The name Brian could become a little less ubiquitous at the Waunakee High School administration office next year.
With the principal, Brian Kersten, retiring and associate principal, Brian Grabarski, stepping into the role of the district’s human resource director, only one Brian will be left – Brian Borowski.
Borowski, now an associate principal, was named as Kersten’s successor and acknowledges these will be big shoes to fill.
He’s “coming in after a living legend,” Borowski said about succeeding Kersten, Waunakee High School principal from 1993-2019. “He’s done such a fantastic job as a principal and as a mentor to me.”
Borowski has worked with two living legends, he said. Milt McPike was principal at Madison East High School from 1979-2002, where Borowski began his career first as a coach and teacher and then assistant principal. Today, a Madison park has been named for McPike.
Now in his fifth year as associate principal at Waunakee, Borowski began as a teacher in 1999, bucking his teachers’ advice.
“All my teachers said, ‘What, are you crazy? Why education?’” Borowski recalled.
He attended college first to become an x-ray technician but then took some time off to reflect, working several different jobs and gaining life experience. Finally, he decided to follow his own path.
Comparing teaching and his other jobs, he found the latter just allowed him to pay the bills.
“It was more or less the same thing every day,” Borowski said.
But in teaching and in education, every day is different.
“Something will change what your day will look like,” Borowski said.
Educators can have great instruction plans, and sometimes they go well, but other times they fall short of reaching students.
“It’s kid to kid, class to class, hour to hour,” Borowski said. “It was always evolving.”
Educators are always searching for better ways to instruct and looking to improve their methods, Borowski said.
“We’re always looking to position our kids so they can be successful in whatever they do, if it’s a career, college or the military,” Borowski said.
Borowski feels fortunate to have experienced two legendary principals, he said, and has taken away some insight into their success.
“They very much care about kids and school and care about the community,” he said. “It always starts with kids and providing them with the best environment and helping them be successful.”
He has also learned to listen to people to understand their concerns and “meet them where they’re at,” he said.
And he accepts “kids as kids.”
“They’re in the process of trying to find their way. We’re here to support their growth,” Borowski added.
Every student is unique, and while educators provide a basic framework and support, they may have to adjust based on their students’ experiences, he said.
The high school administrators try to find creative solutions for students, including access to mental health care outside of school.
“School is just eight hours a day,” Borowski said. “It takes a county, a village and a state. To make sure kids have care outside of school becomes a challenge, but we’re trying to find creative ways to find support for kids.”
The school’s Above the Influence club has helped in that regard, and the district currently has an AODA coordinator to support students with alcohol and other drug addiction. The high school also has a full-time social worker, having increased the position from half time.
“That’s been incredibly helpful to support kids who are struggling,” Borowski said.
The district’s 1-1 computing, providing each student with a Chrome Book so they can access the internet at home, has helped ensure all students have the same opportunities for success, Borowski said.
A Waunakee resident for 19 years, Borowski’s family includes his wife and two children. He enjoys fishing and camping, and fondly remembers angling with two students he called master fishermen while helping with the school’s fishing club.
“That was fun to watch those two guys fish,” he said.
As he steps into his new role next year, his goal is to “keep it rolling the same way it’s gone.”
“I’m not interested in changing anything,” he said. “I think we have a good system in place.”
The district is now looking to hire three associate principals, two to replace Borowski and Grabarski, and a third one next year.
Borowski reflected on all the institutional knowledge that will leave the high school but said Grabarski will remain in the district.
Kersten, too, will be just a phone call away.
“And he’s never not helpful,” Borowski said.