“Today’s joke of the day,” Nick Pannell, 37, announces into an intercom transmitter: “Where do baby ghosts go in the daytime?”
He pauses before answering: “A day-scare center!”
Nick has coached high school soccer for 14 years at Montgomery County High School, but was appointed principal of Mount Sterling’s new Montgomery Elementary School in 2018.
“I love the relationships, getting to know kids in a different way than on the field," Nick says. But taking on his new role doesn’t mean quitting his old one.
An unconventional figure as a studio arts enthusiast and tenacious soccer coach, Nick uses his foundation in athletics to help students build a work ethic in the classroom.
Nick’s biggest challenge is managing the two jobs at once. It's tiring—but a combination he finds worthwhile. He believes that success isn’t how far you’ve come, but how far you’ve come since you’ve started.
“The one thing I always try to promote is making sure you care about the people you’re surrounded by,” says Nick. “Once you show you care – that they’re in it with you, or you’re in with them – they’ll work hard for you.”
Nick and his family had only the necessities as he grew up. Living with his mother and older sister, Nick worked through high school. He realized that if he were to go forward, he had to break the cycle. He was first in his family to attend college.
“I paid for my own little apartment at $200 a month, without a traditional college campus experience,” says Nick. “I really worked as hard as I could to get out of that.”
Nick met his father only once. Four years after they met, his father was killed in a car accident.
“Now that I’m older, I do wish at some point I got to know him," Nick says. "That’s what pushes me, motivates me to be a good dad, and maybe even for kids here.”
Nick notes that many boys live with their grandparents or have fathers who are incarcerated. "They don’t have that example,” he says. “In soccer, if I can teach them to be good young men, I’ll take that over winning a district championship." Though Nick has been asked to coach elsewhere, he prefers to stay in Mt. Sterling.
"There’s something special about being here and playing soccer in the same area I grew up,” he says.
Nick expects his future to continue in education, and in Montgomery County.
“This is my home, where I’m meant to be,” he says.