Mabel-Canton's new superintendent not a stranger to area
Wednesday, November 06, 2013 5:00 AM
"I'm glad to be back home again," said Mabel-Canton's district superintendent, Jennifer Backer, as she reflects on her first few months in her new position.
Backer is originally from southeast Minnesota and is a graduate of Lanesboro High School. The Mabel-Canton area is not new to Backer as she noted she has some childhood memories here. "I attended kindergarten and first grade in the Mabel-Canton School District."
Backer serves as the district superintendent of both Mabel-Canton and Lyle school districts. The 2013-2014 school year is her first year with both districts. She is currently hired as a .3 FTE (fill-time equivalent) position at Mabel-Canton. She spends a half-day in the district on Mondays and all day on Tuesdays. However, the days and times may change due to the demands and needs of the district.
Backer's experience in education is quite diverse. Her initial degrees are in criminal justice/corrections, sociology and chemical health counseling from Winona State University. She then worked for Forest Lake High School where she served as the school's chemical health counselor. She continued in the Twin Cities area, landing a position with the Mounds View School District where she served as dean of students and then at Wabasha-Kellogg where she worked as the school's athletic and community education director and boys head basketball coach.
Backer said she then felt the draw and desire to go back to school and complete her license to become a school administrator. Once she received her license, she served as assistant principal at Worthington Middle School and later as principal at Faribault Middle School. While working on her superintendent's license she was offered a position as a professor at St. Mary's University. Immediately before coming to Mabel-Canton and Lyle schools, she served as superintendent at Cromwell-Wright schools in northeast Minnesota.
Moving from corrections to school administration was a choice Backer made because she felt she wanted to make a proactive difference in the lives of children and youth.
"The biggest thing is, I did not feel that I could make a difference with the adults I was working with at the prison," she said. "I really wanted to be proactive; education has that base. We are given a great privilege to serve these children, thus we must create safety nets, make positive connections early and develop networks and personalization concepts so we can catch them...early, positively and with great care."
Backer's passions include creating an educational system that supports every student in the district. "I am a big believer in creating systems and programs so that it fulfills the whole student body," she said. "That every child, whether it is an honor student or student who struggles academically, emotionally or socially, that there are operations in place that are going to support them...daily."
Projects Backer is working on right now at Mabel-Canton focus on communication. "One of the most challenging, yet most important responsibilities of a superintendent is communication," she explained. "The district is reviewing what avenues of communications we can continue to enhance, or change and implement."
She added, "We are looking at a few policy and practice revisions in a few areas, and of course, are intensely looking at finances...how we can best serve our students in a collaborative, fiscally responsible way, yet still serve each child to the fullest extent."
Principal Jeff Nolte said Backer has brought a young and fresh perspective to the superintendent's office in the district.
"And that is refreshing," said Nolte. "We work well as an administrative team. She is a good communicator - and that is another asset to our leadership team in the district. She works well with me and the staff."
Coaching extracurricular activities is something that Backer has enjoyed in the past, but not something that she plans to take an active role in at this time.
"I do miss coaching and I thoroughly enjoy extracurricular activities...but my time has come where I need to put that on the back burner and be gratuitous in the fulfillment I receive from watching everyone else do the job," she said.
Along with being the superintendent at both Mabel-Canton and Lyle schools, Backer continues to work as a professor at St. Mary's University. She teaches a course for aspiring principals in the Educational Administrative Leadership Department and advises aspiring school leaders (principals and superintendents).
In her free time, Backer enjoys spending time with her family members who live in the area and especially her three elementary-school-aged sons who keep her very busy.
"The boys (her sons) are very active and they keep us going strong. Anything that is physical, outdoors, new and different - we are doing it!" Backer said. Due to Backer's commitment to both Mabel-Canton and Lyle school districts, the family resides in the Chatfield area.
"I want to genuinely thank the communities of Mabel and Canton and their generosity in the warm welcome they have given to me and my family," she concluded. "I appreciate the visits, the phone calls and emails. The handshakes and stories that have been shared, are a true blessing and I am so thankful that I have come home."