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Dr. Angie Besendorfer

Dr. Angie Besendorfer (MO '96)

Executive Vice President

KC Scholars

At the time of the Award, Dr. Angie Besendorfer was:

Nevada R-5 Storefront School
Nevada, MO

Biographical Information

Prior to her role as Chancellor of Western Governors University, Angela Besendorfer was assistant superintendent of Joplin Schools in Joplin, Missouri. She was a key leader in the recovery efforts after an EF-5 tornado hit ten schools destroying 5. She was instrumental in preparing temporary schools for 3,200 students in order to start school on time only 84 days after the tornado. She led the design process for 5 new permanent replacement schools including leading a community wide effort to reimagine high school to meet the needs of students. Prior to serving in Joplin, Angela was superintendent of the Reeds Spring School District in Reeds Spring, Missouri. Under her leadership, the district was honored with Distinction in Performance for High Achievement for the very first time in school history. Previously, she was principal of Mill Creek Elementary School in Independence, where she led the school through a Partnership of Educational Renewal with the University of Missouri-Columbia, restructuring the traditional education model from the bachelor to doctorate levels. At the time of her award, Besendorfer was a teacher at the Nevada R-5 Storefront School, an elementary alternative school serving at-risk fourth graders. The school, located in a downtown storefront, was designed to use "innovative teaching strategies, real-life experiences, family involvement, community resources and technology in a risk-free environment that promotes the development of life-long learning habits and positive self-esteem." Besendorfer spent a sabbatical year in the STARR (Select Teachers As Regional Resources) program, providing in-service training to other school districts and sharing her knowledge on instructional strategies. Since receiving the Milken Award, Angela has been honored as a John C. Maxwell Leadership Award Top 100, recipient of the Governor's Leadership Coin, and Tri-State Business Journal Most Influential Woman. Additionally, two of the school she led the design process for have been recognized by the James D. MacConnell international architect awards, one as a winner and one as a finalist. She also had the honor of being the guest of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a representative of Joplin for a week tour of his country. Recently, she also led the WGU Teachers College on an interim basis having influence on the quality and relevancy of the programs that prepare more new teachers than any other university with an enrollment of 20,000+ students. 

Personal Message

As an educator, I have had the honor of seeing how a community can rally to help our children. The experience of leading after the Joplin tornado was humbling because we literally held hands with the world to bring quality education to children in tragedy. As chancellor, I am working for a bigger change. I have always served in high poverty areas hoping and working so that 12 years of education could make a difference for a child's future. At WGU Missouri, I am able to impact a family in 3 years. With an average time to a bachelor's degree of 3 years and an annual flat rate tuition of $6,000, the online university can help to break poverty cycles. My work is now about building stronger families, stronger communities and a stronger state through education.

Related Connections

Article: Milken Educators Take Learning to the Next Level at 2021 NIET National Conference

Article: A Letter from Barbara Bush

Article: On the Hill: Milken Educators Meet with Congress

Article: Aftermath of Devastation Fosters New Formula for Success

Dr. Angie Besendorfer Newsletters

Force of Nature vs. Community Nurture
Nov 05, 2013

Lowell Milken Presents Two Awards, Delivers One Message to Students
Oct 18, 2013

Additional Information


1990 Doctor of Education from University of Missouri - Columbia

Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Missouri Southern State University

Master of Science in Elementary Administration from University of Central Missouri


Creating Value By Focusing on Costs and Outcomes

Creating a Sense of Connection: Online Education in the Modern Era

Online Learning Doesn’t Have to Be Isolating: Exploring the Mentoring Model


Tri-State Business Journal Most Influential Woman 2010

John C. Maxwell Leadership Award Top 100

State Finalist for MO Teacher of the Year 1994

2014 Finalist for the James D. MacConnell international architect awards for schools for Soaring Heights and East Middle School

State Finalist for MO Teacher of the Year 1994

2012 James D. MacConnell international architect awards for schools for the Joplin High interim high school winner

Competency Based Education, Affordable Higher Education, High School Reform, Learning and School Design, Group Facilitation, Educator Motivation, Cooperative Learning, Professional Development