District Interim Superintendent awarded


courtesy @shorewoodschools on Instagram

The Outstanding Educator Award, of which Dr. Sternke is a recipient, seeks to recognize those with a lifetime of service in education.

On April 26, Dr. JoAnn Sternke, interim superintendent, received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators. Sternke was presented with her award at the WASDA Annual Recognition Banquet in Madison. 

The criteria for the Outstanding Educator Award is a lifetime of service in education. For Sternke, this includes her work both as an administrator and as a mentor to future administrators. 

“I think [it’s about a] lifetime of service in my profession but also about teaching people to be superintendents and mentoring them,” Sternke said. “I taught in the Doctoral Program and in the Superintendent Licensure Program at Cardinal Stritch for 20 years and have always really enjoyed teaching teachers and teaching administrators to be better administrators.” 

Sternke emphasized the role superintendents play in schools and the unique opportunities that come with holding an administrative position. 

“It may not be as student-facing as the teachers, but an administrator can shape things in amazing ways for student learning and student wellbeing and that’s what I think is really important about this work,” Sternke said. “At a time where we need more people to be [in education], it’s been nice to be an ambassador that can have a wonderful career and make a difference in the trajectory of students’ lives.”

A quality Sternke highlighted as key to success in her position was leadership.

“I always like to say I think a superintendent is the Chief Executive Officer of the school district,” Sternke said. “I work with the School Board and our team of leaders to make sure that our teachers can do the work that they need to do to make our mission alive and make students successful.”

Sternke said there are three core values she uses to stay focused in her work.

“I always say that I think great leaders work with their hearts, their heads, and their hands, and I try to find the right balance of all of those in the work that I do,” Sternke said. “It’s about using your heart, having those values and a mission; your head, having to know about things like managing finances, the vision, the strategic plan; but then you have to be able to get the work done, and that’s just about working hard.”

Although the Outstanding Educator Award was an honor for Sternke, it was never something she had aspired to achieve. 

“I was humbled, I guess is the word,” Sternke said. “I don’t think anyone does this for the recognition; it’s not why we go into teaching.”

…its been nice to be an ambassador that can… make a difference the trajectory of students’ lives.

— JoAnn Sternke, interim superintendent

At the Educational Conference in Madison where Sternke received her award, she had the chance to meet with educators across the state and discuss different issues and ideas. 

“[The conference] was a really nice opportunity not only to network with other people in the profession, but also to learn,” Sternke said. “[There were] some new trends and new [ideas] around how students can learn more impactfully and how we can really set up systems to manage our finances and make good decisions that way.”

According to Sternke, her summer plans include both welcoming and easing the transition for the new superintendent hire, Laurie Burgos.

“My plans for the summer are to make sure that Laurie Burgos, our incoming superintendent, has a terrific transition and will hit the ground running and be successful,” Sternke said. “She will be a terrific superintendent here, and I want to do everything in my power to help her be successful, so mentoring her is job number one for me, making sure that she has all the support that she needs.”

Although Sternke is not firmly decided on her future plans, she does have an idea of what she would like to do going forward. 

“I want to enjoy my family but I also want to make sure that I’m giving back to our profession; I’ll probably just do it in a different way,” Sternke said. “I’ll take some time this summer and then I’ll figure out what those next steps will be.”