Joanna “JJ” Hinderberger at her interview for the principal position at Mendenhall River Community School on Monday, April 29, 2019. Hinderberger is currently finishing her second year as principal at Eagle’s View Elementary School in Unalaska. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Joanna “JJ” Hinderberger at her interview for the principal position at Mendenhall River Community School on Monday, April 29, 2019. Hinderberger is currently finishing her second year as principal at Eagle’s View Elementary School in Unalaska. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Former Juneau educator interviews for principal position

First public interview held since principal search reopened

Joanna “JJ” Hinderberger hopes her education career continues where it began.

Hinderberger, current principal at Eagle’s View Elementary School in Unalaska, started as an educator in the Juneau School District. In 2012, she completed her educational leadership internship at Sayeik: Gastineau Community School, and Monday morning she had a public interview for the Mendenhall River Community School principal position.

“I absolutely love my current job, and there’s no covering it up,” Hinderberger said. “The only reason I’d leave it is to come here and be near my family and my home.”

Hinderberger was born in Juneau and raised in Haines.

Previously, two other candidates publicly interviewed for the position on Thursday, April 18. Nathan Coutsoubos, an elementary school principal in Washington state, was offered the position but declined.

The search was then opened to new candidates without a set deadline for when a hire would be made. However, school district chief of staff Kristin Bartlett said sooner would be better than later when the decision to reopen the search was announced.

[Principal search continues]

Hinderberger’s 50-minute, 14-question interview at the school she hopes to lead was the first public interview since then.

“What’s enticing to me about this position is getting back to Juneau, this really is my home,” Hinderberger said. “Specifically though to Mendenhall River Community School … from the little bits and pieces that I’ve seen, and the interactions I’ve had, I feel as though it would be a really good fit for me.”

Hinderberger, who holds a graduate certificate in special education from the University of Alaska Southeast, a master of science in educational leadership and a master of arts in English Language Learning from Western Governors University, is the first to publicly interview for the position since it was re-opened.

Hinderberger also served as interim assistant principal at Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé in 2016.

During her interview with a panel consisting of representatives from the school’s certificated staff and classified staff, district administration and the site council, Hinderberger characterized herself as an energetic and positive person.

Hinderberger said she makes a conscious effort to be the best version of herself every day and that quality would serve her well as Mendenhall River Community School’s principal.

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In response to a question about what her focus would be heading into her first year as principal, Hinderberger said seeking input from staff about what is working and what could use change would be a priority.

Additionally, she said getting to know staff and students would be an important early happening.

“One thing that’s really important to me is meeting all the kids and learning who they are,” Hinderberger said. “When that parent calls you in the first week, and it’s going to happen, and starts telling you about little Johnny, you better know who little Johnny is.”


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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