Luke Madsen wasn’t looking for anything new. But Winona Senior High School offered an opportunity that was too good to ignore.
“Winona is one of those places, in my mind, that is in a sweet spot,” Madsen said. “In terms of the community, it’s in one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest. It’s a college town, so that’s appealing, the energy of that. And the size of the school is perfect. It’s big enough to offer all of the activities and yet it’s small enough where I get to know every student.”
Madsen was approved Thursday night by the Winona Area Public Schools board as the next principal of WSHS. He said he can’t wait to get to work, and that starts with building relationships with everyone. And he means everyone.
“I’m 100 percent a relationships-first person,” Madsen said. “I want to get to know people, people in the community. I want our students to know me. I am going to stand in front of all of the kids at different times, and tell them ‘My hope is that you feel this is your place. That you can be your authentic self at this place.’”
“Luke Madsen brings with him a wide range of educational experiences,” WAPS Superintendent Brad Berzinski said. “Through the interview process, it became very clear that Luke is a strong instructional leader, centers the needs of students in his work, has an equity focus, and strives to elevate student voice. He has much to offer the staff and students of Winona Senior High School and the larger community.”
Madsen comes to Winona from Black River Falls (Wis.) High School, where he was the principal for the past two years. Prior to that, he was a Spanish teacher, instructional coach and boys basketball coach at Rochester Mayo High School. He gained other administrative experience as an assistant principal and athletic director at Bloomer (Wis.) High School before returning to the classroom at Mayo.
“I honestly believe that it might be the best thing I did,” Madsen said of going back into the classroom. “As an administrator, you learn about the theory behind education and start thinking about it, then you can go back into the classroom and put it into practice.”
Madsen is passionate about equitable grading practices and likes to challenge the status quo, especially if it improves student outcomes. He wants teachers to feel supported and, like students, he wants them to feel like they can be their authentic selves as well.
“I want them to speak up, and I’m going to push for them to do it,” Madsen said.
Madsen has three adult children. He’ll be working closer to his daughter, Hattie, who lives in Rochester, while his sons Gabe and Mason are currently playing college basketball at the University of Utah and Boston College, respectively.
There is a lot to do in a short period of time, but Madsen is thrilled for the opportunity.
“I’m excited, and a little nervous,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”