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Student Success: Taft School District Superintendent Skogsberg Recognized by Waubonsee

Dr. Dirk Erik "DJ" Skogsberg

Dr. Dirk Erik “DJ” Skogsberg would be as surprised as anyone if he one day stands at the U.S. Capitol, right hand raised, taking the presidential oath of office, before a throng of hundreds of thousands.

But so far, becoming the leader of the Free World remains the only career ambition spelled out by his eight-year-old self not yet achieved by Skogsberg, superintendent of Lockport’s Taft School District 90, and a 1994 graduate of Waubonsee Community College.

“When I was eight years old, my mom asked me one day, ‘What are you going to be?’” Skogsberg said. “So I told her, ‘President of the United States.’ But first I laid out several steps I believed I needed to take on the way – first, be a teacher, then a principal, superintendent, and then President.

“And it sounds really strange, but I guess I predicted 31 years ago my life and my career would go along these lines.”

For the achievements he has thus far amassed, and the dedication to education his career has demonstrated, Waubonsee Community College has recognized Skogsberg as its Student Success: Featured Alumnus for the month of October.

Skogsberg, 40, now of Plainfield, came to Waubonsee in 1992, an Aurora resident fresh out of high school, but already knowing on which course his education would set him.

Inspired by his fifth grade teacher, Jeannine Noe, Skogsberg said a career in education had been his ambition throughout middle and high school.

“I had a number of learning challenges growing up,” Skogsberg said. “I had a horrible fourth grade year, but fifth grade with her really opened my eyes, to let me see what a teacher should do, and could do.”

After earning an Associate in Science degree from Waubonsee, Skogsberg earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern Illinois University in 1996.

Within a month of his graduation at EIU, he had been hired as an adjunct faculty mathematics instructor at Waubonsee.

He was one of the first instructors to teach at the new campus adjacent to Rush Copley Medical Center on U.S. Route 34 in Aurora.

“I guess you could say I helped troubleshoot some of the challenges of getting that site up,” said Skogsberg with a laugh.

Skogsberg would teach at Waubonsee for the next 14 years, even as he went on to serve in middle schools in Yorkville, East Aurora and Naperville.

As educating students became his passion, Skogsberg said he intended to spend his career in the classroom.

But those plans changed while he served on a school improvement team in East Aurora School District 131.

“The principal asked if I had ever thought about being an administrator,” Skogsberg said. “I told him at that time I didn’t get into the education field to be an administrator.”

But after attending an informational meeting at the invitation of a colleague, Skogsberg said the idea of working in administration had him “hooked.”

He earned his Master of Arts in Education degree from Aurora University in 2002, and took his first steps in school administration a month later when he was hired as Assistant Principal for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Madison and Jefferson Junior High Schools in Naperville Community Unit School District 203.

From there, Skogsberg’s career path took him to Minooka Elementary Community Consolidated School District 201, where he served as principal at Minooka Junior High School and Little Indians Learning Center from 2007-2010, and on to Orland Park, where he worked in the district office as Assistant Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Orland School District 135.

In 2012, Skogsberg was hired at Taft as the elementary school district’s next superintendent.

“Education is my vocation,” he said. “It’s where my heart lies.”

He ascribed his relatively rapid rise through the ranks, in part, to his commitment to “servant leadership” and his ability to identify challenges, and then convert them to opportunities for growth.

Even as superintendent, Skogsberg said he often can be found taking on any number of different tasks, ranging from checking children’s heads for lice and taking care of nosebleeds to shoveling snow or scrubbing the gymnasium floor to remove excess salt tracked in by students and staff on winter days.

“I tell my teachers and staff, ‘This is your school, you have to take ownership of it,’” Skogsberg said. “And if you’ve got ideas to make it better, I’m here to support you.”

Skogsberg said his time at Waubonsee both as a student and an instructor helped prepare him for the jobs he has undertaken since.

As a student, for instance, he said his leadership skills were fostered while participating in the college’s Illinois Model Government club.

And as a teacher, he said, he felt humbled by the “high level of trust” the college placed in him as a 22-year-old college graduate.

“What’s really stuck out in my mind, is that these things drew out a natural, innate ability for leadership,” Skogsberg said. “That’s what has kept me in good standing with the students I have served.”

Skogsberg said his experience at Waubonsee is what encourages him to continue to impress on his students the benefits and value offered by community colleges, like Waubonsee.

“I’ve continuously been a strong advocate for the community college system, and Waubonsee, specifically,” Skogsberg said. “It’s a huge, huge asset to anyone looking at college, as it was for me, in helping me get to where I am.”


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