Mr. Palkki: Called to Christian Leadership

by Journalism student, Sarah M.

Former 5th grade teacher, Mr. Palkki has stepped into a new position this year as the new Lower School Principal. This year is Mr. Palkki’s 10th year at New Life, but for the past nine years he worked as one of the 5th grade teachers. Mr. Palkki has always loved serving others which he believes is the core of what he’s always felt a calling to be involved in: Christian leadership.

“I most specifically loved being able to teach kids about Jesus and motivate and inspire them. I love seeing the lightbulb turn on when a student just starts to understand and get it,” Mr. Palkki explained. “The teachers here have a calling to point kids to Christ every day and be the best they can be.”

Mr. Palkki’s calling to become a teacher began during winter break of his sophomore year of college. When he was visiting family in Grand Rapids, he went on a walk with his mom and saw an elementary teacher snowshoeing with her class through some nature trails. He thought that it looked really fun working with kids and started considering it as a career. After continuing to think about what teaching may look like for him, he began questioning his major, which was originally journalism. Mr. Palkki remembers praying about it and he felt God tell him to give it a shot. Looking back at his time teaching, he believes it was a very rewarding career.

“One of the things I miss most about teaching in a classroom was the daily contact I got to have with the kids, but in my new role I still get to visit classrooms and spend time with kids at lunch and recess, as well as Wednesday chapels with the whole student body,” Mr. Palkki said. “The heart of why I got into education was to point kids to Jesus.”

When the principal position opened last year, Mr. Palkki felt the Lord direct him to apply for the job and go through the process for the role. He believed that it seemed like a great opportunity to use his gifts to lead, serve, and support the school, but his prayer was that if God wanted him in this position, he would open the doors and follow God’s peace. Mr. Palkki has been living by the phrase “follow God’s peace” ever since a former Christian school principal encouraged him to do so when making big life decisions.

John, Beckham, and Declan are current fifth grade students who get to have Mr. Palkki as their principal this year.

“You can tell he takes his job seriously because he’s always on top of things. He’s also very helpful and cool,” Beckham said. “He’s inspiring, calm, and chill. I like when he visits our classroom to help us with our work. Especially math,” Declan shared. “He’s a good leader to the school and is very kind. He’s also good at calming people down,” John explained.

Mr. Palkki said, “I felt so blessed and so excited to have been given this opportunity. I’m grateful to God and to the school for believing in and trusting me with leading the Lower School.” He adds, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to point kids to Jesus and impact their lives in a greater capacity and ff course, the opportunity to inspire and work alongside some amazing teachers.”

Claire, a former student of Mr. Palkki said, “Mr. Palkki is definitely my favorite teacher I’ve had. He always made class fun and has had the biggest impact on me and my experience at New Life. I wish I still had him!”

For Mr. Palkki, balancing his work and home life has always been a challenge, but he’s learned to be very intentional about maintaining a healthy work-life balance so that he gives 100 percent when he’s working and gives 100 percent when he’s at home with his family. His goal has been to have a healthy balance and says it all comes down to intentionality.

New Life has become a family for Mr. Palkki and he feels that in a sense, has raised him since he began working at New Life in his early 20s. He really enjoys the tremendous amount of love and support the community has for each other, as well as the very strong emphasis on Godly and Christian values New Life has to offer. It’s been a full circle moment for Mr. Palkki since he also sees the impact of New Life on his daughter, who’s been attending for three years.

Mr. Palkki explained, “Every transition in life comes with challenges. There have been challenges with taking on this new role but my focus throughout the challenges is truly to lean into God and to allow him to direct my steps.”