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With encouragement from Ms. Kasper, Ms. Penning and Ms. Hoverston, my Language Arts teachers at Frances M. Grass Junior High in West St. Paul, I was certain my career would involve writing. Following graduation from Augsburg College in Minneapolis with a major in Communications and a minor in English, I worked as a reporter at the Dakota County Tribune.
After two years, the publishers tapped me to lead a new free-distribution newspaper called Burnsville Thisweek. The success of that paper subsequently spurred editions in three nearby suburbs. Another highlight during my five-year tenure as editor was receiving a Page One Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Although my career took a new direction, my commute remained essentially the same. For the next nearly 18 years, I served as the Communications Coordinator for Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Public Schools. There, one of the most challenging experiences (but, in hindsight, also one of my best learning experiences) was the 1994 $15 million arson fire at Burnsville High School. Our total communications response earned a Diamond Award from the Minnesota School Public Relations Association, a cover story in PR Reporter and many speaking engagements on crisis communications.
Since April 2006, it has been my privilege to serve as Orono’s first full-time Director of Communications. In 2008, our “Building Minds, Minding Buildings” public engagement campaign received a Gold Medallion Award. It is the highest honor given by the National School Public Relations Association, and only six were awarded for projects throughout North America that year.
Communicating well is a never-ending goal and, with new technology, it has also become a moving target. Yet every day I am inspired to set the bar higher and try harder, fueled by the pride that this community has in its schools and the support that it shows for its students.