Ode to Mike Spiegel

Guest columnistJune 13, 2014 

Mike’s retirement after 35 years in education, has made me reflect on his career with the R-7 School District. I coached and taught with Mike, though I do not know his long list of accomplishments as they relate to girls’ and boys’ track.

I can’t quote on how many games, titles or college scholarships that were received because of his football coaching career at Lee’s Summit High School and Lee’s Summit West. However, there are two memorable and meaningful sayings that Mike had, which can help paint a picture of the impact he had as an educator and coach.

The first thing was the three words that were said during track season. They were said at every practice and every meet. They were repeatedly drilled into the minds of the runners without pause.

On my return to the very track that spawned my career to coach and teach at LSHS, I heard those three words. However, I did not have to make it far to hear them. As a matter of fact, I was getting out of my car in a distant parking lot, and heard Mike yelling them. I am pretty sure the people in the homes surrounding LSHS, as well as athletes and fellow coaches, would probably lay awake at night and wonder, "why do these words keep running through my head?"

The three words were even more significant when I began to relate those words to my own life, like overcoming obstacles and setting personal goals. These words are about turning 180 degrees and going in the complete opposite direction either on the track or in life. These three words are about not letting whatever obstacle is in your path stop you, or slow you down. These three little words are: “Work the Turn.”

The second thing is a state of mind that I thought was only worthy of one high school in Lee’s Summit. Let me preface by saying I was born and raised in Lee’s Summit. When I grew up we only had one junior high, one high school and one mascot. The Tigers. So when I would hear those eight words from Mike, and then I would see those eight words every morning on the sign in front of LSHS, I would feel a sense of pride when I came to work each morning and walked the halls of my great school. The phrase was coined by Mike Spiegel, it was the school motto, though not official in any handbook.

When Mike Spiegel left Lee’s Summit for West, I was curious and a bit concerned if he would be able to bring the same passion for that schools football, track and academics. It just so happens, he did. He energized and uplifted students and staff at LSW just as he had at LSHS. I have a feeling he uttered those eight words, but just changed the last word of his phrase. I then realized something about Mike. He coached at LSHS and LSW, but lived on the Lee’s Summit North side of town. The school was irrelevant. The eight words: It’s a great day to be a ______! Actually you can fill in whatever mascot you like. I know Mike did.

Mike Spiegel was from New Jersey. He came to Lee’s Summit, raised a family, coached, and taught. Thank you Mike for all of the sacrifices you made for our students. Good luck in your future endeavors. I am sure you will continue to “Work the Turn” and it will be a “great day” wherever you are.


Chad Jansen is a lifelong resident of Lee's Summit and a teacher at LSHS.

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