Aaron Bredenkamp currently serves as the dean of students at Westside High School in Omaha, NE, a position he's held for two years. Prior to this role, he worked for five years in a variety of capacities (including mathematics teacher, curriculum developer, technology director and building representative for the local teachers union) at Westside Career Center, an alternative setting. He began his teaching career in Chicago with Teach for America, and he is currently a doctoral candidate with an emphasis on school finance at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Mr. Bredenkamp was recently honored as a 2014 PDK Emerging Leader. In 2012, he was named a U.S Department of Education classroom fellow.
He recently took time to offer his insights on issues he cares deeply about, including approaches to school discipline, the importance of providing support to teachers and staff, and the valuable role of personalized learning as a tool for student engagement.
Public School Insights (PSI): First, let’s start with a little of your background. How long have you been dean of students at Westside High School, and where were you before that?
Bredenkamp: This is my second year as the dean of students. Prior to that I taught at Westside’s alternative setting for 5 years. I began my career teaching in alternative education in Chicago, IL, as a part of Teach for America, before returning home to use the skills I learned in TFA to contribute to the community where I was raised.
Public School Insights (PSI): You have a strong commitment to engaging all students. Would you discuss the role of personalized learning in this effort?
Bredenkamp: My commitment to personalized learning began as a teacher in the alternative setting. I quickly learned that students who were previously unsuccessful, and who often had behavioral issues, did not have their educational needs met in the standard academic environment. After I adjusted my own instruction in order to meet their learning needs, behavioral incidents decreased and academic success increased. Quickly these students developed a love of learning. ...