Meet Danny Wirtzberger – from a Blue Pony to a Golden Eagle

By: 
Doreen
Reporter

Danny Wirtzberger, standing in front of the Lewis and Clark Elementary School, looks forward to building trust with his students and staff as the new principal this year.            

Photo by Doreen Heintz

Although Danny Wirtzberger grew up in Havre and was a Blue pony through and through, he said he is willing to trade in his blue and white for blue and gold now as the new principal of Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Lewistown.
“I am excited to be back in an elementary school,” said Wirtzberger in an interview Thursday morning. “I love the kids and teachers. I think this is the best staff I have ever worked with.”
Wirtzberger then kiddingly added that his fantastic new boss, Jody d’Autremont, who is the secretary at Lewis and Clark, is doing a great job getting acclimated to his new job.
“Really she is great do work with,” Wirtzberger said. “She is making my job so much easier.”
Wirtzberger’s main goal this year is to “build trust with the students, staff, parents and the community.”
“The staff has been really great helping me learn the ropes,” he said. “They are a very caring staff who always put students first by making school fun. The students will like coming here. Our attendance records will show that.”
Wirtzberger sees himself as a team member in the school.
“Our goals are the same – provide a strong education for the students,” he added.
When it comes to discipline when working with students ages 10-12 years, Wirtzberger emphasized the importance of showing them respect and being empathetic.
“If one shows a student respect, they will show respect for me,” Wirtzberger said. “I think it is also important for the principal to be visible to the students – whether it be in the lunchroom, at recess or in the halls of the school. I don’t think a student is as apt to make a poor decision if the principal is in view.”
Besides being the principal to close to 200 students in grades 5 and 6, Wirtzberger also teaches them computers every Wednesday.
“I already know Wednesday is my favorite day of the week,” Wirtzberger said, “as that is the day I actually get to be in the classroom with the kids.”
Wirtzberger said the decision to come to Lewistown was a family decision.
“We knew about the quality of education here in Lewistown, made possible with an excellent teaching staff and small classrooms,” he said when asked to give a couple of reasons to come to Lewistown. “My son loves to go to school every day.”
Wirtzberger and his wife Katie have three children. Seven-year-old Tripp is a second grader at Highland Park. Their daughter Blake is 4 years old, and son Jett is 2 years old.

Student teaching provided Wirtzberger with desire to be a teacher
“When I student taught in Havre, I found out it was the best job I had ever had,” said Wirtzberger regarding becoming a teacher. “I had a double major in elementary education and physical education, but I never thought I would use those degrees. I had a number of jobs before I student taught, and I always thought I would end up in a job in sales. I signed a contract to be a fourth grade teacher in Havre. I wanted to be in the classroom because I thought it would be more of a challenge for me than being a physical education teacher.
“You can touch so many lives in a day of teaching,” Wirtzberger added.
Besides teaching, Wirtzberger also did a lot of coaching in Havre. He served as an assistant football coach at Montana State University-Northern before becoming an assistant football coach at Havre High. Wirtzberger also served as the Havre Northstars coach. The Northstars are Havre’s American Legion baseball team. Besides coaching baseball, he also was the head softball coach at Havre High.
Wirtzberger graduated from HHS in 2002. From there he went to Jamestown College in Jamestown, North Dakota.
“I played football and baseball for two years at Jamestown,” said Wirtzberger. “I was the quarterback for the team as a sophomore.”
Newly hired MSU Northern Coach Mark Samson then recruited Wirtzberger to play for the Lights
“I was a captain for my two years at Northern,” said Wirtzberger. “I played mostly wide receiver, but was the quarterback for the last few games my second year when the starting quarterback was injured.”
After teaching for five years, Wirtzberger then became the technology director for the Havre School District, a position he held for two years.
“Our goal in those two years was to get every student in middle school and high school one-on-one with a device such as an iPod or Chromebook,” Wirtzberger said. “We were looking at using those devices to replace our text books. We did actually save money that way, although at that time there were a lot of grants available to help with technology.
“Not only did we have to get the students used to using them, but we also had to help the teachers learn how to use them in the classroom,” added Wirtzberger. “The students actually did their homework on these devices so there were no excuses like ‘my dog ate my homework.’”
Wirtzberger went on to explain the school district had an actual tech team to teach computers as well as to do maintenance and troubleshooting on the devices.
After seven years with the Havre school system, Wirtzberger wanted to be more involved in the scope of athletics.
“I know what extracurricular activities did for me when I was in school,” Wirtzberger said. “I would hate to think what my high school grades would have looked like if I hadn’t wanted to be on the field come Friday night.”
Wirtzberger and his young family moved to Laurel where he became the school district’s athletic director and transportation director. Wirtzberger admitted the position was a fun job, but it was too much for one person to handle, especially with a young family.
“Most of the time I would not get home until 10 or 11 p.m.,” said Wirtzberger, “and that was six days a week.”
Besides scheduling all the extra-curricular activities and the many other duties of being an athletic director, Wirtzberger had to schedule school busses for both bus routes and activities runs. He also drove a route bus almost every day because the district was always short of bus drivers.
During his two years, Wirtzberger was in charge of the Class A and C State Track Meet in 2015 and the Superdivisional Central-Eastern Track Meet this past May.
“It took 170 volunteers to run the state track meet,” Wirtzberger said. “I really feel athletics are in a better spot when I left than when I arrived two years before.”
Wirtzberger chuckles about his old position after deciding to come to Lewistown.
“They replaced me with four people now that I am gone,” he said. “They decided the job was too much for one person.”
 Anyone who has not met Wirtzberger is urged to drop in and say hi at Lewis and Clark. One can also follow Lewis and Clark on Facebook and Twitter.
For Facebook: friend – Lewisand Clark
For Twitter: follow @wirtzsberger
 

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