Elmbrook Superintendent Mark Hansen believes career preparation programs don’t just give students a jumpstart into the workforce.
Students in the School District of Elmbrook are working on projects with teams of professionals that help businesses such as Milwaukee Tool meet their goals, says Hansen, Wisconsin’s 2024 Superintendent of the Year.
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“Historically, schools have gone to business with hands out, looking for donations, looking for monetary endorsements,” he explains. “This is more of a handshake. We want to provide a value add for the business and provide our students with an experience that might mirror what they’ll experience into adulthood.”
Meanwhile, he believes his students are well on their way to recovering academically from the disruptions of the last few years. However, some of the district’s youngest students are struggling with behavior, particularly with regulating emotions and executive functioning.
“We’ll get through this,” he notes. “Our learning loss recovered. We’re now achieving at pre-pandemic levels,” he explains. “But we’re going to be helping a handful of kids just back to a normal school setting.”
One of his biggest concerns for his district is shortages—not only in classrooms—but of bus drivers, food service workers and teaching assistants. The district recently launched a “future teachers” program where high school students can model district teachers in their classrooms.
“When I first started in 2021 we used to get 700-900 applicants for an elementary teaching job,” he notes. “We’re now getting about 50.”
In this video Q&A, Hansen covers “Launch,” Elmbrook’s career-based learning program, and some of his other priorities—community engagement and early college.