Mike Stills, lifelong resident and Police Chief of Lake Station, knew he would one day return to a much simpler, but just as important duty – working with children. Today, Stills is working through his new line of duty: his first year as Assistant Principal at Portage High School for 11th grade.
When Stills was growing up, trying to figure out what it was that he wanted to spend his life doing for a career, becoming a teacher was always what came to mind. When he presented the idea of becoming a teacher to his mother, who was and is still one of his greatest influences, he took her words seriously when she gave him her two cents on the matter.
“My mom talked me out of it because of how underpaid and underappreciated teachers are,” said Stills.
That’s when Stills joined the force at LSPD, where he served as an officer for 23 ½ years. Not being a teacher didn’t stop Stills from pursuing his passion in being a mentor for kids during his police career. In fact, Stills has volunteered as a coach and referee on many different youth sports leagues around the area.
Stills and a colleague he worked with from the little leagues would often give back in the ways they could outside of sports games. Whether it was delivering food with his friend to people who were in need, or dressing up as Santa and dropping off toys to children less fortunate, working with children has been what Stills has always valued most.
“Those times were the best times of the year; being able to do that,” said Stills.
Though the force is a different realm of working with kids, he took advantage of any opportunity that came his way, never hesitant to lend a helping hand.
When the opportunity to go back for his master’s degree in education arose, Stills grabbed it, and received his degree a little while before his retirement from LSPD. Once he did retire, he was working for emergency services at US Steel, and it was at this time that he was offered the assistant principal position, which he gladly accepted at Portage High School.
Stills has continued to work hard as a mentor for those he serves. Growing up with many mentors that helped Stills through the hardships of being raised in a lower socioeconomic environment is one of the reasons why he believes so strongly in paying it forward.
“To be able to teach kids something like giving back and what it does and why it’s important is incredible,” said Stills
Now, in his first year, he admits that he certainly took a pay cut to get where he is now in his career, what he gets out of working with children is invaluable and priceless compared to salary.
“It’s a decision I don’t regret,” stated Stills.