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Meet Burnside Principal Jennie Bordonaro

From an early age, Jennie Bordonaro was sure of her future in education.

"I was one of those kids that always wanted to be a teacher," Bordonaro said, recalling how she never shied away from trying to make school more interesting.

Born and raised in rural Iowa before relocating to White Bear Lake, Minn., Bordonaro comes from a long line of two professions: preachers and teachers. Her parents, brothers and extended family have all followed suit, and Jennie is no exception.

Bordonaro was named the new principal of Burnside Elementary School following the resignation of longtime Red Wing educator Sheila Beckner.

Bordonaro began her teaching career in Houston, Texas, in the mid 2000s. After earning a bachelor's degree from St. Kate's in elementary education, Bordonaro chose to look for work outside of Minnesota.

Sooner than expected for a teacher entering her first classroom, Bordonaro found herself pushed toward leadership roles. Several teaching methods she just finished courses in were not widely known or implemented in Texas yet.

"They were the only methods I knew, but the others teachers has no exposure to them. Teachers would sit in on classes and watch how they were structured," she said.

Bordonaro spent two years in Texas before returning to Minnesota with a job offer teaching fifth grade in Burnsville and a marriage proposal from her high school sweetheart, Chris.

Professional development

Bordonaro was in the classroom for four years while she obtained a master's degree in differentiated instruction.

"In its simplest terms, differentiated instruction is figuring out what every child needs and how to give them what that," Bordonaro said, "Knowing your kids, knowing them as learners and knowing them as people."

With her new training, Bordonaro took a position as an interventionist, helping students with reading, math and behavior.

"For whatever reason a child was not getting everything they need in the classroom, I would work with them," she said.

Her work as an interventionist grew Bordonaro's passion for curriculum and instruction, and led her to complete principal administration licensure program at Hamline University.

"I never became a teacher to become a principal, but my feel for leadership came on fast as I grew in education," she said.

Discovering Red Wing

Bordonaro is hesitant to admit that before the job opening, she didn't know much about Red Wing. Summer construction kept Burnside staff out of the school, leaving Bordonaro with the opportunity to be housed with the district's other new principal, Mike Pagel, at Sunnyside.

"It was really beneficial for both of us," Bordonaro said. "We really got to bond and connect while bouncing ideas off each other."

Lunch and coffee meetings with staff all over town gave Bordonaro more opportunities to learn the lay of the land. Her husband and their 2-year old daughter, Liana, have taken in the bluffs, riverfront and the River City Days parade.

"Liana got quite the haul of candy wearing her Winger purple," Bordonaro said.

While Bordonaro will continue living in Rosemount after recently building a house there, she said she already feels at home in Red Wing.

"Everytime I make that drive into town, my heart feels warm," she said. "I didn't even know communities like this still existed."

Looking at the big picture

Following Beckner's 10-year tenure at Burnside, Bordanaro said she has been left in a great spot.

"Coming into the place that Sheila left me, I trust the system that she set in place," she said. "Things at Burnside have been going so well, I am excited to start the year and see if we have any ideas to tap into to make things even better."

Bordonaro said she has always been a 'big picture' person, from all perspectives.

"Our job in elementary education is to have every child engaged, learning and wanting more. We want to teach them how to be curious, how to foster that curiosity," she said. "We do so by being innovative, thinking outside the box and by working tirelessly."

Coming from a culturally diverse Burnsville district, Bordonaro said her passion for equity and cultural proficiency will continue in Red Wing.

"Every single child is important," she said. "No matter their status or upbringing, in school they all have equal access. I am asking how are we supporting all of our kids toward that access."

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