The pursuit of passion

Former West student Marshal Moellers shares how his high school experiences shaped his decision to pursue a career in teaching.


Marshal Moellers teaches physics and earth and space science at West.

Science instructor and 2010 West High graduate Marshal Moellers hadn’t always envisioned himself as a teacher.

“I was a beast at coloring inside the lines [when I was younger]. So I always wanted to be some sort of artist. I was like, ‘I can do this for a job,’” he said. “Turns out, there’s not a very big market for coloring in coloring books.”

As Moellers reached high school his interests branched outside the lines into extracurriculars including tennis, video production and cheering on his fellow athletes from the student section.

“I definitely wanted to be a part of as much as I could,” he said. “I would always go to the volleyball games, the football games … I was an active face [and] body paint[er] for those types of football games.”

It was during high school that Moellers also discovered his passion for acting. He participated in various Theatre West and Student Produced Innovative Theater (SPIT) productions, including Grease, The Princess and the Pea and Taming of the Shrew.

“But I decided that I couldn’t really rap. I tried it out for like a week.”

— Marshal Moellers

“His senior year was my first year as part of the theatre program so we only got to work on one show together—Grease,” English teacher and co-theatre director Ann Rocarek wrote in an email. “Mr. Moellers played the part of Sonny. That show was so much fun—especially because he was a part of it.”

Through his relationship with Rocarek, Moellers earned his nickname “Slim.”

“My name, if you say it right, kind of sounds like ‘Marshall Mathers’ … So Ms. Rocarek decided to call me ‘Slim’ as in Slim Shady,” he said. “But I decided that I couldn’t really rap. I tried it out for like a week.”

“I called him ‘Slim’ for years,” Rocarek wrote in an email, noting that “Slim” is how he is saved in her contact list, “so it is hard to think of him as Marshal, let alone Mr. Moellers.”

As his K-12 education started to wind down, Moellers was forced to confront a dilemma regarding his future plans. His passion for theatre was still very present, but he felt it wouldn’t be a profitable path to pursue.

“I feel like West High prepared me very well for college … But there’s just so many things that you really can’t be prepared for until you go there.”

— Marshal Moellers

“I think it’s only like three percent [of actors] … make enough money just solely from acting to sustain a reasonable lifestyle. So I’m like, just realistically, I’m not going to be that guy. I’m not that good.”

From there, he considered teaching, but it wasn’t until he took his first physics class with science teacher Matt Harding that he really felt content with pursuing it as a career.

“I think originally, if I was going to be a teacher I was going to do math, and then I took physics and it literally changed my life,” said Moellers. “[Harding] was such a fun, funny teacher and I was so interested that I wanted to pursue more of physics … I think I’m getting the best of both worlds with this one,” he said, seeing the profession as a way to combine his love of physics and performing.

Although Moellers was fairly certain he knew what he wanted to major in, the transition from a structured high school schedule to college freedom didn’t come easily.

“I feel like West High prepared me very well for college (at the University of Iowa). But there’s just so many things that you really can’t be prepared for until you go there … there was so much of this open window to do whatever I wanted, that it was really hard for me to focus my energy [into getting good grades]. But I can eat lunch whenever I want to,” he said.

By the time his sophomore year of college rolled around, Moellers became more organized by hanging his plans for classes and grades up on his fridge and ultimately committing to pursue a career in teaching. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2015 Moellers taught earth and space science at Davenport North High School for three years before hearing about an open science position at West.

“I was not actively seeking another job when the opportunity sprung up,” he wrote in an email. “Only when my old tennis coach … Mitch Gross sent me a text asking if I had ever hoped to work at West, and if so, I should apply for the upcoming science position.”

Now that he has returned to his alma mater, Moellers hopes to get involved in the school as much as possible.

“I really loved theater as a student, as such, this year I have plans to help out with the theater department for their upcoming shows,” he said.  “So I’ll be helping out as needed with building the set, managing the sound, and assisting with the lights for the show.”.

Along with theatre, Moellers plans to help coach tennis, lead film club and attend various sporting events throughout the year.