It seems Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel was destined to become an educator. Both of his parents were trained as teachers and his grandmother was a principal and superintendent in the 1950s.
It’s no wonder then that in every one of Seigel’s many endeavors, education has played a vital role.
Seigel was born in Nebraska in 1948 but moved to Moorhead, Minnesota when he was just 3-years old. He went to elementary school, high school, and college in the small town.
Seigel was in the teacher preparation pipeline in college, but after graduating he felt the need to serve his country. Inspired by the old “Victory at Sea” movies, Seigel enlisted in the U.S. Navy and began what would become a 25-year career.
“There were bad days and there were good days, but you felt like you were doing something where you could contribute to the national defense and the national well being,” Seigel said of his time in the Navy.
Even while in the Armed Forces, Seigel continued to gravitate toward education. He always loved learning, but it was in the Navy that he developed a passion for teaching. His superiors took notice, and Seigel was eventually tasked with teaching students at the U.S. Naval War College and the Armed Forces Air Intelligence Training Center.
“I was even the Education Petty Officer at boot camp,” Seigel said. “I was responsible for helping about 120 kids — some of whom never completed high school — learn enough to graduate from boot camp.”
While in the Navy, Seigel continued to pursue his love of learning and teaching. He earned three master’s degrees, taught at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, and worked on a doctorate at the UC Denver’s Graduate School of Public Affairs.
Seigel did much of that work while serving as a school superintendent in Boulder, Colorado. In 2001 he was hired to lead the Bethel School District, and he’s spent the 16 years since working to ensure that Bethel becomes the best district in the entire state.
Seigel loves most things about his job, but he especially enjoys watching Bethel employees succeed, because that means students are also succeeding.
“It’s seeing the progress we’re making to provide our students with an excellent educational opportunity,” he said. “That has been accomplished through getting really high-quality people to teach and to lead that teaching.”
Excellent teachers are foundational to a thriving school district, but not even excellent teachers can succeed if there’s no space for students.
Pierce County is the fastest growing county in the America, and Bethel is witnessing that growth first hand. The district has welcomed in 1,800 additional students since its last new schools opened in 2009. Bethel added 426 more students this year and will add at least 300 additional students each year. Experts don’t see any end in sight.
“We’re at the point where we’re once again bursting at the seams,” Seigel said. “We’re already crowded and the growth is going to continue to happen. We’re going to run out of capacity.”