'He helps us a lot': Elgin principal focuses on giving students opportunities

When Marc Spacone became principal at Larsen Middle School in Elgin, he knew his back corner office would not do.

He didn't want students, parents or teachers to have to go through a secretary to get to him or be hidden away or out of view from the community he serves. So, the corner office became a file room, and Spacone took over a conference room near the front desk.

“It made no sense,” he said the corner office. “The principal's office was the corner office behind the secretary - no windows, no approachability and you're hiding behind a secretary.

“The first thing I said was I'm moving out of that corner office and I'm making myself a space where people can come to me.”

He proudly points to fingerprints on the window looking into his office, noting that teachers, parents and students regularly walk by and tap on his window to come in to chat.

  When he talks to students, Larsen Middle School Principal Marc Spacone makes sure to ask them to list one thing that is working well at the Elgin school and one thing that could be improved. Brian Hill/

“The principal's job first and foremost is to be there for his or her students, the teachers and the community,” he said.

Earlier this year, Spacone, who has been principal at Larsen Middle School since 2021, was named the Illinois Principal Association's Middle School Principal of the Year for the Kishwaukee Region, which includes schools in Kane, DeKalb, Winnebago, Boone and McHenry counties.

“Principal Spacone is a hands-on leader who easily develops strong relationships with his students at Larsen and has established a commitment to high standards and success for all students,” said Annette Acevedo, executive director of middle schools for Elgin Area Unit District 46.

  Marc Spacone, principal at Larsen Middle School in Elgin, started his career in 1999 as a social studies teacher. A son of Italian immigrants, he encourages students to dream big and not let obstacles stand in their way. Brian Hill/

“He encourages his teachers to foster a culture of respect and growth in their classrooms,” she added. “We're fortunate to have him leading Larsen Middle School.”

Students at Larsen say Spacone is an advocate and recount stories of how he's helped them navigate middle school life.

“He's very nice,” seventh grade student Julian Velazquez said. “He helps us a lot ... we can always go to him, and he will help us.”

Spacone, who also serves on the Lake Zurich village board, started his career in 1999 as a social studies teacher. His career has included a variety of roles, such as divisional chair, dean of students, director of student activities and assistant principal. In addition to serving as principal at Larsen Middle School, Spacone is an adjunct professor at Concordia University, teaching education leadership courses.

The son of Italian immigrants, Spacone said teachers who helped him as a student helped inspire him to pursue a career in education.

“Teaching was just always there for me,” said Spacone, who also was a first-generation college student. “I wanted to give back to kids like me who needed opportunities.”

As his parents did with him, Spacone encourages his students to “dream big” and not let obstacles stand in their way.

  Larsen Middle School Principal Marc Spacone says a principal's job is to be there for his students and staff. When he first started as principal at Larsen in 2021, Spacone moved the principal's office from a back corner to a conference room closer to the main office so students, teachers and parents could feel they could approach him. Brian Hill/

“Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're not smart enough, you're not fast enough or you're not this or that,” he tells students. “You're always going to have doubters in life; but what are you going to do to get beyond that?”

A cheerleader for his students, staff and school families, Spacone focuses on making sure students are getting what they need to be successful. He regularly asks those he meets with to identify something the school can improve upon and something the school is doing right and works to address those needs, whether it's a change in a school form to let students identify preferred pronouns or updates to a dated cafeteria.

“I'm really honored that I have the opportunity to do this work in this district for this community,” he said. “I'm trying to really give our kids every opportunity to be successful.”

Curriculum vitae

Name: Marc Spacone

School: Larsen Middle School in Elgin

Occupation: Principal

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, Northern Illinois University (1994); Masters in Education, Teaching and Learning, DePaul University (1999); Master of Arts, Educational Leadership, Northeastern Illinois University (2006)

Work history: Social studies teacher, various schools, 1999-2009; School Improvement Coordinator, Libertyville High School, 2006-2009; Dean of Students and Bridges Evening Program Administrator, Warren Township High School, 2009-2012; Principal, North Cook Young Adult Academy, 2012-2014; Director of Student Activities/Dean of Students/Interim Division Chair, East Aurora High School, 2014-2016; Assistant Principal, Larsen Middle School, 2016-2021; Principal, Larsen Middle School, 2021 to present; Adjunct faculty, Concordia University, 2013 to present

Other: Lake Zurich village trustee, 2014-present

Principal's pointers

Larsen Middle School Principal Marc Spacone began his career in education in 1999 and has served in various roles, including social studies teacher, dean of students, assistant principal and principal. Here are some of his top tips for students, teachers and principals:

For teachers

Always make it about the kids, they are the sole focus of our work.

It's OK to fail and especially important for our students to see us fail and learn to move forward.

For students

Our failure leads to our success.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't capable; prove them wrong.

For principals

Be authentic with everyone.

Integrity is all you have.

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