The 2019-2020 school year officially kicked off Monday in St. Michael-Albertville, with open houses running most evenings this week. On Monday night, families at Big Woods Elementary got their first chance to meet the school’s new principal, Jesse Peterson. Peterson is only the second person to lead the school, and he’s also the district’s only new building administrator this school year.
Peterson said he fell into the education world naturally. His mother taught kindergarten in Milaca when he was growing up, his two older siblings also entered education-related careers, and his high school social studies teacher’s ability to connect and interact with kids drove him to follow in his footsteps and do the same.
It was Peterson’s wife, his mom and his sister, however, who got him thinking about a career as an administrator after he had a few years of teaching under his belt. Peterson ultimately spent 10 years teaching, nine of those in Becker, before making the transition to principal of Aitkin Elementary, two hours north of STMA.
“I taught and coached in Becker for nine years, and I loved it,” he said. “Then it became the point where I thought I should have a different influence. Not better, not more, just a different way. Dealing with students, parents and community kind of fits me better.”
Peterson said he loved serving as principal in Aitkin, where he said he learned so much during his eight years leading the Pre-K through 6th grade school. But, he said, this move to principal of Big Woods has brought his family back home. His four children, who are middle and high school age, unanimously agreed he should apply for the job in STMA. The family recently moved back to Becker, where they have a network of family friends from his teaching years.
“We are all so happy to be here,” he said. “I love coming to work.”
Normally new principals begin working at the start of the fiscal year on July 1, but outgoing principal Lee Brown’s retirement doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 30. Therefore, Peterson was hired to begin on Aug 15, only two days before the teachers arrived for their first workshop day. Peterson will have six weeks of transition time with Brown.
“She has been gracious, kind, and very helpful,” Peterson said. “It’s been a great transition so far.”
Professionally, Peterson said he’s looking forward to having a team of principals who work together in his new, larger school district. As a building principal, he said he’s excited to get to know families and students, work alongside a great staff, and enjoy the great things he said are already happening in STMA.
“I’ve only heard unbelievable things about this staff, and I’m not making that up,” he said. “Just serving them in whatever capacity they need is what drives me.”
In his free time, Peterson said he and his wife love to date and see movies together. He also enjoys hunting white-tail deer, playing tennis and basketball, camping with his family and visiting Voyageurs National Park, one of their family’s favorite spots.