Rousseau’s dynamic duo heads to retirement
Two familiar faces at Rousseau Elementary School are making their final rounds as the school year winds down.
Principal Wendy Badje and her dog Reggie, Rousseau’s therapy dog, are both retiring this year.
“There are so many emotions I have when I think of retiring,” Badje said.
Badje is a long-time educator. She’s been in the field for more than 40 years – spending 36 of them at Lincoln Public Schools. Badje started her career as a P.E. teacher in the early 1980s, then eventually transitioned to administration starting as a coordinator at Hill Elementary. After serving as a coordinator for Hill and Kahoa, she moved to her current role at Rousseau as principal in 2012.
“I always thought I would be a teacher, not an administrator because that is where I could make the most difference in the lives of students,” Badje said. “Then one year, I was lucky enough to work under a great principal, who made me a better teacher. That is when I knew I wanted to be a principal - because I, too, wanted to help make teachers be the best they could be.”
When Badje stepped into the principal role is also when she introduced Reggie to the school. He was a recent rescue and only two years old at the time. Students, staff and families have
grown to love the furry companion over the years.
“I feel sad because not only do we lose Dr. Badje, but we also lose Reggie. I like Reggie because it feels like I'm at home with my dog,” Rousseau fourth-grade student Kyler said.
In the past decade, Badje helped transform Rousseau’s culture and community. Several Rams mention the warmth and kindness of the building.
“I learned from some great mentors how to create a positive and welcoming school culture where we work hard and also take time to have fun,” Badje said. “Staff and students want to be at Rousseau. Visitors can get a sense of our welcoming culture when they visit.”
“Rousseau is a building that has such a good feel upon walking through the doors, as many of our guests have shared,” Rousseau second grade teacher Hope DaCosta-Schiltz said.
Badje also dedicated herself to developing the school’s students and staff. She was instrumental in Rousseau earning national recognition as one of the U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon Schools in 2016.
“Dr. Badje has a way about her that encourages students who are struggling to keep trying and not stay in a rut. She does not give up on kids, but works with teachers and parents to find a plan to fit each child,” Rousseau third grade teacher Heather Kramer said.
“She's really good to all the students,” second-grade student Maci added.
Badje’s passion for children is evident as she and Reggie walk the halls of Rousseau. The pair’s love radiates with each smile and tail wag for anyone who intersects their path. While the educator is excited about this next chapter in life, she knows she’s going to miss the connections she built in the Rams community.
“It warms my heart when I hear about the positive impact I have had on the lives of students and staff,” Badje said. “I am very lucky to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. I wouldn't want it any other way. “
Published: May 22, 2023, Updated: May 22, 2023