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Western Division Principal of the Year

Winning awards may not be the primary objective for a school administrator, but it's never a bad thing to be honored by your peers for the work that you do.

Detroit Lakes High School Principal Steve Morben was notified in April that he had been chosen as Western Division Principal of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals.

"It's always nice to be recognized for your efforts," he said. "There are a lot of deserving principals out there -- it's humbling to have them select me."

Morben's selection as one of eight division award winners in Minnesota also means that he is eligible for state recognition as well.

It's been more than 10 years since Morben came to Detroit Lakes as the new assistant principal at Detroit Lakes High School.

He came to Detroit Lakes from Moorhead, where he had served for 11 years as an eighth grade social studies teacher before becoming assistant principal at Moorhead Junior High.

"It was a pretty nice job (teaching)," he said.

While he was teaching at Moorhead, Morben pursued a master's degree in education from the University of St. Thomas, and earned his administrative credentials from the Tri-College -- Minnesota State University Moorhead, Concordia and North Dakota State University.

"I also coached junior high football, volleyball, basketball and track," Morben said, adding, "I like to keep busy."

Though he enjoyed his years as teacher, Morben admitted that it wasn't his first career choice.

"I kind of fell into education," he said. "My father was a teacher -- he didn't encourage me, but he certainly didn't discourage me to go after it (teaching)."

Morben majored in business administration and computer science during his undergraduate years at Moorhead State (now MSUM).

"I like computers, but I didn't enjoy the programming aspect," he said. "I knew it wasn't what I would end up doing (as a career).

"Teaching ended up being a very good fit," he added, noting that once he decided to switch career tracks, it only took a couple of years to earn the necessary credits.

Morben also got into coaching at a young age, serving as a summer youth baseball coach while still in high school.

"I was always involved in sports," he said, adding that "it allowed me to teach the kids, but also work with them in the athletic arena.

After he got out of teaching and became a school administrator, Morben found he missed coaching, "which is one reason why I got into officiating."

Morben officiates at a lot of varsity and junior varsity football games in the area, and also for junior varsity baseball, softball and basketball.

"It gives you an opportunity to get to know the kids on a different level than in the classroom," he said.

Of course, so does being a school administrator.

"I was very happy as a teacher, but I wanted to work on my master's degree," he said. "I was asked by my former principal at Moorhead if I would consider getting an administrative degree. I talked it over with my wife, and decided it would be a possible avenue."

After earning his administrative credentials, Morben applied for the assistant principal's position at Moorhead -- but as the district was in the midst of budget cuts, and he was the least senior administrator on staff, "I saw the writing on the wall."

Morben spent one year as the assistant principal at Moorhead before applying for the job in Detroit Lakes. After he was hired, Morben and his family made the move to Detroit Lakes; his first day on the job was July 1, 2000.

About 15 months later, he became principal.

"I love it here," he said. "DL is a great town, and I feel we have an excellent school system.

"We have challenges, but I'm always impressed with the level of community support for our school and students. It's a great relationship to have."

In the rare moments when he has time to spare from his job, Morben enjoys reading, spending time outdoors -- "mowing grass is relaxing for me," he said -- and vacationing with his family, which includes wife Julie, son Ryan and daughter Ashley.

But he truly enjoys attending school events as part of his job as principal.

"For nine months of the year, we provide a ton of entertainment for this community through sports and fine arts," he said.

"I love going to watch the plays and musicals and athletic events."

Morben even enjoys working on committees and networking with his fellow principals at MASSP meetings, calling them "a great group."

In short, being a principal is a year-round occupation -- but Morben wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's a busy job -- but it's a good busy," he said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454