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Moving up the ladder

When Jane Berenz was appointed as the new school superintendent for District 196, it became clear someone would ultimately have to fill Berenz's old role as director of teaching and learning.

The district has found its replacement, and much like Berenz it didn't have to go far to find its best candidate.

Dakota Hills Middle School Principal Steve Troen has been named the district's new director of teaching and learning. He will begin his new position on July 1.

"The position really caught my eye," Troen said. "It is a real interest and passion of mine. I've been able to be a part of district committees and work with that department. It's a double-edged sword. I love my job as middle school principal and really wrestled with that. But, I am thrilled with the support and excited for the opportunity."

Berenz took the lead in filling her old position. She was named the new superintendent last month, replacing the retiring John Currie.

Berenz and Troen are both long-time district employees, and the two had previously worked together on different committees. Troen has been a co-chairperson for the district's K-12 curriculum committee, and been a part of the Q- Comp and instruction and assessment committees.

"Being in the building he has really shown wonderful leadership skills," Berenz said of Troen. "He has a commitment to learning. I really like the middle school perspective. He has ties to the elementary schools and ties to the high school."

Troen has worked in the district for 20 years, including 18 years at Dakota Hills.

He started his career there as a social studies teacher and coach in 1989. He served as an academic coordinator and athletic director before joining Scott Highlands Middle School in 1997 as an administrative assistant.

Two years later, Troen returned to Dakota Hills in an administrative assistant role and became assistant principal in 2002.

He has been the school's principal since 2005.

"I think I am a people person and I enjoy working with educators in a cooperative way," Troen said. "I enjoy being part of a team of educators that has been part of an initiative in the district to look for a fresh way to do things and work towards proactive change in our district."

Pro-active change was a topic stressed by Berenz during her interviews for superintendent. During tough financial times, Berenz and Troen believe in discovering new opportunities for the district.

"I think we are just entering a new year and we can't do things the way we've always done them," Berenz said. "We should always be looking for different ways, better ways; looking through those eyes and seeing what we can do. Even when situations don't look promising, we know students are going to show up on the first day and the teachers are still going to show up to teach them, and we have an obligation to look for new ways to do that, with new resources."

And as the progression for Troen in the district continues, the search has begun for his replacement. Troen and Berenz are hoping to fill the position of principal for Dakota Hills by early summer.

"I'm dedicated to making this a smooth transition," Troen said. "I am sure I will be working in two worlds for a while, and I am ready to embrace the new challenge at the district level."