Going back to her roots

Lori Zimmerman is new Sunrise River School principal

New Sunrise River School Principal Lori Zimmerman has been with NBAPS for more than two decades.  Photo by Derrick Knutson
New Sunrise River School Principal Lori Zimmerman has been with NBAPS for more than two decades.
Photo by Derrick Knutson

Since she started with North Branch Area Public Schools in 1990, Lori Zimmerman has worn many “hats.”

Recently, she donned another — that of Sunrise River School principal.

Jason Hartmann, the elementary school’s former principal, left the post in June to become the principal at Blue Heron Elementary in Lino Lakes.

His departure left Zimmerman with an opportunity to get back to her roots — working with elementary school-aged children.

So Zimmerman threw her hat in the ring for the open job and was selected later this summer as the new principal.

“I was very interested,” Zimmerman said of the prospect of becoming principal. “Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until you have an opportunity to come back to it.”


A plethora of posts 

After completing her undergraduate work at St. Cloud State University, Zimmerman, a Hinckley native, did her student teaching in ISD 138 and then landed a position as a half-time fourth-grade teacher at the now-defunct Main Street School.

Zimmerman said she thoroughly enjoyed teaching fourth-graders, but she wanted to keep expanding her career in education.

She started her graduate school studies at St. Cloud in 1993, graduating in 1995, and years later pursed her doctorate in education at Hamline, graduating in 2006.

Between those years, Zimmerman held a plethora of posts in the NBAPS district.

She was the leader of the gifted and talented program; she was involved with a distance learning program that’s a partnership between Chisago Lakes, Rush City and North Branch Schools; she became the principal of the NBAPS Alternative Learning Center in 2001 — a position in which she served for 12 years — and she was also the director of curriculum, instruction and alternative programs.

Zimmerman was also involved with the early childhood, home-school, homebound and nursing programs, in addition to being the district’s testing coordinator.


Finding time for family

Zimmerman has devoted much of her time and energy during the past 23 years to NBAPS and furthering her knowledge of education, but she’s also been able to build a family over that time with her husband, Reid.

Together, the couple has three children: 20-year-old Ali, 19-year-old Megan and 18-year-old Hannah.

When thinking about how the pursuit of education, for both she and her husband — Reid also has a doctorate — has played a role in their family life, Zimmerman chuckled a bit.

Zimmerman noted she and her husband both pursued their doctorates at the same time, a feat she “wouldn’t recommend” to other couples raising young children.

However, Zimmerman and her family made it through those hectic years, and now the Zimmerman girls are all in the process of pursing their undergraduate educations.

Ali is at Harvard, Megan is at the University of Minnesota Rochester and Hannah is at St. Cloud State University.


Reflecting on the first few weeks

Zimmerman said the first few weeks for her at Sunrise have been great, and she thinks the staff at the school really takes the Sunrise “All Hands on Deck” motto to heart.

“Every teacher in the building, all the support staff … just work to make sure the kids are safe and that they feel there are people in the building who care about them,” she said.

She also noted the Sunrise employees “do what needs to be done,” especially when the school is short staffed at times. Zimmerman found that out firsthand during the first week of her new job.

The school was short a lunchroom paraprofessional one day, so Zimmerman was in the lunchroom, opening milk cartons and serving lunch to hungry students at Sunrise.

“You get to do all of it, and you have to do all of it,” she said.

Zimmerman said some days at NBAPS are more trying than others, but she always goes home at night with the sense that she and her coworkers have accomplished something worthwhile.

“We’re all about wanting to see kids achieve the dreams they have and making sure they have the skills to do whatever it is they choose to do,” she said.

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