BRE principal has strong connection to YME community
Follow us on Twitter at @AdvocateTribune
Ask new Bert Raney Elementary principal Lisa Hansen about her dream job and she’ll genuinely tell you she’s landed it.
“I want to be the principal of Bert Raney Elementary when I grow up,” said Hansen. “I’m hoping to be here a long time.”
When school kicks off on Tuesday next week, it will officially mark the return of Hansen to the district where she worked for just a hair under a decade beginning in the summer 1998.
A native of Canby, Hansen earned her BS degree in Elementary Education and minor in Computer Education in 1991. graduating from Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota. Her first teaching opportunity came a few hours north in the small town of Britton, and it was here that she grew as an educator over the next seven years before electing to return home to raise a family with Canby teacher/coach and “boy next door,” Kevin Hansen.
Together, the pair have three children, Canby 8th and 10th graders, Sarah and Sawyer, as well as Stephanie, their eldest, who has followed in the family’s footsteps becoming a fourth generation teacher in northern Minnesota.
Educator and learner
Back in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it was in 1998 that Hansen was hired as a teacher at Yellow Medicine East District where she taught half-time at both H.A. Hagg and Bert Raney Elementary, splitting her time between fifth grade and technology classes, respectively, until moving to Bert Raney the following year exclusively.
A lifelong educator as well as learner, Hansen continued to grow in her field during her off time, earning a Master’s degree in 2001 from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Thereafter, she would continue to stay connected to the school after she was invited to teach graduate students part-time by the St. Mary’s administration.
Holding her post at Bert Raney up until 2007, Hansen would attest to how content she was, noting how difficult it would be for her to accept the 5th grade and technology positions offered by the Canby District, even though they comprised her classes of choice, returned her to her hometown and allowed her to be present during formative years of Sarah and Sawyer.
“It was definitely a mom decision. And that time in Canby was pretty neat,” she said. “But still it was difficult. When I left, I almost felt as if I was leaving my other family behind––and I think that’s a big part of what drew me back.”
Unbeknownst to her at the time, but aiding that return would be Hansen’s continuing education. In 2011, with her mind set on completing the Administrative Degree that would pave the way for her to be a principial, she left Canby and accepted a full-time post at St. Mary’s.
“When I left the classroom, I immediately missed K-12 Education, but I always told my family that if the job at Bert Raney opened up I was to apply because I wanted to come back.”
Hansen earned her degree from St. Mary’s in 2013, putting her in prime position to jump at the opportunity when it was made available in late May. Hansen recalled receiving a flurry of phone calls and text messages alerting her of the opening and that she had zero doubt of her course of action.
“I knew right away I was going to come back.” she said. “And here I am.
A unique connection
Asked to delve into what it was about her BRE tenure that moved her so strongly to return, Hansen said that having so many of the same competent and passionate educators still on staff was certainly a significant draw––but, transcending that, is a depth of relationship with the YME community as a whole, forged under unique and intense circumstances.
“In my nine years at YME we went through significant loss,” she said. “Students, staff members, parents, children... the tornado... In all honesty, I think nine years of sharing those kind of hardships––and, of course, we had our joys as well––but I’m definitely connected.”
Such comments bring an additional dimension to the nostalgic black and white pictures of former students and colleagues that adorn her office walls. She even confesses to have stowed away all her old Sting gear, now ready for resurrection during the high school’s upcoming home games.
Cognizant of the past but with an eye for future, Hansen says she’s hoping to build off the successes achieved by the administration and educators of previous years, while offering undeviating support for the collection of teachers and staff that it will be her responsibility to manage going forward.
“One of the things Bert Raney has is a very experienced well educated passionate staff,” she emphasized. “The teachers that are in this building, they made differences when I was here and I know they made differences after I left. That’s something I know will continue. The community is very lucky to have the teachers we have.”
Beyond that, Hansen noted that BRE was nevertheless a focus school, and as a result it would be on her to guide the implementation of appropriate measures to improve instruction and narrow achievement gaps between the school’s various student populations.
Her affinity for technology and aptitude for data analysis should lend itself well to these ends, as metrics gauging individual and group readiness are more prolific than ever. As an added plus, High School Principal Ryan Luft also delights in data diving, creating an opportunity for shared insights and broader applications.
“I foresee lots of collaboration between buildings,” she said.
Hansen’s openness with the administration carriers over to that which she offers to both teachers and parents. She made it a point to state that it’s the community’s school, and that her door is always open.
“Returning to a place that has always been close to one’s heart, is a gift that many people do not get to experience,” she said. “I am humbled and touched by the opportunity.”