East High School Teacher Jim Salker

Sioux City, Iowa – From November through February, Jim Salker lives his life “Iowa style,” a term die-hard wrestling fans know all about.

During the day, Jim is building relationships in Compass Academy at East High School, helping students find ways to unlock their potential. By night, he’s on the wrestling mat, donning his stripes as an official for boys and girls high school wrestling. It’s a grueling schedule but one that Jim enjoys.

A special education teacher in the Sioux City Community School District for 16 years, Jim began his career in the District after conversations with fellow teachers confirmed this was the place for him. Spending his first 13 years in North High School’s social studies department, Jim joined Compass Academy at East High School three years ago.

While teaching can have its up and downs, Jim has learned to roll with what comes his way.  

“Every student has something unique and wonderful about them. Getting to know them, building a relationship, and helping them to maximize and unlock their potential is very rewarding,” says Jim. “The most challenging thing is the students who face childhood adversity and who do not respond to help from their teachers or the District. We work very hard to give them a sense of purpose and positively impact their situation.”

When things don’t work out, Jim keeps a healthy perspective. He lives by the motto that tomorrow is a new day.

“Even the best intentions and interventions sometimes fall a little short of getting a student, who is off track, back on track. On those days, I remind myself and the student that tomorrow is a new day. In many cases, the students have positive results the following day,” adds Jim.

He also believes in the power of relationships, whether it’s with his students or on the wrestling mat. Jim started officiating high school wrestling in 1998 at the urging of a friend.

“Officiating wrestling has allowed me to stay connected to a sport I love, but the most rewarding aspect of officiating is the lifelong friendships I have made with officials and coaches across Iowa,” Jim says.

That includes mentoring. Through the work of Jim and others in the officiating world, there is now a network of veteran officials who mentor new officials says Jim.

“The feedback I receive from those using the system is extremely positive. Officials know they have a support system in place to listen, talk, and educate them as needed.”

In recognition of his officiating work, the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association named Jim the State Official of the Year. He received the honor in early February during the first IGHSAU state girls wrestling championship.

When Jim has a few free moments, he enjoys hunting and fishing, eating the occasional tuna casserole, and spending time with his wife, Kelly, and children Cole, Cody, and Emma. Even then, his students are never far from his mind.

“Building relationships with students is vital to earning their trust. I’ve found that letting students know you truly care and want to help them succeed is important to their success,” says Jim. “Being consistent and genuine with my students definitely helps, too.”