Tyler to be named new principal at Mitchell Middle School

Mitchell native has taught in Wagner for 21 years

John Tyler, a longtime teacher with the Wagner Community School, is expected to be named the new principal at Mitchell Middle School at the next meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education April 13. Tyler is a 1992 Mitchell High School graduate as well as a graduate of Dakota Wesleyan University. He will step into the role currently occupied by Justin Zajic, who is leaving the district to become the superintendent at Chamberlain. (Submitted Photo)

A Mitchell native is returning home this summer to assume the position of principal at Mitchell Middle School.

John Tyler, a longtime teacher and coach at the Wagner Community School and a 1992 graduate of Mitchell High School, is expected to be named as the top administrator at Mitchell Middle School Monday, April 13, at the next meeting of the Mitchell Board of Education.

Joe Graves, superintendent of the Mitchell School District, said he expects the board to approve the hire.

“He’ll be taking over July 1,” Graves said.

Tyler grew up in Mitchell and graduated from both Mitchell High School and Dakota Wesleyan University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He later moved on to the University of South Dakota to earn his master’s degree. After a short student teaching stint in Nebraska, he took his current position in Wagner, where he has been teaching ever since.


Tyler said the time was right in his career to explore new opportunities, and when the position in Mitchell became available, it was a chance too good to pass up.

“I’ve had my master’s degree for about 10 years now, and I was interested in the administration field, but not just any old administration job. It had to be a good fit for me and my family,” Tyler said. “And Mitchell is home. When the opportunity arose, we just thought we’re going to try it.”

Tyler has primarily taught math at Wagner, but he is involved in multiple aspects of the district. He has coached wrestling at the school for 21 years and also coached track for 15 years. His wife Amy, also a teacher at Wagner, teaches at the district and has coached volleyball for the last 16 years. Both husband and wife have won multiple state titles with their teams.

He said while Amy will be teaching and helping with volleyball and track in Mitchell, he expects he will concentrate on his new position for the time being.

Graves said Tyler stood out from the pool of six candidates he and a committee interviewed for the position after principal Justin Zajic resigned from the post to pursue the superintendent position at Chamberlain. Zajic has served in the role for six years.

“(Tyler) has a real enthusiasm for working with students this age, and a real understanding of the benefits and complexities of that,” Graves said. “He was someone they thought could lead in a middle school environment.”

Tyler said he intends to bring his years of experience to bear on the challenges of taking over at Mitchell Middle School and succeeding Zajic. It is his intention to be with the Mitchell district for the long haul.

“I hope to bring a sense of consistency. Obviously, having been at one school for two decades, I don’t want this to be a quick job. I hope to be there for the rest of my career,” Tyler said.


Middle school is an important time of growth and learning for students, and he wants to make sure they are given every opportunity to flourish at a transitional time in their lives.

“I believe students come first, especially in middle school. They’re unique individuals, and we have to look at every kid with a different set of glasses,” Tyler said. “I hope to build a lot of relationships with students and staff, and keep a good thing going.”

Leaving the Wagner district won’t be easy, he said. Along with his multiple roles in the district, he also serves on the Wagner City Council as well as the local fire department. He and his family will miss their friends and coworkers, he said.

“We’re leaving behind more than just jobs,” Tyler said.

Like other educators, Tyler is currently teaching his classes remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but soon he will be finalizing plans to move the family back to Mitchell. He has a daughter who is a freshman at DWU and twins, a boy and a girl, who are currently in their freshman year of high school.

And while the new position is exciting, he also looks forward to being closer to family who still live in Mitchell.

“(I’m looking forward to) being around my family. My mom and siblings are still up there, and friends and classmates,” Tyler said. “Our family farm is up there, and hopefully that’s where we’re going to be settling.”

After that, he’s anxious to roll up his sleeves and get to work maintaining the quality level of education at Mitchell Middle School.


“Dr. Zajic has done a great job, and I hope to continue to improve on a lot of things that he has worked on and continue to move Mitchell Middle School forward,” Tyler said.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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