Community education director joins statewide board
Lake Superior School District community education director Chris Langenbrunner was recently elected to the Minnesota Community Education Association Board of Directors as the representative from Region 8.
MCEA’s mission is to “provide the leadership, resources and support services needed to develop and sustain leading-edge community education programs and services.” The 16-member board works to envision new opportunities, direct the association’s business and sustain legislative support of community educators.
“The benefit for our district is that having her at the board level for community ed statewide is that our concerns, if we have them, have a stronger chance of being addressed,” LSSD Superintendent Bill Crandall said. “The other is that she is in the know of what changes are coming in the future and that will help our community programs become much stronger because we have that knowledge coming back to our district directly.”
A graduate of Proctor High School, Langenbrunner first began her career in education as a volunteer in her children’s classroom while she and her family were living in North Carolina. She was eventually hired as an elementary school secretary and her principal and mentor there encouraged her to go back to school and finish her degree.
Langenbrunner had begun college at Bemidji State University, but stopped taking classes after her husband’s job transferred the family to Arkansas and eventually to North Carolina. Acting on her principal’s advice, Langenbrunner went back to school at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and received a bachelor’s degree in communication studies. After her graduation, she worked in the cancer prevention program at UNC-Chapel Hill creating educational pieces encouraging women to get breast cancer screenings and men to get prostate screenings.
After she decided to move back to Minnesota, Langenbrunner applied for and was hired as a community education coordinator in Hermantown School District. She completed her licensure in community education at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. She also worked in community education in Cloquet and Mounds View school districts before coming to LSSD in 2007. Community education became a passion for her, making sure that classes or enrichment programs are available for anyone in Lake County.
“Community education is important because we are learners from when we are born until our last day,” Langenbrunner said.
Community education in Lake County is particularly important because it incompasses such a wide swath of the population.
“If it’s not athletics and it’s not K-12, it’s community ed,” Langenbrunner said.
Community education encompasses all birth through pre-kindergarten education, as well as learning and enrichment opportunities for kids afterschool and summer programs. One of LSSD community education’s biggest challenges right now is finding the physical space to house an expanding pre-K program. Gov. Mark Dayton proposed investing $343 million in preschool programs in the 2015 session, which would provide access to preschool to 47,000 children in Minnesota, and has pledged to introduce legislation to expand it further in the 2016 session. With space already tight at the Minnehaha Elementary School in Two Harbors, the district must look at alternative places for housing an expanding preschool and Head Start program. Crandall and Langenbrunner have already been looking at potential spaces in Two Harbors that could potentially serve the expanded program.
In addition, community education for adults provides extended learning and enrichment programs they might not receive otherwise.
“For adults, in the ever increasing technological age, it gives them a chance to meet with friends and neighbors in their community, utilize their school buildings and do things they wouldn’t normally get to do,” she said.
Her favorite part of her job though is working with other organizations and agencies to help promote continuing education in the community, whether it is through her office or not. Langenbrunner works with organizations, like Community Partners, to help provide facilities and support and to avoid duplicating courses, like the agency’s “Walking with Ease” course.
“I could do something similar, but I don’t because I’m aware of the types of programs they offer,” she said.
As part of the MCEA board, Langenbrunner hopes to continue and expand the benefits of membership to LSSD and all of Region 8. She wants to expand the association’s membership around the region, which stretches from Aitkin to International Falls and across to the North Shore. She touts the staff development MCEA provides for community educators and the strong legislative support, like the governor’s preschool expansion, as potential benefits for non-members.
“I feel I’ve gotten so much value out of my membership for our programs and our school district,” she said. “I can’t imagine how you could be in a position like mine and not have that resource at your fingertips.”