Merced High's passionate principal awarded

Posted: May 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm

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John Olson has a passion for sports and coaching. Earlier in his life, he managed sporting goods stores in Merced, Modesto and San Luis Obispo.

But the best decision the 48-year-old Merced High School principal said he ever made was to go back to school and get his teaching credential. That has led to a 21-year education career and recent recognition as the top secondary school principal in Merced, Mariposa, Madera and Fresno counties.

"I'm thrilled with the award," Olson said. "It was a real honor and is an indication of the success of the school. I look at Merced High School as a beacon of hope. We do incredible things here, and I have a wonderful staff."

Olson comes from a family of educators. His dad, Robert Olson, was a longtime agriculture and science teacher at Livingston High School and his mom is a registered nurse who taught adult courses.

Olson's wife, Irma Ayala-Olson, is principal of Alicia Reyes Elementary School in Merced and his son, Tony, 27, is a flight instructor and helicopter pilot in Long Beach. The Olsons' daughter, Danielle Mahler, 25, is a senior at California State University, Stanislaus, and wants to be a physical therapist.

"My passion is teaching and coaching," Olson said. "Physically it's tough and you can work long hours. I get revived with athletics and extracurricular activities. Merced High School is a wonderful school, and I love it here. It's a great school, it really is."

Olson's love for Merced High impresses Stephanie Cowperthwaite, a campus security liaison.

"He's awesome; he's like a cheerleader for the kids and staff, too," Cowperthwaite said. "He's accessible, easy to talk to and really a nice guy. He knows more kids by name than any principal. He gets really involved with kids and that's really cool. We're really proud of him."

English teacher Michelle Dillon said Olson's leadership style reminds her of retired Merced High principal Tom Scheidt.

"Principal Olson makes us feel we are truly part of the Bear family," Dillon said. "He makes us feel like we matter and are valued. We know he cares about all of us. He exudes Bear pride and tremendous school spirit."

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Merced High's passionate principal awarded

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May 22nd, 2012 at 2:18 pm

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