By Elizabeth Sias
Seventh through 12th graders at Braham High School will start seeing a new face in the hallways this school year.
Justin Sawyer joined Braham Area Schools this summer as the new high school principal.
He grew up in Mora, Minn., where he played football, basketball and track throughout high school.
“Growing up in the area, I was pretty familiar with Braham,” he said. “I feel like it’s a positive community where people rally around the school.”
He continued playing football and track at Northwestern College, then took a job teaching for a year in Hinckley, Minn., where he continued his passion for athletics by coaching track.
While teaching in Ortonville, Minn., Sawyer also coached football and basketball. He taught there for two years before he decided he wanted to be closer to the metro area,
so he took a job in North Branch, where he taught for six years and coached multiple sports every year.
Along with teaching and coaching, Sawyer spent time as dean of students for summer school in North Branch and he filled in for principals in their absence.
While teaching, he received his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Specialist Degree for K-12 Principal from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Sawyer and his wife continue to live in North Branch with their 1-year-old daughter. He applied for a few principal positions, but always knew Braham was somewhere he’d love to work.
“I think there’s a lot of community pride in what happens in the school,” Sawyer said. “Most parents are pretty supportive of what happens here and they want to be part of it, and they want to see kids do well.”
He thought he’d be in the classroom a few more years, but when the opportunity came up to become a principal, he took advantage of it.
His primary responsibility will involve observing and evaluating teachers and working to improve classroom practices and teaching techniques to help teachers provide the best education possible.
“Our big goal is to improve student achievement, and I think we can do that through improving our classroom practices — our lesson planning, our delivery, making things interesting so that kids want to learn it and then trying to provide some motivation for students to be more successful,” Sawyer said
While Sawyer said he’ll miss teaching and coaching, he’s enjoyed getting to know students, staff and parents, and he looks forward to the hallways being filled with students.
“The best thing about working with students is when they have the light bulb moment, when they figure something out for the first time,” he said. “I enjoy watching students as they progress from 7th grade to 12th grade — how much they change, how much they learn throughout that time span. It’s very fulfilling to see them become better people and to be prepared to move on beyond the walls of the high school.”