The SoWashCo School District is home to some of the best educators in the area and Lee Wignall, a chemistry/physics teacher at Park High School is no exception. In 1999, Wignall graduated from St. …
The SoWashCo School District is home to some of the best educators in the area and Lee Wignall, a chemistry/physics teacher at Park High School is no exception. In 1999, Wignall graduated from St. Olaf College with a bachelor’s degree in English and Physics. From there he received his master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from St. Cloud State.
Wignall lives in Jordan, Minn. with his wife of 13 years, Marie, and four children, Sydney (11), Ivy (9), Cooper (7), and Kepler (3). When he’s not guiding the students of Park High School, Wignall enjoys building/fixing things around the house, and spending time with his family, especially camping together.
“Last year we went to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Park,” Wignall said of his family’s journeys.
Wignall also lived in Japan for two years where he enjoyed experiencing a different culture, but he quickly realized that the world isn't as big as he thought. Given the chance, he would love to visit Scotland someday to view the breathtaking landscape and make lasting memories.
Although Wignall has worked in the SoWashCo School District since 2014, he didn’t realize he wanted to be an educator until he was already in college.
“I didn't start out college wanting to be a teacher, but I volunteered in the local elementary schools and discovered that not only was I really good at explaining stuff, but I enjoyed it,” he said.
Wignall finds joy in explaining to his students how the world works through science.
“I feel like the more knowledge students have about how the world actually works the less they'll fall victim to scams or dishonest politicians,” he said.
The camaraderie and humor with his students are two of the things that Wignall looks forward to the most in teaching.
“I love the relationships with students and not only teaching them about the natural world but also talking about things that are affecting them as they move into young adulthood,” he said.
He explained that many students have impacted his career as an educator.
“I've had far too many amazing students to start naming them all. I would never forgive myself if I hurt someone's feelings by leaving them out.” He adds, “That being said, Mackenzie, Jordan, Jaylin, and Kevin were particularly awesome.”
Wignall, who would be an advice columnist if he wasn’t a teacher, shares his advice for his students as they move forward in their lives and gives them some “tough love.”
“Although people change as they grow, certain behaviors and patterns start to ‘harden’ like cement at this age. So, if you don't want to be an adult bully, you need to get a handle on that now. If you think cheating is no big deal right now, you'll grow up to be a cheater. If you can't develop a sense of self-worth now, you'll end up in relationships where you're not treated well,” he said.
He urges students to take some time and figure out what kind of person they want to be, compare it to the kind of person they currently are, and then make some decisions.
Wignall feels that it’s important for students to become responsible and take accountability for their actions.
He tells parents, “I honestly want your kids to succeed but I can't ‘make’ your kid pass chemistry any more than you can ‘make’ your kid act respectful. Neither you nor I are responsible for their choices—all we can do is advise them beforehand and hold them accountable afterward. Your kid is never going to learn how to navigate the real world if you refuse to let your kid experience the consequences of their own decisions.”
He explains there has been a slow-yet-constant lowering of expectations that schools have for students over the last 15-20 years, an issue he hopes to overcome one day.
“Students will hover around the bar you set for them, no matter how high or low, and as a society we've decided that the best place for our expectations is as low as possible.” He adds, “The frustrating part is that we constantly justify reducing our expectations by claiming ‘it's what's best for the kids!’ In fact, the reason that the state of education is so poor right now is precisely because low expectations are BAD for kids.”
Wignall is grateful for the care and support the amazing staff at Park High give to each other.
“I respect and appreciate many of my coworkers for their hard work and dedication to teaching,” he said. “Even if we differ on certain educational philosophies or styles, I respect that they are doing what they think is best for kids. I allow them that space to be themselves and hope they extend me the same respect.”
Park High School is lucky to have the experience and guidance of Wignall to lead his students as they navigate their high school careers. His passion and excitement for learning are making an impact on them that will last for years to come.