When Mike Waters walks into the special education classroom where he teaches, he brings a lifetime of diverse knowledge and experience with him. While Mike enrolled in college at SIC in Harrisburg as a pre-med major, he quickly decided against a medical career. Instead, he studied business and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Franklin University. After college, Mike earned his Series 66 financial license and started a twenty-year career in banking at Fifth Third Bank in Marion.
Finding the Positives in Everything
Mike says he decided to make a change, moving from investment banking to elementary education. His wife is a teacher, and it was a way to try something new and spend summers with his wife and sons. Mike proudly shares that he met his wife in sixth grade, and they’ve been together ever since.
Mike and his wife married when they were twenty, and they are raising two sons. Their oldest is a freshman in high school, and their youngest is in third grade. With both boys playing travel baseball, Mike shares that his family spends many weekends on the road with their boys playing baseball tournaments in distant lands like Georgia and Alabama.
Mike eventually left banking, a decision he doesn’t regret. His first position in education was as a special education teacher’s aide, working with kindergarten through fourth-grade children with special needs. It was a position that left a lasting impact. “I enjoyed working with the kids. I had a connection,” shares Mike.
Mike recently transitioned from aide to teacher, agreeing to start the 2022-23-year teaching business at Meridian Jr. High. He considered himself uniquely qualified based on his business degree and the real-world experience of a twenty-plus-year banking career. But on his first day of teaching, Mike—and the district—were thrown a curve ball when a recently hired special education teacher failed to show up. Mike was pulled aside and asked if he’d be willing to return to special education, teaching children in sixth through eighth graders: a position he gladly accepted.
As his first year at Meridian ends, Mike has no regrets. He is proud of how hard the teaching staff works and how they always support one another. He also displays pride at making the split-second decision to shift from business to special education, sharing that he’s returned to school for a special education certificate to emphasize the point.
“I like to see the growth of kids. I have a child (a sixth grader) that couldn’t read, and she’s reading now. I enjoy that,” says Mark.
Modeling the behaviors he teaches and leading by example, Mike sums up his first year simply, suggesting that sometimes, ‘kindness is what we need to learn.’ he adds, “I always look for the positives in everything. Negatives don’t get you anywhere. That’s my goal in life, to find the positives.” He likes to focus time on teaching his students the importance of making good choices and realizing the positive outcomes they inevitably bring.
As life unfolds, and our preparation through experience adds-up, we often have the opportunity to pivot and make a real difference in the lives of people we may have yet to meet. That’s finding the positive in life and everything in it. Exhibit A: Mike Waters.