By Molly Moser
“All of my experience has been in preparation to be here at St. Mary’s,” says Joanne Hedemann. She does indeed have a variety of unique experiences to inform her role as the new principal of St. Mary’s/Immaculate Conception. After leading for three years, current principal Steve Cornelius will retire at the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Hedemann retired last summer after serving a decade as a principal and a dozen years as an early childhood educator throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. “This is a breath of fresh air,” she says, referring to the decision to relocate as a sort of homecoming. “I feel like I’m with family.” Hedemann and her husband raised their four children on a farm at the intersection of Highways 52 and 18, and she substitute taught in Garnavillo for seven years. She is indeed with family, as two of her grandchildren attend St. Mary’s and her daughter, Erin Schmelzer, is employed as the school secretary.
“The Board of Education selected Joanne because she will bring a wealth of education and experience with her to St. Mary's. Her experience in the classroom and on the administrative level placed her above the other candidates,” said school board chair Julie Rastetter. “The board felt very strongly about the direction that she would like to take St. Mary's in many areas, such as curriculum, literacy, faith, discipline and leadership for the staff.”
Leadership is a concept Hedemann feels passionate about. With a background in professional development and nearly a decade of experience as a teacher’s union president, Hedemann is a natural leader and thus empowers those around her, both students and teachers, to take charge of their own paths.