First-Generation Graduate Marc Spacone, ’94, Named Middle School Principal of the Year
By Eva Richards
Marc Spacone,'94, Marc Spacone, ’94, has spent nearly three decades serving students as a school teacher and administrator.
When Marc Spacone, ’94, was awarded the title of Middle School Principal of the Year for the Illinois Principals Association's Kishwaukee Region, he was shocked.
“I just felt like, ‘Wow!’ This was the most unexpected thing to ever happen to me in my professional life,” he said. “I still do not know who nominated me for this honor, and if they happen to read this article, I just want to say thank you for feeling that I am worthy of such recognition.”
But those who witness his leadership every day at Larsen Middle School in Elgin, Illinois, were not surprised to hear of his recognition. Spacone, who won the award for the organization’s Kishwaukee Region, has always understood the significance of his role as principal—not only for him, but also for the hundreds of students and their families who rely on him.
“My role as principal is one that I take extremely seriously and personally,” he said. “Parents trust us with their children, and I take that responsibility very seriously. They trust us to educate them for a future, and we don't know exactly what that will look like. They trust us with their physical and social-emotional safety. This is not something to be taken lightly. At the same time, our building has an amazing staff that is passionate about supporting students.”
Prior to being named principal, Spacone was the assistant principal at Larsen for five years, furthering his investment in and understanding of the school.
“The most fulfilling part of my job is working with the people—students, parents and staff,” he said. “The fact that I get to support and help in their growth is what motivates me every day.”
Spacone noted that he is only one of the many deserving school principals who could be awarded with this kind of recognition, as well as the countless teachers who guide students every day in Illinois schools.
“The award is not mine alone because we have a great team at Larsen Middle School, and we all work hard to support our students and their families,” he said.
Growing up in the near western suburb of Northlake, Illinois, Spacone attended West Leyden High School. He majored in political science at NIU, and that experience led him to teaching.
“Leadership has always been in my blood, including serving on the NIU Student Senate during the 1993-1994 school year,” Spacone said.
As a first-generation college student, NIU gave Spacone the opportunity to explore his interests and develop his leadership ability. His time in the political science department at NIU yielded some life lessons he has carried with him for life.
“The most fundamental element that I believe I have taken from my studies was a focus on the big picture,” he said. “I learned that there are so many moving parts, and you need to sit back and see the forest for the trees. This has served me well, both as a school administrator and as a village trustee in Lake Zurich, Illinois.”
Most importantly, Spacone met his wife Donna, ’94, at NIU when they were both studying political science.
After earning his bachelor’s degree, he was drawn to the education field and realized working with and on behalf of young people was his calling. He went back to school, earning his teaching license and M.S.Ed. in teaching and learning from DePaul University in 1999.
“As a young teacher, I observed and learned from administrators that I was working for and decided that I wanted to support schools in a larger context,” he said. “This was my draw to move into administration, to provide support for the entire organization and its stakeholders. I wanted to give a voice to those who may feel marginalized by a system that may not work for them.”
From there, Spacone went on to earn his M.A.Ed. in educational administration from Northeastern Illinois University in 2005, followed by his Ed.D. in school leadership from Concordia University Chicago in 2019. This continued education allowed Spacone to be supremely qualified to lead a large and diverse middle school like Larsen.
“We are the only school supporting the Integrated Thematic Instruction (ITI) program in District U-46 at this time,” he said, noting that ITI is a comprehensive school model designed by Susan Kovalik in 1982 to increase student performance and teacher satisfaction. “I believe in the concept of ‘getting to yes,’ especially if there is a benefit for students. So, if it is reasonable, and it supports our students, then, yes, we will figure out how to make it work. We have had a slow start to get up and running, but in the end, if we have students that can use the support, then it’s only natural for us to participate.”
In addition, Spacone assists in placing preservice teachers from NIU for observation hours and student teaching experiences, as a way of paying it forward for the success and fulfillment he has found in hie career.
“I believe that by supporting the pipeline of teachers we can make sure that the future will be bright for the next generation to take over when I'm gone. This is how I believe I can give back to our profession,” he said.