by Mike Knaak
Sascha Hansen stepped into her first leadership role when she was an eighth-grader playing point guard on the Marshall High School basketball team.
On the basketball court, the point guard is the floor captain, essentially directing the team’s offense, and a young Sascha found herself leading teammates who were five years older. After her freshman year as a starter on the St. Cloud State University basketball team, Hansen helped rally her teammates after a disappointing season. The next year, as a sophomore, she was elected a team captain and in her final year the team made the Division II Final Four.
Now, years later, her next leadership opportunity will be at Sartell High School where she will be principal, replacing Brenda Steve who is retiring after 32 years in the district.
“There’s no other place I would want to be,” Hansen said. “Sartell is my home away from home. I’ve been here since 2002 when I started my college career. This is a great place and a great atmosphere to be a part of.”
Hansen earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health with a coaching minor from St. Cloud State. She planned a career as a college coach but decided the recruiting and year-round schedule wasn’t for her. She chose the classroom instead.
“When I student taught, I loved showing up every day and connecting with kids,” Hansen said. “I was at a road as to whether I was going to continue college coaching or start my career as an educator.”
Hansen served as a long-term substitute at Talahi Community School in St. Cloud, teaching second and fourth grades.
The Sartell-St. Stephen district hired her in 2011 to teach physical education and health part time at the high school and middle school. When a position opened, Hansen moved full time to the high school, teaching health and physical education for six years.
During that time, Hansen enrolled in a finance class taught by former Sartell superintendent Kay Worner while completing her master’s in education.
“I thought that was super fascinating to see the other side of a school system,” Hansen said. “I talked with Kay and she encouraged me to pursue my educational leadership master’s. That ignited a passion of leadership in education.”
When she finished her K-12 principal license, there was an opening at the high school for an assistant principal, a role she’s held for the last three years.
“When the position (principal) opened at the high school, I thought there’s no place I’d rather be,” Hansen said. “Sartell-St. Stephen school district took a chance on me as a young educator. I’ve grown to build positive relationships with people and I’ve just loved my time here.”
District leaders agreed.
“In addition to her administrative work at Sartell High School, Sascha has served in multiple leadership roles across the school district,” Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert said in announcing the hiring. “She is a passionate and committed educator who is student-centered and forward thinking. These are the qualities I feel are essential in an administrator.”
As she looks ahead to her next leadership role, Hanson emphasized the importance of forming relationships.
“Relationships are the key for everything. Being able to be visible and getting out and connecting with kids and staff during passing times, being as visible as I can,” she said. “As principal there are lots of operational things, managerial things but it’s also important to connect with people. Communication is key. I want to be able to effectively communicate to parents what we are doing and the why behind it. We do a lot of great things, achievement rates are awesome. I also want to be a person who can advocate and serve all of our kids. No matter where we are, we can always improve.”
A good day at school for Hansen is seeing students engaged in their learning. That’s been difficult with distance learning under the state’s stay-at-home order.
“That’s been the hardest part of distance learning – how are we connecting with kids.”
At the high school level, making sure kids are connected to school is really critical she said.
“Making sure we can find opportunities to get involved and seeing them thriving in different settings whether it’s CTE and tech ed spaces and seeing kids shine in those spaces or music areas and all of the different programming we have for kids,” she said. “Being able to see kids be successful and seeing those relationships building with staff. Anytime you can do that in your day as a principal, that’s a successful day.”