BROWNSTOWN — As Jami Stuckwisch was contemplating a job change, she decided to have a family meeting.
She had talked to her husband, Derick, about applying for the principal position at Lutheran Central School in Brownstown, where their sons, Jack and Hank, attend.
The boys had just returned from Camp Lakeview, and Jack told his mom about stepping up to give a devotion there. His message was not to be anxious about anything and know that God has a plan for all of us.
Jami said she thought that was interesting and told the boys about the discussion with her husband, noting her responsibilities would change and the amount of time she would have as a mom would be impacted if she went for the principal job.
“I can honestly say I just felt like it was God telling me ‘This is an opportunity. I feel like you should take this opportunity,’” Jami, 40, said.
While she felt she was good at her previous job as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, Brownstown Central High School, she thought it might be good to branch out and take the next step.
“I also wanted to teach my kids to go and do things sometimes that are maybe difficult and scary, so I just felt like it was the right decision for my family,” she said.
“Also, with my children attending there, always attending St. Peter’s (Lutheran Church), I think it’s important to have a school like Lutheran Central,” she said. “I think we’re a special place that has improved but is still very similar to how it originated. I think that’s important, and I didn’t want to see that go away, so I’m here, my family is here to stay, I have a vested interest in this school and I want it to be successful.”
She applied for the job and was interviewed by the school board, and she wound up accepting the offer to become principal.
“I want to make sure that LC continues to grow, the tradition continues,” Jami said. “To me, it’s a big responsibility to make sure that things go well, but also, it’s an honor and privilege to be part of such a special place that we’re still able to provide a Christian education for students, share God’s Word and also provide a quality academic education in one place.”
Born and raised in Brownstown, Jami has attended St. Peter’s her entire life, and she graduated from BCHS in 1999.
She then went to Indiana State University on a scholarship and started out as a pre-dental major.
“During my freshman year, I was part of a program where we would go and listen to guest speakers that were dentists, physicians, things like that, and I decided I liked the classes, but I didn’t feel like that portion of the job was for me,” Jami said.
At the start of her sophomore year, she visited the career center on campus and met with counselors and did some interest inventories.
“Education was an area that I was interested in, but not necessarily teaching, more the counseling side of it,” she said. “I liked the idea of working with children, and I liked the idea of being able to help them the same way the career center helped me at Indiana State — help them figure out what they wanted to do with their life and guide them in that direction.”
She changed her major to psychology and minor to child development and family life and earned her bachelor’s degree in 2003.
While pursuing her master’s degree in school counseling from Indiana University, she first worked at The Peoples Bank and then became the Natural Helpers coordinator for Brownstown Central Community School Corp.
“That’s where we took high school students over to help tutor and mentor elementary school students, so I was the Natural Helpers coordinator during the day, and I went to take master’s classes at night,” Jami said.
After earning her master’s degree in 2005, she became a counselor at Seymour High School for one school year before learning of an opening at BCHS.
“Initially, I had thought that I wanted to work with elementary-age students, but then as I went through the programs, I really just enjoyed the high school students,” she said. “I really felt like it wasn’t exactly what I had expected myself to prefer, but I did like the older students and the impact of their future and helping them make decisions about their future.”
Jami said it was a hard decision to leave SHS, but it was a neat opportunity to work at her alma mater.
“There’s definitely, I feel, a connection to the community, and I think when you’ve been born and raised here and you want what’s best for the students, that’s definitely a draw to Brownstown,” she said. “I wanted to give back and be part of the school and the community that helped me get to where I was.”
Along with counseling students regarding their school and home lives, she helped them map out their four-year plan, worked with the principal to build a master schedule of classes and guided them toward a college or career.
“To watch a student grow from freshman year to senior year was just really neat to see the progress as they become more independent, grow in maturity, grow academically, socially, all of those things,” Jami said. “Then I loved the small town. I would love to see them come back from college or jobs, whatever they were doing, and see how things were going for them.”
At the end of the 2020-21 school year, she learned Lutheran Central Principal Jon Sprengel had accepted a call at another school, and the school board began working to replace him.
“It was honestly never something that even crossed my mind,” Jami said applying for that job. “I was very happy with Brownstown. My goal was I was going to be there until I retired. That was my plan.”
Later in the summer when she heard the position hadn’t been filled, she gave it more thought and went on to apply, interview and be hired.
The first day of school was Aug. 6. Jami said the first two months on the job have been great, thanks in large part to her veteran staff members.
Ten of the 17 full-time staff are teachers from preschool to eighth grade.
“They really do a tremendous job,” she said. “They take care of a lot of things themselves, so I really have appreciated them. … They are great staff members that are creative, they are dedicated, they put in long hours and I think that shows in how things run at our school.”
As the new principal, Jami has taken it upon herself to stand at the front door of the school to greet students as they come in and hand out milk and condiments at lunchtime. The latter task used to be handled by staff, but since they don’t have a prep period during the day and they also teach specials, like physical education and music, Jami said she took on that job so the teachers could sit down and eat lunch.
“It really takes a village here to get everything done,” she said. “Teachers, secretaries, principal, you wear a lot of hats here. You don’t just come in and teach and grade papers and leave. They help, whether it’s setting up for sporting events, taking tickets, helping clean things up.”
The school has 181 students, and with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting them since March 2020, Jami said she would like to bring back more normalcy this school year.
That already has happened with chapel returning to in person on Mondays and an outdoor pep session being held for the eighth grade volleyball team after winning the Lutheran Invitational Tournament.
“Just trying to be creative and bringing some of those activities back so students enjoy school, want to be at school, that’s what we’re really working toward,” Jami said.
Lutheran Central’s theme this school year is based on Ephesians 6:11: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
“Education has been challenging over the course of almost two years,” Jami said. “My goal this year is help bring back some normalcy in education, but even more importantly to help all of our students learn to use all the ‘equipment’ that God has provided for them in today’s sometimes difficult and challenging society. My hope this year is for LC to continue to assist students in putting on the ‘armor of God’ as they prepare for their future.“