getting any, he said.

Salaries being raised would help, but it’s what goes on in the classroom that impacts teachers.

“Teachers value teaching kids,” he said. “That’s what they got into the business for, teaching the whole kid.”

But accountability testing has gotten in the way of that.

“This is one of the professions that really makes a difference in how our world will look 10, 15, 20 years from now,” he said. “You’re painting a (student’s) mosaic everyday. It’s a challenge.”

Education has been a good career for Sorenson, and he hopes others go into it.

“We need people who look at education like I did, it’s a chance to really affect the future, to impact kids.”

The district has some amazing young teachers who are communicating with their students while also learning from the older teachers, he said.

He hopes the state will take steps to bring people back to education.

“It’s been good to me,” he said.

As a people person, don’t expect Sorenson to retire quietly.

He said he will be bringing Sonic drinks to campus for teachers.

“I have to be plugged in,” he said.

He has grandchildren to spoil and will probably work part-time, to earn some “go” money.

He will also be doing some things Rene wants to do, after she made all those moves and followed his career.

“I hope I left it better than I found it,” he concluded.