LYNNWOOD — Six weeks before the start of school at Martha Lake Elementary School in Lynnwood, globes and rolled up posters lined the halls. Chairs stood on desks. And Tom Trexel, the school’s new principal, sat in his office preparing for the school year.
He replaces Jeanne Moore, who was principal for 13 years.
Trexel’s path to his new job was anything but direct. He couldn’t afford college, so after high school he joined the U.S. Air Force. There, he tested to see if simulated bombs hit their practice targets as a systems radar repairman in Wilder, Idaho.
A string of odd jobs followed: medical records file clerk, delivery driver, marketing assistant, network repairman.
“I was haphazardly going with whoever hired me,” Trexel said.
At age 30, he was working as a receptionist. A friend asked him if that’s what he wanted to be doing in 30 years. Trexel said no.
“I decided to go back to school,” he said.
That was in 1994. Trexel enrolled at Bellevue Community College and took night classes while working full time at an engineering firm in Bellevue. Five years later, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Pacific Lutheran University.
He hadn’t known he wanted to be a teacher at first.
“I was leaning toward business because a friend was,” he said. “That was the story of my life: whatever looks good today.”
But one day, he was helping other students in his logic class understand a problem and one of them said: “Tom, you could teach logic to a rock.”
He changed his major to education and once he started student teaching, knew he’d found his calling.
“It’s the awakening in kids: seeing when they get something,” Trexel said. “There’s nothing like it, coming from the world of network repairs.”
Trexel got his first teaching job in 2000 at Lynndale Elementary in Lynnwood. There he taught grades 2, 3, 5, 6 and special education.
He also earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University and served on several district leadership teams.
He realized he wanted to become a principal when he saw how many positive changes Lynndale Principal David Zwaschka made at the school.
“I can make so many more changes,” Trexel said of his new role.
He did an administrative internship at Lynndale in 2009-10 school year and was dean of students at Horizon Elementary in the Mukilteo School District in 2010-11.
Trexel’s primary goal for Martha Lake is to improve student learning in reading, writing and math, he said.
In 2009-10, 72 percent of fourth graders at the school passed the reading section of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning. About 63 percent passed writing, and 54 percent passed math.
Though the majority of students passed, there are still many who need more help, Trexel said.
But he’d also like to expand before- and after-school programs.
“There’s such a focus on reading, writing and math that art and science can get pushed aside — even P.E. and music,” he said. “We need to find creative ways to infuse those back into our day.”