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Mike Zimmers, giant in Springfield education world, dead at 73

Mike Zimmers for 186 Facebook page
Mike Zimmers spent 34 years as a teacher, coach, vice principal, principal and administrator in District 186 before serving nearly a decade on the school board. Zimmers died Wednesday morning.

Longtime District 186 teacher, principal and administrator — and current board member — Mike Zimmers died Wednesday morning.

He was 73.

In a news release, the district called Zimmers’ death “an unimaginable loss” and lauded him as a “fearless leader” who “devoted his life to helping the children and educators in our community.”

“Mike was a person that everyone wanted to be around, his intelligence and words of wisdom helped guide and mentor so many within District 186 and beyond,” the release said.

Zimmers’ family says he passed away in his sleep after attending a marathon 11-hour bargaining session with the Springfield Education Association union on Tuesday.

Zimmers has spent nearly a decade on the school board, including a three-year term as board president. He’d recently announced he wouldn’t be running for the school board again in the spring.

Before serving on the board in retirement, Zimmers spent 34 years in District 186, beginning as a special education teacher and basketball coach. Zimmers went on to serve as vice principal and eventually principal of Jefferson Middle School before closing out his career overseeing principals in the district’s central office.

Zimmers was also a prolific volunteer, a member of the local Rotary Club and sat on the board of now-shuttered MacMurray College, his alma mater.

Zimmers’ daughter, Layne Zimmers, followed in her father’s footsteps and is currently completing an administrative internship at Franklin Middle School after having worked in District 186 for 15 years.

Hannah covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and Illinois Public Radio. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at outlets including WILL-AM/FM, Law360, The Daily Line and a temporary stint at political blog Capitol Fax before returning to the station in 2020.
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