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A Royal homecoming for WHS' Sorenson-Wagner

Woodbury High School’s new Principal Sarah Sorenson-Wagner began July 1. She previously spent four years as assistant principal at WHS. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

While serving as assistant principal at Park High School for the past two years, Sarah Sorenson-Wagner couldn’t shake a tug in her heart.

“I was homesick,” she said. “I loved my time at Park and it will always have a special place in my heart, but (Woodbury High School) was where I grew to be who I am – it’s like my hometown.”

Sorenson-Wagner, who previously served as assistant principal at WHS, returns home after being hired to succeed the retiring Linda Plante as the school’s principal.

“I taught here, I was assistant principal here, people know me here,” she said. “I live in Woodbury, I go to church in Woodbury, my kids go to school in Woodbury, so it just feels like this is my hometown and this is my community.”

Sorenson-Wagner began in her role as principal on July 1.

A career in District 833

Sorenson-Wagner said she always knew she wanted to go into education since it’s in her family – her mother and grandmother were both teachers – and had every intention of going into elementary education as she attended classes at the University of Minnesota.

However, it was a summer job that really put her on the correct career path.

During her summer breaks, Sorenson-Wagner would work as a counselor at Courage North, a summer camp for adults and students with a variety of disabilities.

It was during one summer that Sorenson-Wagner worked with deaf students and it was then that she realized where her passion was.

“That’s where I learned sign language and decided to go into special education, specifically deaf education,” she said.

Sorenson-Wagner received her master’s degree in educational psychology and teacher licensure for deaf and hard of hearing from the University of Minnesota.

Sorenson-Wagner began working in District 833 in 2000 as a teacher for deaf and hard of hearing students.

In her role, she traveled among four or five schools on a daily basis working with students.

Sorenson-Wagner decided to go back to school at Saint Mary’s University in order to earn her director of special education licensure. She also decided to “throw a principal’s license in there too.”

In 2008, Sorenson-Wagner was hired as assistant principal at WHS.

“This brand new door kind of flung open and I was kicked through it,” she said. “It was not necessarily something that I was pursuing.”

Sorenson-Wagner spent four years at WHS as assistant principal before being transferred to Park.

“I gained new administrative experience in a different, large high school,” she said.

Educator vs. administrator

Sorenson-Wagner said working as an administrator is very different from working as a classroom teacher, but it’s just as rewarding.

“I’m helping teachers be the best teachers they can be so they can have that impact on students,” she said. “It’s my job to take down those barriers so teachers can do their job effectively.”

Even though Sorenson-Wagner doesn’t have as much day-to-day interaction with students as an administrator, she said she still feels like she is having a big impact on students.

“I’ve found that I’ve been able to have a neat influence and still balance using my special education experience and advocating for all students,” she said. “I’m seeing the needs of students with disabilities or at risk students through a different lens.

“I still get to be a caring adult that is there to advocate for them.”

Working together

Sorenson-Wagner said she doesn’t have any specific plans for WHS, but the first goal is to do some needs analysis and help bring the new administrators up to speed.

WHS recently hired two new assistant principals, Mark Canton and Chai Lee, who will succeed Todd Herber and Rob Bach, who have taken principal jobs outside of the district.

“Much of work right now is becoming cohesive,” Sorenson-Wagner said. “It’s not like I’m coming in with big thoughts for change.

“I’m going to spend my time looking at where I can be of influence or where I can help support the things that are happening.”

Sorenson-Wagner said she is eagerly awaiting the first day of school and the hustle and bustle that comes with it.

“I’m looking forward to just having teachers and students back in the building,” she said. “It feels a little surreal right now because there’s five to 10 of us working here during the day and that’s not what a school is.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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