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Honebrink brings faith, leadership to position at St. Mary's

MORRIS, Minn. -- Leslie Honebrink's favorite quote -- and a model for her work as the new principal at St. Mary's Catholic School in Morris -- is from Psalms: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

"It's why I feel Catholic schools are so important," Honebrink said. "In Catholic schools you can integrate religion within the subject areas. By forming Christ in the child, it assists them in making health decisions, being a light to the world, and preparing them for their ultimate goal."

Since July, Honebrink has been working hard to meet students and prepare for her first year in Morris.

Honebrink was born and raised in Baudette, Minn., and said she was always a person with a deep faith and interest in teaching.

"I remember when I was five, skating in my little skating rink outside and just always looking up to the sky and wishing Jesus, Mary and Joseph were there -- even at an early age I had a propensity for that," said Honebrink.

As a child, Honebrink also used to play teacher, aggravating her mother by using the back of a door as a "chalkboard" while she gave lessons to her toys.

She attended high school at Mount St. Benedict in Crookston, Minn., an all-girls Catholic boarding school -- a very "cloistered" environment, Honebrink recalled, but an excellent educational environment.

Honebrink earned a B.S. in elementary education with a minor in special education from Bemidji State University. She also has degrees from the University of Minnesota, Duluth in moderate to severe mental disabilities and St. Cloud University in emotional behavioral disabilities, and master's in educational leadership from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Over her 30-year career in education, Honebrink has worked primarily with students special needs. She's also served as principal of three Catholic elementary schools, most recently at St. Francis Catholic School in Benson.

Honebrink came out of retirement to serve as principal at St. Mary's. Honebrink said she considered the job because she still felt viable and that God could use her in the years she was still able to work.

Honebrink believes she brings two key qualities to her position at St. Mary's: a strong grounding in her Catholic faith and her gift of leadership.

"I have leadership skills -- everybody has natural gifts, it's just one of mine," Honebrink said. "The fact that God is at the center of my life and always has been, I think God gave me the gift of faith and the gift of leadership."

One of the big changes for the year will be increased enrollment, with a large kindergarten class of 18 students. First day of school enrollment in 2012 was 69 students. Projected enrollment for the first day of school next week is 81.

"It's exciting for me to enter a school where the teachers are dedicated, professional and performing at such a high level," Honebrink said.