Hastings Middle School's new assistant principal Mindy Tavernier's approach to education prioritizes relationships and maintaining an open mindset.

"The biggest thing for adults and students, it's that relationship you build, to build trust and safety with kids," she said. "Once you have that you can problem solve with people."

Tavernier started July 1 and worked most recently as an assistant principal at Northview Elementary School in Eagan. Before that, she worked as a math coach and teacher in Inver Grove Heights and started her career as a math teacher in a small school near Blue Earth.

Leaving her role in Eagan was difficult and she didn't plan on looking for a job until her husband Rick told her about the Hastings position, she said. The small, community feel of Hastings' school and working in a middle school again aided her decision to apply.

"I wanted to be more in that close knit feel," Tavernier said.

She said her career path has helped prepare her for principal roles.

"I think the steps that I took really helped," Tavernier said. "That content coaching where you're working one-on-one with teachers ... that got me a lot of leadership experience."

Hastings Middle School Principal Steve Kovach said that Tevernier was one of 65 applicants and eight people interviewed. Her past experience working in both elementary and middle schools made her stand out among the large pool of applicants and among the interviewees, he said.

"She was right away in the top four of the majorities of our [interview] rankings," Kovach said. "Her past experience ... that's a huge positive for our school, being able to mix both perspectives."

Tavernier lives in Hastings with her husband, a teacher in Inver Grove Heights, and three children. The Blue Earth native replaces former assistant principal Justin Hahn, who had worked for the district in various roles since 1999.

She said the district reminds her of a "family" and that she is excited to meet the students once the school year starts.

"It feels like a community," Tavernier said. "Everyone has been welcome ... it just feels like that small-town community feel."