Off the beaten path’: Edgerton principal’s career has spanned two continents
The Edgerton elementary principal always has a smile for children and adults. She speaks in a slow, gentle voice that carries a hint of Western twang.
But don’t mistake her delicate frame for a frail spirit.
Shari Badertscher is one tough lady, and she’s got the shrapnel in her living room to prove it.
She and her husband, Jim, a retired superintendent, acquired the shrapnel when part of a bomb dropped through their roof in El Salvador on Thanksgiving 1989. It now sits on a doily in her home.
“I wanted to keep it to remind myself I can do anything,” she said.
Badertscher’s career has taken her all over the Western Hemisphere—from her hometown in Arizona, to schools in Paraguay and El Salvador, to the quiet, tiny Edgerton School District, where she will retire next month.
Through it all, she has kept her sense of humor, love of children and taste for adventure.
All those things sent Badertscher and her husband to Latin America in 1986.
She spent three years teaching at the American School of Asuncion in Paraguay and three years as manager of a basic education project in El Salvador.
A civil war broke out in El Salvador soon after their arrival.
“It was very scary,” she said. “We had tanks on our street … I joke that’s where I got my first gray hairs.”
The couple never had children, making it easy for them to pick up and move to pursue opportunities.
“I wanted to spend my energies on the kids who were already in the world,” Badertscher said.
Not that she lacks family. She and her husband each have eight siblings, and between them they have 99 nieces and nephews.
Family drew the couple to Jim’s home state of Wisconsin in the 1990s.
In 2004, Badertscher became elementary principal at the Edgerton School District, supervising Yahara Elementary, kindergarten at both elementary schools and, eventually, the 4-year-old kindergarten program. Badertscher said she was attracted to the district by the reputation of its superintendent, Norm Fjelstad.
Fjelstad returned the compliment in his praise of Badertscher.
“She is absolutely child-centered,” he said. “Everything about her is for the benefit of student learning.”
Badertscher was instrumental in launching the district’s 4-year-old kindergarten program, now finishing its second year, Fjelstad said.
The program has been a major success, and several nearby districts have come to Edgerton for guidance on starting their own 4-year-old programs, Badertscher said.
Badertscher is proud of what she’s accomplished in Edgerton, she said. Yahara has raised its once-lagging math scores to well above the state average, and the school recently acquired a mobile computer lab.
But what sets Badertscher apart is her personal touch, said teacher Angie Neuenschwander, who taught 4-year-old kindergarten last year and now teaches 5-year-olds.
“Anytime we had any questions or needed any help she was there,” she said.
Badertscher will miss her job, but she’s looking forward to new adventures in retirement, she said. She plans to travel, improve her golf game and “not wake up to an alarm clock.”
She and her husband hope to spend more time on their horse farm in Lafayette County and buy a part-time home in Mexico.
“We want to find a place where there are not a lot of tourists, off the beaten path,” she said.