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Getting to know you: Nautilus Principal Roger Burger serves as mentor, always on move

December 24, 2018

He’s got a high energy level that feeds the perpetual spring in his step. Roger Burger spends most of his workday on his feet, so it’s a winning combination.

As principal of Nautilus Elementary School, he’s constantly policing the campus, looking for ways to help others. Teachers, staff and visitors find him to be a personable man who is quick with a smile and eager to discuss school business.

And the students? They treat him like a rock star, gathering around the youthful Burger and hanging on his every word. He returns the favor by being sincerely interested in all they have to say. Being a mentor and prompting youngsters to think, synthesize and apply seems to be his favorite thing to do.

Burger graduated from Northern Arizona University with a dual major – elementary education and special education. He also has an associate degree in graphic design. In 1988, he accepted his first teaching job by leading first graders at Oro Grande Elementary.

He has remained with the Lake Havasu Unified School District ever since, working in a variety of roles: teacher, vice principal at Lake Havasu High School, coach, athletic director (for which he was named AD of the Year three times) and leading the Student Development Center at the high school. He’s proud to have been named Teacher of the Year by the Phoenix Suns for the 1997-98 school year.

Burger has a special fondness for working with disabled students. He traces his interest to his high school days when he worked with Special Olympics athletes.

Burger has been principal for two years. He leads 420 students and 33 teachers and staff.

He’s proud of Nautilus and enjoys being its ambassador in the community.

“I have a quality staff here,” he said. “I learn from them every day. One of my strengths is building a team, and we’re doing it. The district is such a great support system, too, from (Superintendent) Diana (Asseier) on down.

Family: Wife of 22 years, Judy, son Taylor, daughter Briana and grandson Austin.

Hometown: Glendale, Arizona, though I was born in Norman, Oklahoma.

Hobbies: Playing volleyball, mountain biking, drawing and wood carving. I have an art background and I like to carve signs for people.

What was your best surprise?

Honestly, it was getting this job. I got called to the (administration building) and I thought I had done something wrong. They offered me this job. I did not see it coming – no clue.

If you had a free weekend, what would you do with it?

Go to the mountains with Judy in our motorhome.

What’s your favorite way to unwind?

Being in my shop and woodworking or tossing a football around with the kids. I also like to play cards with friends. I’ve been in the World Series of Poker twice and cashed at one tourney.

What actor would be most likely to play you in a movie about your life?

I get mistaken all the time for Kevin Costner, so it has to be him. People say Judy looks like Sandra Bullock, so she’d be in it, too.

What’s one goal you still hope to achieve?

This might sound kind of weird, but I just want to be a good person. Honesty and integrity are big values in my life. I always want to be the guy that does the right thing, even if no one’s looking.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

My go-to movies are “Jaws,” “Tombstone” and “Young Guns.” I also really liked “The Greatest Showman,” and I’m not a musical kind of person.

What’s the best thing you’ve bought in the last six months?

Our motorhome. It has really pulled Judy and me together. It’s almost like we’re dating again.

If you could have an extraordinary talent or skill, what would you choose?

I’d want to play piano or the guitar really well.

If you weren’t in your present career, what would you like to be?

Growing up, I wanted to be a firefighter, a policeman or with Game & Fish. I liked the idea of wearing a uniform and a badge. Or a rodeo clown. I always want to be one of those guys.

What’s the craziest, most impulsive thing you’ve ever done that you can talk about?

I came here for a late January get-together weekend while attending NAU before I thought about teaching here. This was the first time that I had ever been to Havasu. It was cold. We stayed at Crazy Horse Campground and did some winter watering skiing with my NAU friends. Little did I know this would become my home. When passing by Crazy Horse, I remember our spur of the moment weekend trip. I better not say any more.

What song makes you want to dance?

Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” I just start grooving.

What song do you like to sing along to?

”Hey, Jude.”

What song makes you nostalgic?

”Sound of Silence” by Disturbed.

What’s something most people would be surprised to learn about you?

I was very shy. As a student at NAU, I broke out of it because I was a resident advisor. I also worked at Camp Tatiyee in the White Mountains. It’s a camp for the disabled. That brought me out of my shell.

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would that be?

Terry Bradshaw. I think it would be so fun to be around him.

What was one of your early jobs?

In high school, I worked with the disabled through the Parks & Recreation. I also worked at Coury’s Market. It was a family-owned grocery store. I did everything there – cashier, stocking – all phases.

What food can’t you live without?

Hamburgers. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

What are your treasures?

Friends and family. And a 1929 Model A. It’s a two-door, black and blue. It goes 35 mph at the top end.

What is your go-to gadget?

A yo-yo. I’m really good at it. And I have a small football that I like to toss around.

What do you collect?

Hats. I love the low profile baseball hats. Since being the Nautilus principal, I’ve collected animated ties. Ex-school board member Alan “Grumpy” Ward got me started by giving some of his collection of ties to me.

What’s your coffee shop order?

Hot chocolate. I don’t drink coffee.

Is there a store you visit often?

Antique stores, craft stores and tool stores.

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