Q&A Jennifer Straus

Educators throughout the area have been busy working on creative teaching solutions to accommodate the unique learning challenges due to COVID-19. Jennifer Straus is one of them. The first-year principal of Badger High School — the first woman in that role — is no stranger to the flexibility required in this ever-changing environment, bringing a wealth of experience to the job.

Straus has been at Badger for over a decade, beginning as associate principal then being named interim principal for the 2019-20 school year. Before coming to Badger, she taught at Delavan-Darien High School for 13 years. Straus graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with bachelor’s degrees in history, political science and education. She has a master’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Straus told At The Lake, “I absolutely enjoy working with high school students. At this age, they are starting to determine how they want to walk in this life and the school days are never dull.” Here’s more of that conversation:

What is Badger High School’s plan for instruction and extra-curricular activities this fall?

Our reopening plan is designed to continue offering outstanding academic opportunities to our students while providing a healthy environment. Families may choose full-time in-person instruction, full-time livestreaming virtual instruction or a blended instruction plan. Some extracurricular activities, such as the school musical, have been moved to the spring in the hopes they may proceed normally. Decisions about sports are based on guidance from the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) and our conference.

What was the biggest challenge to you and your staff when schools closed in mid-March?

Moving all of our instruction to an online platform in a very short time frame. Our teachers had an online footprint before the school closure was announced. And we are fortunate to have a future oriented school board that invested in 1:1 devices several years ago. The logistics of moving entirely online, took a coordinated effort between our teachers and staff, students and our families. It was impressive to see how all the various professionals in our district — food service, technology, support staff and teachers — all worked together to ensure that our students received what was needed to help make this time period as productive and as healthy as possible for our community.

As the first woman principal at Badger, do you consider yourself a role model?

The role models in my life have been women and men who have lived by example. My goal is to be the best principal I can be for the Badger community and to live my life with compassion and kindness. I do agree with the concept that for students to ‘be it, they need to see it,’ and if having a female principal helps them see their own possibilities and potential then that makes my journey even more worthwhile.

Your long-term vision, as quoted on the Badger website is “Better Never Stops.” Can you explain?

Badger High School is known for high academic achievement, superior facilities, and most important, highly skilled teachers and support staff. We cannot stop there. The last six months have taught us that we must be flexible facing challenges and that we must continue to grow, improve and not become complacent.

What would you consider some of your biggest accomplishments since coming to Badger?

Collaboration. We have an incredibly dedicated staff at Badger. Throughout the years I’ve had the privilege of working collaboratively with them to bring a community garden to Lake Geneva schools, an Up and Out program to support our students in need, and various clubs and activities to support our students and community.

As a former teacher, what to do you miss most about the classroom environment?

The sheer joy of the classroom. Teenagers have much to contribute. They are trying to figure out life for themselves and on a daily basis have much to say about what they are learning and processing. I miss those conversations about government, history and how that all made sense to them. At Badger I’ve enjoyed listening to students through clubs I’ve advised and now through Popcorn with the Principal each month. During the spring, this avenue was suspended but I did hear daily from students and discussed the trials of both school and life during our time away.

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