There’s an old saying that if you have job that really needs doing, you should find a busy person to do it.
It appears the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation has done just that in hiring Jamie Burdorf to be its first executive director.
Burdorf, who lives in Shenandoah, is a busy wife, mother of four children ranging in age from 14 to 9, a part-time pre-school teacher at Turnbull Child Development Center, and still the editor, part-time, of the weekly newspaper in State Center, Iowa, where the family lived previously.
“I don’t sit very well,” Burdorf said. “I have a to-do list every day. I think one of my strengths is my organizational abilities and giving everything 100 percent. I feel like I’m a go-getter, and I love trying to help people.”
She said she looks forward to meeting alumni of the Shenandoah Community Schools, as well as friends and supporters of the Shenandoah schools who graduated elsewhere. “I love talking to people, even people I don’t know,” she said. “In fact, I often embarrass my 14-year-old daughter when I do that. She says, ‘Mom, you’re talking to complete strangers!’ ”
Burdorf’s husband, Aaron Burdorf, the past three years has been activities director at Shenandoah High School. This summer, besides serving as head softball coach for the SHS Fillies, Aaron is transitioning to become principal of the elementary and middle schools in Shenandoah.
Jamie’s first experiences with the education foundation came when she was helping Aaron arrange events that the foundation was sponsoring. The first of those was a 5K Fun Run fundraiser on Memorial Day in 2019. And this spring, she designed the banners the foundation bought and hung on the fence around Mustang Field, saluting each of the members of the graduating SHS Class of 2020.
“Everything I’ve seen the foundation do – the latest example was the 2020 newsletter that just recently came out – has been impressive, really good work,” she said. “I also happen to know most of the people on the board of directors, and they are good people. Plus, I’m a teacher, married to an educator, we have kids in school, and both of my parents are educators, so I really appreciate what the foundation is doing for the schools here.”
Foundation president Corby Fichter said that after he’d had a conversation with Burdorf in recent weeks, she was interviewed by three foundation board members last Friday, June 19, and he offered her the job the following day. She accepted the position on Monday, June 22.
She’ll work for the foundation on a part-time basis, with plenty of opportunity to expand the commitment if she likes it and does well in it.
Jamie Burdorf with her husband Aaron and daughter Jenna at a recent music event.
“Our foundation is absolutely pleased and honored to have Jamie join our team to be our executive director,” Fichter said. “Jamie brings a passion for education, for building relationships and for making a difference in the community in which she and her family work and live.”
Fichter said the hiring of an executive director “is another great step for our foundation to continue our vision of enhancing a new excellence for students in our Shenandoah Community Schools, now and for generations to come.”
The five-year-old foundation has grown rapidly. With various campaigns, it has raised nearly $600,000, which is being used to build an endowment for the Shenandoah schools; provide grants to teachers so they can pay for extra educational resources and opportunities for students that might not be possible in the school budget, and provide scholarships for SHS graduates as they start college or vocational training.
The foundation has been operated by the board members, who are all unpaid volunteers. The four officers have been in their positions from the start – Fichter as president, Alan Armstrong as vice-president, Star Ann Kloberdanz as secretary and Nick Bosley as treasurer.
Burdorf will eventually take over leadership of the every-other-month board meetings. She will also be leading the promotion of foundation events and projects; be in frequent contact with alumni and other friends of the Shenandoah schools, and lead the foundation’s communications efforts with local media, with the foundation’s social media and on its website, www.shenandoahiowaeducationfoundation.org.
Jamie and Aaron Burdorf both grew up in extreme northern Iowa, graduating from Armstrong-Ringsted High School, Aaron in 1998 and Jamie a year later. Both went on to Sioux City for college, Aaron graduating at Briar Cliff and Jamie at Morningside. She graduated in 2003 with a major in business and an emphasis in marketing.
In 2005, they moved to State Center in east central Iowa when Aaron was hired by the West Marshall Community Schools to be a middle school social studies teacher and the high school’s head coach of baseball and golf and assistant girls’ basketball coach. Jamie worked there for a time providing child care, for a time as office manager for Younkers at their store in Ames, mothering her own young children and then at the State Center newspaper, the Mid Iowa Enterprise.
Jamie Burdorf and her boys. In back is Brody, in front are twins Bowen (left) and Blake.
In 2008, she walked into the Enterprise’s office to pay for the family’s subscription. “They’d lost their editor, and the owner then said I ought to consider taking the job,” she said. “I knew very little about newspapers then, but I thought, ‘Well, I could probably talk to people and write stories – that sounds like fun!’ Taking that newspaper job was one of the best things I've ever done. As you know, you meet so many awesome people through that job.”
Twelve years later, she’s still doing that, working part-time at it from the Burdorf home in Shenandoah. She writes sports updates about the West Marshall teams, does occasional news stories, designs some advertisements, and writes her weekly column “The Way I See It.”
In those columns, she often writes about the family’s busy life centering around ball games, concerts, other school activities, church life and more.
Her readers have closely followed the Burdorf children since they were infants. Daughter Jenna is now 14, son Brody is 12, and twin boys Blake and Bowen are 9. Readers rallied around the family when Blake was born with a kidney problem, had to begin dialysis when he was a month old, and wound up having a kidney transplant in November, 2013.
Most other times that Jamie is writing about her family, it’s not as serious. In early April this year when the family was staying close to home to defend against the threat of the corona virus, she compiled a list of what the Burdorfs were doing with their extra time.
“Basketball in the driveway,” she wrote of one event. “This is our go-to outdoor activity when the yard is muddy. Inevitably, somebody ends up mad because we are a family of overly competitive people, but I just love that we are together.”
In her new position as executive director of the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation, you can reach Jamie Burdorf by phone at 515-520-7641 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.