Positivity, communication, and a student-first focus are the main goals for the incoming Lincoln Elementary principal
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Brooke Bargender will bring solid experience to her new role as the principal of Lincoln Elementary School. Prior to accepting this new position she had been principal of Athens Elementary School for four years. At Lincoln she will replace Todd Felhofer, who is now the district administrator for the Greenwood School District.
Bargender completed her undergraduate degree in family consumer sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2002. She then taught high school at Kaukauna for five years and following that returned to central Wisconsin to teach middle and high school at Spencer.
She earned her master’s degree in principal leadership/director of instruction, and when she took the position of principal at Athens Elementary, she also assumed the role of curriculum director. After four years at Athens, Bargender decided it was time for a change. She had previously student-taught in Marshfield and said she made the move to Lincoln in part because it would give her a chance to focus solely on the role of being principal.
“I was so many roles in a small district, which was good because I learned so much, but now I can focus just on being principal,” Bargender said.
Her husband Ryan is the now principal at Abbotsford Middle School/High School, so the two can swap stories, advice, and best practices. Bargender said that she is excited to start the year and get acquainted with staff and students.
“No. 1 concern is the students and what can we do to provide them the best education possible,” she said. “I just really look forward to my new adventure and helping in whatever way I can.”
She said her average day during the summer has largely revolved around the technical details of the position: getting acclimated to a new computer system, reviewing school policies, paperwork, and finding out more about the district and her students. As principal Bargender said her job is to be a role model and instructional leader for students and staff and that she would like to be in the classroom observing teachers, talking with students, and meeting parents as often as possible.
“If we do it as a team, as a family, good relationships, that’s going to be real key. Building those relationships with students, parents, community, staff, you know I think that’s really important,” she said. As the main authority figure of the school, Bargender said it is important for her to strike a balance and maintain students’ respect while also being approachable.
“My door is always open, and everybody can say that, but I really want (to) enforce that. I don’t want to be (the) one sitting at my desk doing the paperwork. Does it have to be done? Absolutely, but can I do that after hours? I can,” she said.
She added that the question regarding any decision she makes will be, “How is this best for the students?” Bargender emphasized that it is important for her to develop a team culture where teachers feel their input is heard with the end goal of continually building a stronger school. Transparency with staff, students, and parents is also crucial to her.
“Communication is No. 1 for me,” Bargender said. She added that it is important for her to give teachers positive feedback and reinforcement.
“We have amazing teachers,” she said, adding that she wants to make sure the community and parents know the high caliber of educators the school has.
Bargender said from an early point in her life she knew that working with children is what she wanted to do.
“I babysat from young on,” she said. “I like going to work. I like my job. I have four kids of my own. I just love working with kids. If that ever changes, then I better be out of education because you know what? Then I’m not where I’m supposed to be.”
It seems that at this point, Bargender is exactly where she is supposed to be.