Brenda Gugglberger describes herself as a hugger, a visitor and a person who likes to do stuff.
A native of Browerville, Brenda attended Bemidji State University, earning a bachelor of science in language arts in 1986. She earned her master of science administrative degree as a reading consultant from St. Cloud State.
She didn’t know at the time, but her degrees were preparing her for the position of principal at St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Catholic School in Long Prairie, which she accepted in 2004. This eventually led to her also becoming the principal at Christ the King in Browerville.
“I had never considered being a principal before that,” she said. “It was not on my bucket list, but I’m glad I did it.”
Along with all the duties at St. Mary’s came some fringe benefits, which included hugs from all the children.
“I got at least 100 hugs a day, I bet, when I was a principal,” she said. To this day, “I see kids whenever I go to town or graduation parties, and church. I always get hugs.”
She misses all those hugs in her position as a development specialist for the Initiative Foundation of Little Falls, a job she took in November 2016.
The mid-year career change was a new beginning for Gugglberger.
“Both my parents died very unexpectedly. Dad died of a heart attack, and then Mom seven months after that. Everybody at school was so wonderful, so supportive,” she said. “But Dad used to come down in the lunchroom during the busy time of the day to chat. I would miss that, miss going to see Mom at the nursing home. I needed a change.
“Some people are just called to be somewhere for a period of time, and that’s where God called me. I did what I was called to do, and I needed to hand it over to the next level,” she said.
Gugglberger recruited Linda Dinkel as the new St. Mary’s principal.
One day she Googled “preschool grants Todd County MN” and up popped information on the Initiative Foundation. She was impressed by all the good they did in Central Minnesota, and the rest is history.
She treasures her years teaching at Clara City, Pine City and Bertha-Hewitt.
She loves working with kids.
“Remember that every child is somebody’s baby,” she said. “I would want my kids to have teachers who really cared for them, not just teaching because it is a job.
“We were always working to make it better. A principal once told me, we don’t teach books, we teach kids,” she said.
The school enrollment grew during Gugglberger’s time at St. Mary’s. She said she was only able to do what she did because of the amazing staff she had.
“Those teachers love teaching and they love the students. They are like family to me, and they always will be,” Gugglberger said. “In all honesty, the entire school community really made my job a complete joy —parents, students, staff. I loved everything about being their principal.”
In her position with the Initiative Foundation, Gugglberger has moved from teaching kids to teaching adults.
She now trains new community and education board members, and encourages financial support for the Initiative Foundation work. “I get to help people help people.”
Brenda and Manfred Gugglberger married in 1994. An Austrian immigrant, Manfred operates Edelweiss Cabinetry, Inc. He apprenticed his trade at home in Austria, where he learned very specialized techniques, which he put to good use by building their family home.
The couple has four children, Andrew, 22, an automotive technician at Hillig Auto; Alison, 18, enrolled at St. Scholastica in the fall; Sahra, 17, a senior at Long Prairie Grey Eagle High School; and a son, Stefan, who was stillborn 20 years ago, but continues to live in their hearts and impact their lives.
In her spare time, Gugglberger enjoys gardening. She is preparing for the fourth annual Smieja Memorial Golf Scramble, in honor of her parents, Sept. 9 at Double Eagle Golf at Eagle Bend. Proceeds benefit the Long Prairie and Browerville Catholic schools and Clarissa Nursing Home.