Transferring from the Washington School District, Chris Buenniger will begin his 13th year in education as the new assistant principal and athletics director for St. Clair Junior High School.
Buenniger will join Shaun Fanger, who was promoted to junior high principal.
Buenniger started his teaching career with Crawford County R-II School District in Cuba for five years as a business teacher, as well as helped run its alternative school and began teaching special education.
For the past seven years, he worked as a special education teacher for the Washington School District and helped develop autism support classrooms.
In addition to teaching, he was an assistant coach for varsity football, varsity baseball and varsity softball for Crawford and Washington school districts.
The field of education was not his first career choice as his undergraduate degree is in marketing from Missouri State University. Buenniger earned a master’s in secondary education from Lindenwood University and a specialist degree in educational leadership from Missouri Baptist University.
“This is by far my longest career. I was searching for something that I enjoyed and I finally found it,” he said.
Buenniger wanted to become an assistant principal so he could mentor teachers. That way students can have “the best teachers possible,” he said.
“I’ve had experience in all of these different aspects of education and I just feel like now it’s kind of time for me to take that experience and use it to help teachers become better with their students,” he said.
Buenniger, who grew up in Festus, said he was drawn to St. Clair because of the small-town feel and close-knit community. He currently resides in Festus and has two daughters Blaynee, 5, and Braelyn, 4.
As assistant principal, Buenniger said he’s looking forward to giving advice when needed, helping out where he can and learning about St. Clair School District.
“I’ve done some research . . . and (the district is) doing some great things with (its) students, and I really just want to come in and add my piece to that puzzle,” he said.
Buenniger added he’s excited to meet the teachers and students, and hopes he can be a positive influence.
“The thing that really draws me to this age group of kids is the ability to build character and to really shape behavior and attitude,” he said. “So I really hope that I can come in and just be a positive effect on the behavior of the students, the overall climate and feel of the building.”
He also looks forward to integrating himself into the community such as participating in sporting events and meeting parents and community members.
“I’m really excited to be here. I want to bring a lot of energy and excitement to the building,” Buenniger said. “I’m really here this year to learn and get to know people, and get to know how things run, and then hopefully kind of put my own fingerprint on some things that will help this place be better for kids.”
His motto, which will hang on his door, is “You can’t control what other people do. You can control the way that you react.” This message is for students think about different ways they can respond positively to a negative situation, he said.
Buenniger added that students will hear him say this motto quite a bit during the school year.
Fanger told The Missourian that he’s looking forward to having Buenniger as the new assistant principal.
“I’m excited for his energy and passion for education,” Fanger said. “He provided a lot of energy, enthusiasm and passion for education in all of my encounters with him.”
He added that Buenniger’s coaching experience also will be helpful in his other position as athletics director.