New principal is happy in the middle

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Middle-school kids can be a challenge to deal with &045; full of hormones, insecure, teetering on the line between being a child and an adult.

&uot;They are in the process of becoming. Becoming what? That’s what we’re trying to figure out and that’s what they’re trying to figure out,&uot; said Marsha Langseth, the new principal of Southwest Middle School.

Having spent most of her career working with middle-school students with behavioral problems, she said she’s learned patience. And while she said some people wouldn’t work with the age group, she enjoys it.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;They are at the age when they’re becoming functioning members of society,&uot; she said. She said it’s fulfilling to help kids find out who they are.

She said in her interview it was made clear to her that Southwest Middle School was to be made more of a middle school than a junior high. In a middle school model, the focus will not be only lessons, but also giving kids more structure and guidance, similar to an elementary school. She said that’s something that fits her philosophy.

One of the new programs this year will be character education. The program will have lessons on certain traits like tolerance and gratitude. She also plans to have students share classes more than they have been, in order to give them more stability.

She said she would also like to begin having teachers coordinate lessons and assignments to coincide with one another.

The switch to a middle school model is something the former principal had begun, said David Prescott, the superintendent of Albert Lea Schools.

He said Langseth has a number of qualities that made her a good fit: her sense of humor, patience and experience with middle school students.

Langseth has more than 20 years of teaching experience, much of it dealing with kids with behavioral problems. She’s lived in Albert Lea for 13 years, but has commuted to other districts. This is her third administrative position in as many years; she also held one in Rochester and another in the Sioux Valley area. She said she was just gaining experience so she could get a position in Albert Lea.

Dale Brandsoy, the middle-school principal for United South Central Schools and one of Langseth’s mentors, said Langseth is a skilled communicator and a disciplinarian.

&uot;She’s able to remain calm and able to say ‘What can we do for this student to make it better?’&uot; he said. &uot;She’s interested in getting kids to learn from their mistakes and get them to avoid doing it again.&uot;

Langseth said she likes to see what’s going on in her school and not spend the whole day behind a desk. She also said that dealing with kids with behavioral problems gives her perspective when dealing with other problems.

While she was optimistic, she said she still has things she must learn. She has to get to know the students, in order to understand what makes the school different.

(Tim Sturrock can be reached at or 379-3438.)