2018 National Distinguished Principals

National Distinguished Principals Program

Congratulations to our 2018 Class of National Distinguished Principals! NAESP honors the following outstanding elementary and middle-level administrators for setting high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities. Learn more about the NDP program here.

Our 2018 National Distinguished Principals Program will be held Oct. 11 – 12, 2018 in Washington, D.C.


Nathaniel W. Martin Jr.

Enterprise Early Education Center
Enterprise City Schools
Enterprise, Alabama


Waller Martin has served families in Enterprise, Alabama as an educator and administrator since 1992. During that time he has held many roles simultaneously, accruing 15 years experience at the junior high school level as a teacher, coach, and assistant principal before going on to serve his district as Elementary Education Supervisor. As Supervisor, Martin helped to oversee the district’s response to displacement in the wake of a catastrophic tornado that destroyed two schools and led to the consolidation of six kindergarten populations to create Enterprise Early Education Center, where he continues to serve as principal. Martin’s leadership is driven by open communication and mentorship. By building leadership and collaboration across stakeholder groups, he has fostered a culture that holds parents and community members as central to school success. During his tenure, Martin has procured resources and developed best practices to strengthen early childhood education at the school with a focus on giving all students adequate pre-K learning opportunities regardless of socio-economic background. He helped secure public funding for a new pre-K program, oversaw a building expansion to house it, led a community-led recruitment drive, and supported teachers in cultivating developmentally appropriate practices to help early learners become school-ready. Mr. Martin holds a B.S. and M.S. in History Education and Ed.S. from Troy University. He is currently pursuing his Ed.D. from Samford University in Birmingham.

Email: wmartin@enterpriseschools.net


Michael A. Angaiak

Anne Wien Elementary
Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
Fairbanks, Alaska


As principal of Anne Wien Elementary, a rural K-6 school in Fairbanks, Alaska, Michael A. Angaiak has reinvested his passion for teaching into effective instructional leadership that champions student-centered teaching practices. In Angaiak’s school of 377, around ⅓ of the student body are Alaska Native. As a Yup’ik man himself, Mr. Angaiak is uniquely positioned to address the needs of his community and does so effectively and with heart. During his five-year tenure, Angaiak has successfully built an authentic school culture united around the community mantra, “Work Hard, Play Fair, and Take Care of Each Other.” As a supervisor, he encourages all teachers and staff to live up to this mantra by developing models of shared leadership that empower all stakeholders to become proactive and collaborative problem-solvers. Before becoming an administrator eight years ago, Angaiak was already a natural leader. During his 13 years as a classroom teacher, he built community partnerships to meet essential needs of students and families and gained vital insight into the importance of early childhood education. At Anne Wien, this insight led Angaiak to pilot the Kindergarten Jump Start early literacy curriculum with great results; Anne Wien held its first Jump Start program this past summer. Angaiak holds a B.A from the University of Notre Dame, a Teaching Certificate from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and a M.Ed. from the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

Email: michael.angaiak@k12northstar.org


Frank H. Hendricsen

Chandler Traditional Academy – Independence
Chandler Unified School District
Chandler, Arizona


According to Chandler Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Franklin Narducci, Principal Frank Hendricsen is a “rare breed of administrator that closely aligns research-based practices with climate and culture.” As principal of Chandler Traditional Academy-Independence, a K-6 school with over 800 students, Hendricsen believes his role is to cultivate shared vision and commitment so that everyone works together toward collectively held goals. Throughout his career, Hendricsen has consistently delivered on this promise, guiding each of his schools toward greater student retention, improved community relationships, and higher achievement. Hendricsen led Gateway Pointe Elementary, a struggling Title I school, to achieve an “A” letter grade for the first time in over a decade by introducing data-driven practices to deliver effective, differentiated instruction for all students. At CTA-I, Hendricsen has built on this success by designing and implementing a successful STEM program, spearheading a highly collaborative, multi-stakeholder process to make a plan for meeting leadership, global awareness, and digital learning goals. The program has brought together teachers, families, community, and staff to assert future-oriented goals, build new community partnerships, and improve upper-grades retention. Hendricsen is active in educational leadership on a local and state level. He holds a B.A. in Elementary Education, two M.Ed. degrees in Leadership and Curriculum, and an Ed.D., all from Northern Arizona University.

Email: hendricsen.frank@cusd80.com

Arkansas (Elementary)

Stephanie M. Worthey

Greenbrier Springhill Elementary
Greenbrier Public Schools
Greenbrier, Arkansas


Stephanie Worthey serves as principal of Greenbrier Springhill Elementary, a small-town school in Greenbrier, Arkansas. In her six years as principal, she has worked diligently to revolutionize the school’s RTI system, increase student attendance and sense of belonging, and scale her successes to have the broadest impact possible. After identifying gaps in Springhill’s intervention practices, Worthey engaged her leadership team to develop a plan to overhaul intervention and enrichment practices by researching existing differentiation models and reorganizing instruction based on each teacher’s strengths as an instructor. The program’s overwhelmingly positive impact earned it recognition in 2015-2016 as the Literary Association’s Exemplary Reading Program. Principal Worthey has since helped replicate the model at all elementary schools throughout the district, and she is currently consulting with other districts to develop their own programs. This success is due in large part to Worthey’s transparent and collaborative leadership style; by walking the walk of the growth mindset, she models humility and active learning, inspiring all stakeholders to grow into leadership. Worthey credits much of her development as a leader to her participation in the Arkansas Leadership Academy’s Master Principal Program, of which she has completed phases 1-3. She holds a B.S. in Education from the University of Central Arkansas, a M.Ed. degree from Arkansas Technical University, and a Specialist in Education degree from Arkansas State University

Email: wortheys@greenbrierschools.org

Arkansas (Middle-Level)

Jeffrey Wasem

Creekside Middle School
Bentonville School District
Bentonville, Arkansas


Principal Jeffrey Wasem believes that “people and relationships are the heartbeat of a successful school,” a sentiment which he has embodied throughout his career as a teacher and administrator. This spirit is reflected in Wasem’s leadership of Creekside Middle School in Bentonville, Arkansas, where his commitment to building leadership in others has enabled a smooth transition into block scheduling, yielding significant academic growth in just one year. Wasem doesn’t stop at bringing out the best in his teachers, however. He also authentically engages parents and community members to work together toward school goals and encourages the whole school community to expand beyond the building through creative partnerships and impactful service projects. These qualities have earned measurable success and numerous distinctions for Principal Wasem and his schools; In 2016-2017, Wasem was named a Master Principal by the Arkansas Leadership Academy, and Old High Middle School was named a School to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. Wasem is a district leader in building creative and critical thinking skills into the curriculum, helping two of his schools participate in the Making Spaces program. At Creekside, he used crowdfunding and initiated community funding partnerships to build a permanent Maker Space in the building. Wasem holds a B.S.E. in Intermediate Education from John Brown University, a M.Ed. degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Arkansas, and District Level Licensure from Harding University

Email: jwasem@bentonvillek12.org


Lucy A. Salazar

Alvarado Elementary
Long Beach Unified School District
Signal Hill, California


Fostering teamwork and collaboration has been the hallmark of Principal Lucy Salazar’s leadership throughout her 22 year career as an administrator, Title I facilitator, and classroom teacher. Currently principal of K-5 Alvarado Elementary School in Signal Hill, California, Salazar has served in two Title I schools in her career. Both have earned recognition for making sustained academic gains and closing the achievement gap under her leadership, successes which she credits to the power of goal-oriented, collaborative teaching grounded in a fierce commitment to equity. At Alvarado, Salazar believes workshop teaching has been key to sustained growth over the years, and she has worked to strengthen the delivery of this methodology by building structures for individualized professional development that have led to self-motivated and collaborative learning in her staff. Doing so has improved retention and heightened teacher self-reflection, allowing her team to effectively hone Math and Literacy instruction to elevate student achievement in these key content areas. By pairing structured opportunities for mentorship with effective systems for rigorous, data-driven planning, Salazar has helped her school uphold shared expectations for growth while creating a professional and cultural climate that she believes matches the dedication of her teachers. Salazar holds a B.A. from California State University-San Diego, a M.A. from California State University-Long Beach, and an Ed.D. from the University of Southern California.

Email: lsalazar@lbschools.net


Kristin Golden

Riverdale Elementary
Adams Twelve Five Star School District
Thornton, Colorado


Kristin Golden identifies as a systems thinker and a firm believer in distributed leadership, perspectives she has applied throughout her career, which has included 17 years as a classroom teacher, two years as an instructional coach, and eight years as an administrator. As principal of Riverdale Elementary, Golden has has spent the last four years developing school-wide systems and structures that have led to substantial gains in academic achievement, earning the school recognition as one of the 20 most improved in the state. Golden credits these advancements to a rigorous commitment to data-driven instruction, systematic and transparent feedback cycles, and a school culture that recognizes and celebrates success in both teachers and students. In order to get the resources and support needed to help Riverdale recover from declining status, Golden stewarded a three-year funding partnership with the Department of Education’s Turnaround Network. Thanks to Golden’s leadership, Riverdale was recognized as a model for data-driven instruction and culture; in 2017, the school was the first in the network to host a Bright Spot Visit. As part of the partnership, Golden was invited to study in the RELAY graduate school program, graduating in the top ten percent of her cohort. She holds a B.A. from Eastern Kentucky University, an M.A. from Indiana University Southeast, and has completed advanced study in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Denver.

Email: gol002274@adams12.org


Troy C. Hopkins

Ashford School
Ashford School District
Ashford, Connecticut


Troy C. Hopkins has served as principal of Ashford School for the last six years, building on seven years in previous administrative positions and fifteen years as a classroom teacher. Hopkins is known for his dedication to mentorship and professional development and his commitment to instructional leadership that centers student motivation, sense of purpose, and choice. One parent says of Hopkins’ leadership, “Ashford is not a wealthy community, and the school does not have abundant resources. However, Troy sets a tone that inspires teachers, students, and families to seek new challenges, broaden their horizons, and extend their learning.” This is particularly clear in Hopkins’ implementation of a STEAM School curriculum at Ashford, supporting teachers to develop theme-driven, project-based lessons that balance academic content with 21st century “habits of mind.” This model has increased achievement, decreased Special Education referrals, and opened up new opportunities for differentiated instruction, which Hopkins defines as a process of “finding appropriate challenges for all students.” The successful implementation of the program would not have been possible without Hopkins’ fierce commitment to building a culture of adult learning by modeling education as a life-long practice. Hopkins holds a B.S. in Education from the University of Connecticut, an M.A.T. in Biology from Bridgewater State College, and an M.Ed. in Leadership from Salem State College.

Email: thopkins@ashfordct.org


Maribeth Courtney

Evan G. Shortlidge Academy
Red Clay Consolidated School District
Wilmington, Delaware


Maribeth Courtney has served as principal of Evan G. Shortlidge Academy for the last six years, where she has worked diligently to improve instructional practices by prioritizing professional development and building effective leadership in her teachers. In 2014, when EGSA was designated a Priority School, Principal Courtney effectively collaborated with district and state administrators to articulate her school’s needs for improvement. To do so, she engaged building leaders and families in the creation of a Priority School Plan to radically shift instruction to recover academic performance. Her leadership of this process led to the implementation of targeted professional development across staff, the adoption of the PATHS social-emotional curriculum, for which the school is now a model, and the bold choice to undergo an attendance zone consolidation and grade level reconfiguration to hone in on grade-level needs. Throughout this process, Courtney participated in the University of Virginia’s Partnership for Leaders in Education (PLE) program, and has since taken steps to scale EGSA’s turnaround success by establishing a partnership with Wilmington University to build a professional development pipeline for pre-service teachers interested in working in high-need schools. Courtney holds a B.S. in Elementary Education with a dual certification in Special Education from the University of Delaware, as well as an M.S. in School Counseling and a certificate in School Administration from Wilmington University.

Email: maribeth.courtney@redclay.k12.de.us


Seth Daub

Catalina Elementary School
Orange County Public Schools
Orlando, Florida


Since taking leadership at Catalina Elementary School two and a half years ago, Principal Seth Daub has demonstrated the impact of deliberate, respectful, and appropriately phased turnaround leadership for underperforming schools. Working to build trust with teachers and families, Daub has guided Catalina toward academic growth by implementing progressive changes with students’ best interests in mind. As a result, Catalina has improved performance on state assessments by 20 points in 2017 and a remarkable 63 points in 2018. One teacher describes Daub as a “tireless visionary,” a quality which is evident in his professional commitment to self-reflection. Daub has also worked diligently to deepen school-community rapport, recognizing that strong relationships can help break down achievement barriers in a high-poverty school with a significant ELL population. Due to his efforts to bridge barriers to school participation, Catalina’s dramatic shift in achievement has been accompanied by a cultural shift toward increased family involvement and a spirit of shared goals and shared celebration. Recognizing the assets of students, teachers, and staff has, in turn, improved student behavior and helped Daub retain a team of skilled and effective teachers. Daub is president of the Florida Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals (FAEMSP) and past-president of the Orange County Association of School Administrators. He is also an active mentor in multiple programs for pre-service teachers. He holds B.A. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Central Florida.

Email: seth.daub@ocps.net

Georgia (Elementary)

Julia Mashburn

Riverview Elementary School
Dawson County School District
Dawsonville, Georgia


Julia Mashburn has served eight of her fifteen years of principalship at Riverview Elementary School, a small-town Title I school serving grades Pre-K through five. After holding administrative positions in every elementary school in Dawson County School District, Mashburn opened Riverview in 2010, an experience which she describes as the most challenging and most rewarding of her career. Equipped with a breadth of skills from 27 years’ experience as a classroom teacher, instructional lead, and administrator, Mashburn has successfully aligned the school with the district’s mission and existing systems while addressing the complex needs of a high-risk population in an economically disadvantaged area. By leading her staff in prioritizing cognitive learning strategies, student leadership, and problem-solving, Riverview students have seen immediate and sustained performance gains that have earned the school statewide recognition. In 2016, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement honored Riverside with its Gold Award for Greatest Gains; the school went on to earn the Platinum Award in 2017. In addition, the school has been named a Georgia Highest Performing Title I Rewards School for placing in the top five percent two years in a row. Mashburn is an active leader in multiple professional associations. She is an NAESP Nationally Certified Mentor and holds B.S. and M.Ed. degrees in Early Childhood Education from North Georgia College and an Educational Leadership Certificate from Lincoln Memorial University.

Email: jmashburn@dawson.k12.ga.us

Georgia (Middle-Level)

Sandy Tinsley

South Forsyth Middle School
Forsyth County School System
Cumming, Georgia


For the last nine years, Sandy Tinsley has served as principal of South Forsyth Middle School (SFMS), a high performing sixth through eighth grade school where “excellence never rests.” During her tenure, Tinsley has supported staff in evolving to deliver a data-driven, student-centered curriculum that addresses the needs of the whole child, blending core content instruction with lessons that build 21st Century skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and social-emotional development. Throughout this process, Tinsley has positioned herself as an instructional leader and a champion of continuous professional learning. By helping to clarify and standardize grading practices, introducing data teams, and guiding the implementation of personalized learning methodologies, Tinsley has led SFMS to sustained and improved achievement while cultivating internal leadership and expertise. Tinsley’s leadership is grounded in her “intense devotion and loyalty to students and staff” and her deep commitment to equal learning opportunities for all. To make sure that vision is a reality at SFMS, she has led the reorganization of the schedule to guarantee time for additional academic support for struggling students and has built community partnerships to create opportunities for enrichment and challenge within and beyond the school. Tinsley is active in multiple professional associations and community organizations, with positions on two service-related boards. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Education from Brenau College and an Education Specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University.

Email: stinsley@forsyth.k12.ga.us


Linell K Dilwith

Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School
Honolulu School District
Honolulu, Hawaii


Linell Dilwith grounds her leadership in a commitment “to cultivate and promote a culture and climate of collaborative leading and learning.” As principal of Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School in Honolulu for the last six years, Dilwith has fully embodied this commitment, playing an instrumental role in shifting the school’s culture toward collaboration, professional learning, and 21st century excellence. One teacher describes her full embrace of the school improvement process by saying that “Linell had the courage to implement change for the sake of the students.” This is particularly clear in her development of an innovative STEAM program at Stevenson, for which she secured a $100,000 grant for science innovation—the first of its kind to be awarded in the state. These funds supported the creation of an in-house Innovative Invention Imaginarium, which has brought both rigor and relevance to the curriculum, narrowing the achievement gap while enhancing students’ capacity for applied learning. Her implementation of PBIS has been similarly impactful, leading to a more than 50 percent reduction in behavior referrals over five years. In the midst of driving instructional and cultural change, Dilwith also successfully coordinated a demanding 6-year WASC accreditation process. She holds a B.S. and an M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Chaminade University of Honolulu and professional certificates in Literacy and Administration from the Hawaii Department of Education.

Email: dilwith@rlsms.com


Susie Luckey

Idaho Hill Elementary
West Bonner County School District #83
Oldtown, Idaho


Susie Luckey has served Idaho Hill Elementary (IHE), a rural, high-poverty school serving grades K-6, for the last 12 years. One of her colleagues notes that Luckey’s background as a teacher, administrator, professional development leader, and homeless liaison have made her a “tremendous asset” to the district’s administrative team. Luckey has seen how poverty adversely impacts the learning environment and works tirelessly to build partnerships to remove barriers to success and ensure the basic needs of every student are met. A passionate advocate with strong development skills, Luckey stewards a student sponsorship program and has successfully attracted annual donations to cover basic expenses for both parents and students—from essential school supplies to gas cards for parents to attend school events. Her focus on equity extends to her instructional leadership, where she has focused her energy on supporting professional development through PLCs and improving literacy instruction by establishing a data review system that allows for timely, targeted, and effective intervention and enrichment. She has also improved the overall school culture by leading the development and implementation of a building behavior plan, engaging in critical feedback cycles that have led to lower referrals and higher achievement. Luckey holds a B.S. in Elementary Education with K-8 certification and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, both from the University of Idaho-Moscow.

Email: susieluckey@sd83.org


Gloria Trejo

Pioneer Elementary School
West Chicago District 33
West Chicago, Illinois


According to her supervisor, Principal Gloria Trejo’s successful leadership at Pioneer Elementary is a result of her unique combination of personal drive and deep understanding of the diverse community which she serves. As an instructional leader, Trejo has committed herself to deep study of performance gaps in order to chart appropriate pathways to improvement and identify the development needs of her staff. This focus has led to significant turnaround success, particularly in literacy. When she became principal at Pioneer 12 years ago, the school was the lowest performing in the district. Now, 80 percent of students are grade-level readers, with many reading above grade level. Trejo credits this success to investments in the school’s Professional Learning Teams, where she works closely with staff “on the frontlines” to address problems in instruction. With a large, diverse, and high-poverty K-5 population, Trejo has also invested in building community partnerships to attract resources that enrich the educational experience for all children and create new opportunities for family involvement. One colleague calls Trejo “brilliant, conscientious, independent, and self-motivated, but above all, humble.” Principal Trejo was a participant in the Association of Latino Administrators Leadership Academy and remains an active and respected leader in the organization. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Illinois State University and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Aurora University. She is expected to receive an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Aurora University in May 2019.

Email: trejog@wego33.org


Kathryn Raasch

Wayne Township Preschool
MSD Wayne Township
Indianapolis, Indiana


Kathryn Raasch has served families in Danville, Indiana as a teacher and administrator since 1979. Throughout her career, Raasch has remained a fearless advocate for young learners in need, exhibiting a tireless commitment to ensuring quality early education in a state where preschool is neither guaranteed nor universally funded. As principal of Wayne Township Preschool (WTP), an urban, high-poverty school, she makes it her duty to establish common standards and empower teachers to exceed them. Raasch took leadership at WTP in its opening months and quickly mobilized to increase enrollment, build a shared culture, and increase community accessibility. She skillfully united a teaching team representing 11 different preschools by shepherding an intensive process to generate the school’s mission, values, and goals. With these in place to guide assessment and instruction, Raasch went on to lead the school through national accreditation, earning recognition as a Quality Level 4 school. Throughout this process, she deepened rapport with teachers and community members and established best practices for data-driven intervention. Not only an effective systems thinker, Raasch leads with heart. As a mother of a son with a disability, she has mentored her staff to understand the concerns of parents of students with disabilities, making WTP a more welcoming school for students of all developmental levels. Raasch holds a B.S. from Indiana University and M.S. and Administration degrees from Butler University.

Email: kathryn.raasch@wayne.k12.in.us


Gayle L. Allensworth

Inman Primary & Washington Intermediate
Red Oak Community School District
Red Oak, Iowa


Gayle Allensworth is a firm believer that student achievement and teacher retention go hand-in-hand. That is why as principal of two small-town schools in Red Oak, Iowa — Inman Primary and Washington Intermediate — she has focused on creating curricular change supported by structured professional development and effective, data-driven systems for differentiated instruction. Allensworth has proven resilient and unafraid of the challenges of turnaround leadership. After identifying instructional deficits in the areas of reading, writing, and math, she sought out resources to clarify best practices for assessment and instruction, while developing her personal approach to building distributed leadership guided by a deep commitment to mentorship. By creating effective structures for sustained professional development, Allensworth has created a warm culture of collaboration across the two schools, leading to substantial gains in student achievement and earning praise from the School Administrators of Iowa, who called the system a “promising practice.” Her master schedule redesign was similarly recognized by the Iowa Department of Education for its effective delivery of core content while implementing multi-tiered systems of support to meet the needs of every student. Meanwhile, Principal Allensworth has remained committed to building stronger relationships with families as an active member of the communities she has served for nearly two decades. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Northern Iowa and has completed advanced graduate study at Northwest Missouri State University.

Email: allensworthg@roschools.org


Tad M. Hatfield

Andale Elementary
Renwick USD 267
Andale, Kansas


Tad Hatfield has served families in eastern Kansas for the last 13 years. As principal of Andale Elementary for the last seven, Hatfield builds on his experience teaching Physical Education and Health to ensure that the school exudes a family atmosphere while maintaining a culture of high expectations. A passionate advocate of 21st Century learning, Hatfield has introduced a Maker Space, online learning, and an i-Ready curriculum, while creating support systems for teachers to implement new methodologies. A fellow administrator comments on his “wide range of emotional availability,” demonstrated in his ability to balance the role of building disciplinarian with offering empathy and counsel to students in need. This openness extends to his communication with his colleagues. Ever committed to mentorship and reflection, Hatfield maintains a daily presence in the classroom and guarantees bi-weekly meetings with every teacher to discuss challenges, brainstorm solutions, and chart the course for individualized professional development. Because Andale is a K-8 school, creating a strong building-wide culture has proven challenging and essential. To broaden each student’s network of support, Hatfield has led the implementation of “Falcon Families” at Andale, strategically grouping students across grade levels to ensure access to positive relationships necessary for success. Hatfield holds a dual B.A. in Health and Physical Education as well as a Building Leadership degree from Emporia State University.

Email: tad.hatfield@usd267.com


Leo M. Labrillazo

Mary G. Hoggsett Elementary School
Danville Independent Schools
Danville, Kentucky


According to Danville Independent Schools Superintendent Keith Look, Principal Leo Labrillazo’s leadership is best characterized as “sensitive, methodological pragmatism” guided by a clear vision for how to make change. When Labrillazo took over as principal of Mary G. Hogsett Elementary School (MGHES), he immediately set out to unify his staff and re-establish focus, dissecting systems of management and instruction to reorient them toward clarified goals. With over two decades of classroom experience before becoming a principal, Labrillazo is a passionate believer in differentiated instruction that is dynamic, hands-on, and student-centered. Under his leadership, third-through-fifth-grade teachers are implementing systems to foster student ownership of their learning so that students leave the school able and eager to chart their own growth. He has also introduced small group instruction to make the classroom more responsive to individual student needs; through effective RTI and “encore” enrichment supported by a staff of trained interventionists, all MGHES students now receive individualized instruction appropriate for their skill level. As a musician and former music teacher, Labrillazo has passionately advocated to integrate arts in the curriculum at MGHES. He holds a B.A. in Music Education and Rank I certification from the University of Kentucky, an M.A. in School Counseling from Western Kentucky University, and an M.A. in Instructional Leadership from Eastern Kentucky University.

Email: leo.labrillazo@danville.kyschools.us


Cleo Perry Jr.

Crestworth Elementary
East Baton Rouge Parish School Board
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


As principal of Crestworth Elementary for the last decade, Cleo Perry, Jr. has transformed the school into a model within its district, a high-poverty, high-performing school known for its warm culture and impactful teachers. With a leadership style that one teacher says is driven by “empathy and mutual understanding,” Perry aims to couple high expectations with quality tiered instruction to ensure academic opportunity for all his students, 98 percent of whom live in poverty. Shortly following his appointment at Crestworth, Perry recognized fragmentation in staff and faculty and set out to regain focus and establish cohesion. Using SMART Goals, Perry guided teachers toward clear strategies to close the achievement gap with great results. Through systematic data analysis, the school saw academic gains in every content area and increased its letter grade of “D” to a “C” and then up to a “B.” This impressive turnaround was made possible by Perry’s implementation of PLCs, a space that he says allows for “collective inquiry” to establish goals, model lesson planning, guide assessment, and create opportunities for embedded professional development. Now integral to the school’s professional culture, PLCs no longer require Perry’s close guidance and are primarily self-managed by teachers who exhibit high levels of motivation, self-reflection, and initiative. Perry holds a B.S. in Economics & Finance and an M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision from Southern University. He is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Southeastern University.

Email: cperry@ebrschools.org


Dawn Moore

Leroy H. Smith School
RSU #22
Winterport, Maine


In her seven years as principal of Leroy H. Smith School, Dawn Moore has demonstrated the importance of steady leadership in the midst of change. Early in her tenure, Moore facilitated the smooth consolidation of two attendance zones, effectively incorporating students from a small, closely-knit, high-poverty area into RSU #22. Seeing this change as an opportunity to strengthen the school’s existing culture, Moore carefully built trust and collaboration with new families, successfully instilling a sense of belonging in the community. A skilled systems thinker, Moore has also actively sought out change where necessary. For example, she facilitated a master schedule redesign to address a variety of unmet needs in the curriculum, including special subjects instruction, targeted interventions, and more time for planning and assessment. The redesign also helped incorporate “habits of mind” into the curriculum, which has led to such notable improvements in behavior and school culture that Moore has been invited to model the program at the state and district level. As Pre-K Liaison for her district, Moore has also advocated for quality early education, developing a program that fits the diversity of the district in the midst of multiple shifts in funding. Moore holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Southern Maine as well as an M.S. in General Education and a C.A.S. in Educational Leadership from the University of New England.

Email: dmoore@rsu22.us


Tracy D. Hilliard

Centerville Elementary School
Frederick County Public Schools
Frederick, Maryland


According to Assistant Principal Neeley Miller, Tracy Hilliard creates change at Centerville Elementary School (CES) by building consensus, “utilizing staff, parent, and student input to develop the best plan of action that supports our school’s vision.” This relationship-driven approach to distributed leadership has allowed CES to hone instruction and strengthen the school’s culture, leading to sustained academic gains supported by the community. Over the last five years Hilliard has led CES to state and national recognition as a Maryland Blue Ribbon School in 2016 and a National Blue Ribbon School in 2017. While her leadership has earned her professional recognition, her commitment to mentorship is evident in the variety of honors bestowed upon the teachers whose leadership she has cultivated, including a 2017 Teacher of the Year Award from the Washington Post. Hilliard remains humble, however. Her leadership is motivated by a desire to see every scholar reach their fullest potential while building an environment that actively invites families into the education process, bridging school and community through a variety of initiatives to build life skills, instill a value of service, and shepherd every student toward growth. Hilliard is active in professional and community associations, including as the Community Service Chair of the Frederick County Association of School Administrators. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Elementary Education from Delaware State College, two Master’s degrees in Curriculum & Instruction with Administrator II Certification and Human Resources Development from McDaniel College, and will complete an Ed.D. from Seton Hall University in May 2019.

Email: tracy.hilliard@fcps.org


Craig Martin

Michael J. Perkins School
Boston Public Schools
South Boston, Massachusetts


As principal of Michael J. Perkins School, Craig Martin leads with a deep sense of purpose and a remarkable capacity to guide teachers and staff toward clear goals with shared accountability for outcomes. Martin’s supervisor, who calls him “one of the most promising young leaders in Boston Public Schools,” notes his “unwavering commitment, emotional maturity, and instructional knowledge beyond his years” as assets that have served Perkins students and staff and led to exceptional academic gains. A committed student of pedagogy, Martin is an active instructional leader, guiding Grade Level PLCs and Leadership Teams in honing targeted instruction to meet the particular needs of every student. Never one to lead at a distance, Martin teaches two small groups of his own and engages in mutual reflection inquiry with interventionists to improve differentiation. Families and students appreciate Martin’s passion and warmth, while colleagues see him as a committed visionary, which is clear in his statement that “our call to action as educators is to cultivate genius within each of our scholars so they can actualize their greatest potential.” Martin has received multiple recognitions for his leadership and holds an impressive service resume for such a young leader, having founded multiple organizations to support the educational leadership of People of Color. Martin holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Dillard University, an M.Ed. from Lesley University, and is working toward an Ed.D. from Abilene Christian University.

Email: cmartin2@bostonpublicschools.org


Craig McCalla

Cornerstone Elementary
Dexter Community Schools
Dexter, Michigan


As principal of Cornerstone Elementary for the last 12 years, Craig McCalla has built on his background as a special educator to work in service of the academic and social needs of a diverse student population. Understanding how social factors can create barriers to wellness and success, McCalla has become a particularly strong advocate for LGBTQ students following the transition of a transgender student at Cornerstone. The father of this student says that their initial meeting with McCalla “changed the course of (their) family’s life forever,” leading the way for a overwhelmingly supportive response at the district level, which, unprompted, McCalla parlayed into passionate advocacy for state and national guidelines to support transgender students. This is just one of the ways that McCalla’s service reflects the school motto “all means all.” He has also made schedule accommodations and built infrastructure for collaborative teaching as a way to increase Cornerstone’s capacity for differentiated instruction and created PBIS systems to invest in social and emotional development so that all students are fully prepared to participate in their communities. McCalla is a founding member of his county’s first Transgender Task Force and has been listed in amicus briefs presented to the Supreme Court. He holds an Associates Degree from Siena Heights University, as well as an M.A. in Emotional Impairments and an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University.

Email: mccallac@dexterschools.org


Curtis Slater

Wyoming Elementary
Forest Lake School District
Wyoming, Minnesota


As principal of Wyoming Elementary, Curtis Slater is known as a “visionary, collaborative, and charismatic leader” who is “passionate about creating the best learning environment for his students.” Driven to create positive culture, Slater has made considerable contributions at the school, district, and state level to guide the implementation of PBIS, having consulted for over 400 schools and trained over 3,000 paraprofessionals. At Wyoming, this work has led to notable shifts and concrete academic gains, leading to recognition as a Minnesota 2017-2018 Exemplary School. Acknowledging that his leadership has been made possible by access to professional development opportunities, Slater commits himself to ensuring that teachers and staff are able, even amid budget cuts, to grow their skills and develop their craft. Slater is a skilled relationship builder; while Wyoming benefits from a strong PTA, he makes a point to seek out disengaged or frustrated parents with a genuine interest in addressing their concerns so that they can show up fully as members of the school community. This skill has also allowed him to undertake highly collaborative processes, such as the development of a school Maker Space, which he says “recharged the school’s pedagogy” by providing opportunities for applied learning and 21st Century skill development. Slater has over 15 years of administrative experience and holds a B.S. from Moorhead State University and M.A. and Educational Administration degrees from Saint Mary’s University.

Email: cslater@flaschools.org


Todd E. Boucher

Popp's Ferry Elementary School
Biloxi Public Schools
Biloxi, Mississippi


When Dr. Todd Boucher took over as principal of Popp’s Ferry Elementary School five years ago, the K-4 school had not yet achieved its full potential. In this short time, Boucher has led his school toward significant gains in student achievement, lifting its state accountability rating from a “C” to an “A” in just two academic years and resolving its status as a “school of focus” for the Office of School Improvement. At the center of this impressive academic turnaround was a palpable shift in culture that colleagues and parents fully credit to Boucher, who finds satisfaction in having instilled a sense of school pride that was previously lacking in students, teachers, and staff. As a leader, Boucher ensures that instruction is fully aligned with established achievement goals by balancing high expectations with a commitment to provide the individualized attention needed to accomplish the mission. With a community-oriented approach, Boucher extends this commitment to students by championing data-based instruction; to teachers through focused mentorship; and to Biloxi at large through programming that reinforces the integral role of family and community in shaping student development and fostering academic achievement. Boucher holds a B.S. in History Education from Alcorn State University, an M.Ed. in Secondary Education from William Carey College, and an Ed.S. and Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Email: todd.boucher@biloxischools.net


Emily Cross

Indian Trails Elementary
Fort Osage R-I School District
Independence, Missouri


According to one of her colleagues, shared leadership is the cornerstone of Emily Cross’ philosophy of administration and the key to her success as principal of Indian Trails Elementary (ITE). Following eight years as a teacher and instructional coach, Cross was brought on as principal before ITE opened and immediately set out to craft her vision of a learning community centered around student voice. In the 11 years since, she has realized this vision by investing in community relationships and cultivating shared accountability in teachers and staff, often working quietly behind the scenes to shape the learning environment and align the school’s culture with her vision. As principal, Cross ensures that she balances leadership and administrative responsibilities by “scheduling by design.” As a result, she devotes up to 70 percent of her weekly schedule to observing and supporting instruction, allowing her to hone the school’s unique student-centered curriculum. Cross implemented the “Leader in Me” program in 2012 to amplify student voice, and ITE was named a Lighthouse School for 2018. Actively invested in the future of public education, Cross designed ITE as a “teaching school,” hosting several student teachers each year and has taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Central Missouri. She holds a B.S. from Central Missouri State University, a Master’s from Webster University, Administrative Licensure from Baker University, and an Ed.S. degree from the University of Central Missouri.

Email: emcross@fortosage.net


Jon Konen

Lincoln Elementary
Great Falls Public Schools
Great Falls, Montana


As principal of K-6 Lincoln Elementary in Great Falls, Montana, Jon Konen considers himself “lead learner” charged with creating empowered leaders in every student, teacher, and staff member. Despite a dramatic increase in the number of students living in poverty, Lincoln has managed to cut behavioral referrals by over 50 percent in the seven years since Konen became principal. This success reflects Konen’s dedication to building a positive school culture through a variety of methods, including using the High Trust Philosophy to structure and improve communication, the Olweus Prevention Program to combat bullying, and PBIS to guarantee all students have the social and emotional foundation necessary to reach their full potential. The combined success of these initiatives has earned Lincoln status as a Blue Ribbon School and local recognition as a warm and supportive learning community. When it comes to giving students and teachers the tools to step into leadership, Konen is creative and proactive. When the district introduced a new evaluation system for teachers, for example, Konen wrote a discussion guide to support self-assessment and increase performance. To encourage student leadership, he stewards community partnerships that offer funding solutions for student-led school improvement projects. Konen holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from Montana State University, an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix Online, and a Superintendent Endorsement from the University of Montana.

Email: jon_konen@gfps.k12.mt.us


Mary R Derby

Eisenhower Elementary
North Platte Public Schools
North Platte, Nebraska


According to Mary Derby, the “heart and soul” of effective school leadership is a passion for teaching and learning. As Principal of Eisenhower Elementary, she leveraged this passion to create building-wide systems that support the fulfillment of high expectations for behavior and achievement, exhibiting creative leadership as dynamic as Eisenhower itself. For example, when a dramatic demographic shift led to increased referrals and reports of bullying, Derby took a “learning approach” to discipline, drawing on school climate surveys and individual interventions to identify the needs of the new population so that she could implement appropriate systems to address them. With a focus on norm-setting and positive reinforcement, Derby quickly recovered a positive school climate by introducing school-wide PBIS and the Kindness Challenge to establish the social-emotional foundation students need to exceed, while supporting teachers in adopting trauma-informed frameworks in the classroom. With 20 years of principalship under her belt, Derby has a passion for the “messy work of curriculum development” and has contributed to standards and assessment development at the school, district, and state level. She holds a B.S. with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education from North Texas State University, an M.A. in Elementary Reading from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Principal Licensure from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and an Assessment Leadership Endorsement from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Email: mderby@nppsd.org


Darryl C. Wyatt

Gwendolyn Woolley Elementary
Clark County School District
Las Vegas, Nevada


In his 17 years of principalship, Dr. Darryl C. Wyatt has cultivated a systematic and community-oriented approach to leadership, the impacts of which have rippled far beyond the individual schools which he has served. As principal of Gwendolyn Woolley Elementary, Wyatt has helmed an impressive turnaround effort, leading the once-underperforming school from two-star to three-star status in just one year’s time, with double digit gains in both ELA and Math. When Woolley was identified as a Turnaround School, Wyatt was quick to take action, but did not miss the opportunity to engage families in decision-making about how to leverage additional funding to improve the school experience for Woolley learners. Parents advocated for more instructional time, lower classroom ratios, and more technology. Wyatt eagerly met these requests while also modifying the school’s RTI system and leading Woolley’s PLCs toward deeper focus on standards-based instruction. With Woolley’s year-to-year growth among the highest in the state, Wyatt was invited to present on these strategies at the state’s Victory Symposium and has embarked on individual legislative advocacy to secure adequate funding for underperforming schools in Nevada. Wyatt has represented his district across the country as a recruiter and is active in multiple professional and community contexts. He holds B.S., M.Ed., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Email: wyattd@nv.ccsd.net

New Hampshire (Elementary)

David M. Levesque

Pleasant Street School
Laconia School District
Laconia, New Hampshire


David M. Levesque says that his five years of principalship at Pleasant Street School (PSS) have transformed his leadership, challenging him to take more risks and lead with compassion and empathy. Levesque’s leadership has in turn transformed the experience of students at PSS, a high-poverty school where many students experience homelessness, parental incarceration, and state involvement in the family. Drawing on his background in school counseling, Levesque has worked at the building and district level to integrate trauma-informed approaches to instruction. Together with his implementation of an effective building-wide PBIS system, Responsive Classroom techniques, and a thoughtful schedule redesign, this initiative has led to a dramatic 50 percent decrease in behavioral referrals in just one year. By pairing this focus on students’ social and emotional wellbeing with academic rigor, the school has also seen impressive achievement gains. When Levesque first became principal, PSS was a School of Focus. By contrast, after guiding the implementation of a curriculum innovation plan, the school was honored as a New Hampshire School of Excellence for the 2016-2017 school year. In this same period, Levesque used Title I funds to provide low-income families access to early childhood education by launching the school’s first pre-K program. Levesque holds a B.S. in Physical Education, an M.Ed. in Guidance & Counseling, and an M.Ed. in Administration, all from Plymouth State College.

Email: dlevesque@laconiaschools.org

New Hampshire (Middle-Level)

Aaron Pope

Belmont Middle School
Shaker Regional School District
Belmont, New Hampshire


As principal of Belmont Middle School for the last 11 years, Aaron Pope has helmed a powerful transition from traditional instruction to individualized, 21st Century teaching and learning, earning the school recognition as a vibrant learning community. When data revealed achievement gaps in ELA and Math four years ago, Pope rolled out several ambitious initiatives to ensure growth through data-based assessment and instruction, including mixed-level learning labs, targeted intervention blocks, and varied enrichment programming. Meanwhile, he mobilized resources for his teachers in performance-based instruction and assessment practices, which has helped to clarify expectations and encourage student goal-setting and team teaching. As a result, the school has successfully closed the achievement gap and now employs a multi-pronged assessment and instruction strategy to sustain and deepen school-wide achievement gains; BMS recently received the National Blue Ribbon for a high achieving school. Belmont Middle School was also recognized as the 2018 New Hampshire Middle School of the Year for their engaging learning environment that empowers their students. Pope is a lifelong learner and maintains active research interests in PLCs, mass customized learning, grading and assessment, school culture, and technology. He holds a B.A. in General Science from Notre Dame College and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Keene State College, as well as state certifications in General Science and Principalship.

Email: apope@sau80.org

New Jersey

Dumar Burgess

Hawthorne Elementary
Willingboro Public School District
Willingboro, New Jersey


As principal of Hawthorne Park Elementary, Dumar Burgess’ leadership has centered on two strategies to better student outcomes: improving teacher practice and implementing engaging programs that support the whole child. According to parent and teacher Michelle-Anne Spring, this approach has allowed Burgess to transform HPE into a “dynamic 21st Century learning organization by driving technological innovations and designing systems and processes that strengthen the framework of the school community.” When Burgess arrived at HPE, the school environment reflected an ineffective teacher-centered pedagogy, with little or no evidence of technology-supported instruction or cooperative learning. In the seven years since, Burgess has implemented a successful school-wide PBIS program and enabled a complete transformation of the school’s literacy program to be student-centered, implementing a variety of initiatives to support differentiation and encourage higher-level thinking. Dumar chose the Balanced Literacy Framework to anchor the new program and took a systematic approach to ensuring that necessary scheduling, professional development, and technological elements were in place to catalyze its success. A firm believer in distributed leadership, Burgess “magnifies himself through teachers and staff” to carry out his mission of education for the whole child. He holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Lincoln University, an M.S. in Education Administration from Gwynedd Mercy University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Rowan University.

Email: dqburgess@wboe.net

New Mexico

Linda Townsend-Johnson

Sunset View Elementary School
Albuquerque Public Schools
Albuquerque, New Mexico


According to a fellow administrator, integrity is Dr. Linda Townsend-Johnson’s professional foundation, while “fairness, honesty, and excellence” define her leadership. As principal of Sunset View Elementary (SVE), a large K-5 school which she helped open a decade ago, Townsend-Johnson has imbued every element of the school with these deeply held values. Resolved that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to instruction, she guided school design and construction to reflect considerations of educational value, from play structures, to learning gardens, to art that communicates the school’s goal to create “happy hearts.” Knowing that realizing this vision would hinge on community participation, she notably established a PTA at the school before she had hired a full staff. After establishing the school’s environment and culture, Townsend-Johnson stepped fully into the role of instruction leader, guiding faculty in data review, reflections on practice, and curricular decision-making that “lets go of what is good for what is great.” She also leads a Wellness Team to provide holistic services and referrals to meet socio-emotional needs of students and families. Dr. Townsend-Johnson has scaled her impact by pursuing additional leadership as a district mentor and in several community organizations, including her local NAACP chapter, which she has served as President since 2010. She holds an M.A. from Concordia University, Administrative Licensure from George Fox University, and a Ph.D. from Oregon State University.

Email: johnson_l@aps.edu

New York (Elementary)

Joanna Kletter

South Oceanside Road School #4
Oceanside School District
Oceanside, New York


Joanna Kletter’s colleagues describe her as a passionate, purposeful, and creative leader with “steely determination and the work ethic of an Olympic athlete.” As principal of South Oceanside Road School #4 (SORS #4), Kletter has channeled these qualities to transform professional development and advance methodologies for educating the whole child. At the district level, she has advocated for participant-driven professional learning and has developed and solicited workshops to resource SORS #4 with research-based teaching practices. This work has allowed her to implement programs such as RULER, which encourages students to Recognize, Understand, Label, Express, and Regulate their emotions. She has also integrated STEAM learning at SORS #4 by developing the first Maker Space in her district and securing funds to balance hands-on and technology-supported learning. To further develop these best practices, in her capacity as a member of a county-level administrators association, she co-created “Principal Share and Steal,” a building visit program that fosters professional exchange. Kletter leverages her commitment to growing professional networks to serve the broader Oceanside community; In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, for example, she partnered with other districts and non-profit leaders to provide relief and repair. Kletter holds a B.S. from the University of Delaware, an M.A. from Hofstra University, and a Certificate of Advanced Study from the College of Saint Rose.

Email: jkletter@oceansideschools.org

New York (Middle-Level)

Charles Tadduni

Rondout Valley Junior HIgh School
Rondout Valley Central School District
Accord, New York


When Charles Tadduni first became principal of Rondout Valley Junior High School (RVJHS), teachers and staff reported low morale and a lack of trust in the school’s capacity to hold students accountable to behavioral norms. In the five years since, Tadduni has taken bold action to redress these concerns. Through targeted professional development, passionate instructional leadership, and the successful implementation of PBIS, RVJHS has seen a 20% reduction in behavioral referrals and vast improvements in team morale under his leadership. Central to this success is Tadduni’s belief in education for the whole child. Following a dramatic increase in the number of students from low-income families, Tadduni set out to educate teachers and staff about the social and educational impacts of living in poverty, while also introducing perspectives and modalities to creatively address potential academic barriers stemming from those conditions. For example, RVJHS has incorporated mindfulness philosophy by offering yoga as an alternative to competitive physical education and creating a Mindfulness Room to provide students daily access to a safe space for quiet reflection. Tadduni has also secured a farm-to-school grant to create multiple learning gardens and is working to incorporate restorative justice as a core value in the school’s disciplinary protocol. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from SUNY-New Paltz and School Building Leader Certification from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Email: ctadduni@rondout.k12.ny.us

North Carolina

Michelle D. White

D.F. Walker Elementary School
Edenton-Chowan Schools
Edenton, North Carolina


When Michelle D. White became principal of D.F. Walker Elementary (DFW), a large, rural elementary school serving grades three through five, she was determined to lead the school out of low-performance status by championing a “children first philosophy.” With unflagging energy and commitment, she immediately set out to turn the school around. Over the last three years, she has integrated new curricular programming across content areas, implemented block scheduling to prioritize reading and math, and developed frameworks to align instruction with high performance standards—and the results have been spectacular. In just two years, overall student achievement increased by 35 percent and the school improved its School Accountability Grade from a “D” to a “B,” with progress toward an “A” for the next school year. In the course of this transformation, White designed a PLC program to support teachers in developing data-driven best practices and implemented PBIS to restore the school’s positive atmosphere. These efforts have led to a 20% improvement in teacher assessments and an impressive 80% in behavioral referrals; White now has the distinction of guiding two schools to recognition as PBIS Exemplar Schools for the state of North Carolina for multiple years. Principal White holds a B.A. in Music Education and a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from East Carolina University, as well as an M.Ed. in School Leadership from Elizabeth City State University.

Email: mwhite@ecps.k12.nc.us

North Dakota

Jason Gullickson

Ely Elementary
Rugby Public School District
Rugby, North Dakota


According to one of his colleagues, Principal Jason Gullickson “believes that relationships are paramount in building a culture of success.” As leader of Ely Elementary, a Pre-K-6 school in rural North Dakota, Gullickson has spent the last decade practicing this belief by investing in professional relationships that are driven by dialogue and shared learning. Most notably, Gullickson has been instrumental in leading a complete overhaul of his district’s professional learning culture by implementing weekly PLC blocks that are structured to balance autonomy and accountability, shoring up research and reflection as essential to professional growth while eschewing the notion that one size fits all. This model has enabled a robust focus on math and literacy instruction, the implementation and continuous improvement of Ely’s RTI system, as well as training in standards-based grading and assessment. The district received national recognition for the program in the national publication The Professional Learner. Gullickson has gone above and beyond the district model by facilitating summer professional bootcamps and establishing management systems to track and support individual teachers’ growth. Gullickson’s efforts are all for the sake of the success of his 364 students, all of whom he knows by first and last name. He holds a B.S. in Elementary Education with a minor in Physical Education from Dickinson State University and an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from the University of Mary.

Email: jason.gullickson@k12.nd.us


T.J. Ebert

Redwood Elementary
Avon Lake City Schools
Avon Lake, Ohio


When Redwood Elementary was admitted to the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators’ Hall of Fame, the award acknowledged the school’s proud student body, committed staff, and highly involved parents, but underscored that none would be possible without the tireless leadership of Principal T.J. Ebert. According to OAESA, “every stockholder has a story about how his leadership makes the school a better place,” and those stories have been told since he first became principal seven years ago. With a background as a coach, Ebert’s leadership is hands-on and mentorship-oriented. While unafraid to make bold structural changes, his purpose is always to build leadership in others. For example, he spearheaded a redesign of the master schedule to secure common planning time and then immediately took on the role of instructional coach to support teacher-led discussions on how to leverage resources and plan lessons to meet common core standards. The most tenured principal in his district, Ebert has formally mentored five new administrators while also providing sustained counsel to his peers and oversight of the district’s teacher training program. Ebert is active in local athletics and prides himself on balancing a full professional life with an active life as a father of three young children. He holds a B.A. in Education from Kent State University, an M.A. in Educational Administration from Cleveland State University, and Superintendent Licensure from Ashland University.

Email: tj.ebert@avonlakecityschools.org


Janalyn C. Taylor

Nance Elementary School
Clinton Public Schools
Clinton, Oklahoma


Janalyn Taylor has spent the last 11 years of her 36-year career as principal of Nance Elementary School, a rural school serving a diverse population of pre-K through first grade students. With 83% of students participating in the free- and reduced-price meals program and 29% classified as English Language Learners, Taylor’s leadership is driven by a fierce commitment to equity and her ability to rally teachers and staff to ensure her vision is realized. While Taylor holds teachers to high expectations, she also respects their autonomy, and has shifted Nance’s professional learning culture away from individualism and toward collaborative, teacher-driven PLCs that offer multi-tiered development opportunities. This approach, combined with Taylor’s creative use of technology to foster communication and collaboration, has effectively distributed leadership to enable a variety of projects that make Nance the unique learning community it is. Notable among these is Nance’s Intergenerational Pre-K program, which partners with a senior care facility to engage students in structured activities with elders. Just the third of its kind in the state, the program has been recognized within Oklahoma and internationally. Principal Taylor has implemented Maker Space, Model Classroom, and Reading Garden programs by supporting $90,000 in successful grant applications throughout her tenure. Taylor was a classroom teacher for 25 years before becoming principal; she holds B.S. and M.Ed. degrees from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

Email: janalyn.taylor@clintonokschools.org


Perla V. Rodriguez

Echo Shaw Elementary School
Forest Grove School District
Cornelius, Oregon


In her 21-year career as a teacher, English Language development facilitator, and principal, Perla Rodriguez has dedicated herself to delivering high-quality, dual language learning opportunities that encourage students to see the world through a social justice lens. Rodriguez advocates for equity at the school and district level, promoting culturally competent curricula and programming that build proficiency while cultivating resilience and compassion. At her first assignment, Rodriguez coordinated an overhaul of the school’s literacy program, transforming the school from lowest-performing in the district to the recipient of multiple honors from the Oregon Reading Association, including Exemplary Reading Program and Model School. At Echo Shaw Elementary, where she has served for the last six years, Rodriguez has strengthened early childhood foundations by developing the district’s first all-day Kindergarten and pre-K programs. She also led her district through a major restructuring of its dual language program, supporting curriculum research, selection, and implementation. FGSD is now the only district in the state and one of few nationally to offer AP Spanish starting as early as 7th grade. Rodriguez is a founding member and treasurer of the Oregon Association of Latino Administrators and was honored as Distinguished Latino Educator of the Year. She holds an A.A. from Treasure Valley Community College, a B.A. in Education from Boise State University, an M.Ed. from Concordia University, and a Ed.D. from George Fox University.

Email: prodriguez@fgsd.k12.or.us


Adam Garth Schmucker

Trumbauersville Elementary School
Quakertown Community School District
Quakertown, Pennsylvania


While Adam Schmucker transitioned into principalship seven years ago, his 13 years of classroom experience have made him a life-long teacher. As principal of Trumbauersville Elementary School, Schmucker takes a coaching approach to instructional leadership, balancing facilitative and directive techniques to guide the learning process of teachers rather than disseminating best practices. As a result, teachers and staff feel empowered under his leadership, and his willingness to jump in and lend a hand where needed has inspired a contagious culture of collaboration. Schmucker’s humble style of distributed leadership is showcased in his facilitation of collaborative inquiry meetings, which have built a safe space for teacher self-reflection and data-based planning that retains a rigorous focus on the needs of individual students. This model has yielded key insights that have allowed teachers to adjust instructional practices to best support their students. Schmucker has led successful community outreach for families who are primarily Spanish-speaking and district-wide program initiatives, including the implementation of a full-day Kindergarten program that embodies whole-child teaching philosophies to provide a foundation for later success. He holds a B.S. from East Stroudsburg University, an M.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and an Educational Leadership Endorsement from Adams State University. He is currently working toward a doctorate of education at Lehigh University.

Email: aschmucker@qcsd.org

Rhode Island

Jennifer J. Poore

Charlestown School
Chariho Regional School District
Charlestown, Rhode Island


As principal of K-4 Charlestown School, Jennifer Poore has spearheaded several initiatives to increase student achievement and improve school culture. As a result, Charlestown has received a “commended” rating from the Department of Education for four years of her seven and half year tenure, with the additional distinction of being one of only six schools in the state to receive the honor for three consecutive years. Charlestown has also ranked fourth in the state for science proficiency under Poore’s leadership, another impressive feat for a school that recently sustained only average scores. These achievements come after Poore’s successful rollout of a new RTI program, twice revised Common Core standards, and new state-mandated assessments and teacher evaluation processes. Poore’s simultaneous implementation of these measures has been combined with non-mandated initiatives to increase student engagement and self-responsive learning, including an internally developed self-tracking tool for RTI students to chart their growth, as well as movement breaks to increase energy and stimulation while supporting physical wellness and effective behavior interventions. Poore understands the importance of family-school collaboration and has leveraged her experience as a mother of a disabled teenage son as motivation to strengthen parent-teacher relationships. Poore holds a B.S. in Political Science and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Keene State College and an M.Ed. in Educational leadership from the University of Massachusetts.

Email: jennnifer.poore@chariho.k12.ri.us

South Carolina

Timothy J. Carnahan

Waccamaw Intermediate School
Georgetown County School District
Pawleys Island, South Carolina


Timothy Carnahan is founding principal of Waccamaw Intermediate School, and in his decade-long tenure he has cultivated a supportive environment in which teachers do not aim to create students in their image, “but develop students who can create their own image.” By supporting this vision with a variety of programs to focus and enrich the curriculum, Carnahan has guided Waccamaw to recognition as a Palmetto Gold School and, most recently, as a National Blue Ribbon School—the second time in his career that Carnahan was recognized for closing the achievement gap. This accomplishment was facilitated largely by Carnahan’s restructuring of ELA instruction to integrate reading, writing, and research activities across content areas. This interdisciplinary approach was paired with individualized instruction to target progress goals, with positive results across grades three through five. Carnahan has also partnered with the district to integrate technology into the curriculum, including through a 1:1 device initiative and an after-school Robotics Club, as well as with community and parents to create cultural offerings to strengthen the school’s connection to its local context. For example, Carnahan initiated a Lunch on the Lawn visitor series to highlight local history and lore, and supported an award-winning PTO event featuring a recycled fashion show. Carnahan holds a B.S. from Kent State University, a Master’s from the Citadel, and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

Email: tcarnahan@gcsd.k12.sc.us

South Dakota

Christopher E. Noid

Howard Elementary
Howard School District 48-3
Howard, South Dakota


Christopher Noid has served rural K-6 Howard Elementary for the last 15 years, where his mission has been to “provide each student with the educational foundation on which to build a successful life in a global society.” To realize this vision, Noid has positioned himself first and foremost as an instructional leader, believing it his duty to be the “driving force” to facilitate changes necessary for school improvement. Collaborating with a variety of stakeholders, Noid has facilitated innovations in instruction and professional learning that have led the school to multiple honors, including Blue Ribbon status in 2014. A firm believer in data-driven and technology-supported practices, Noid has led school- and district-level conversations about data-informed instruction and assessment and secured a $26,000 innovation grant for 1:1 technology integration and an in-house Maker Space to prioritize STEAM. He has also established a variety of systems to support targeted interventions, including a dynamic RTI program and before- and after-school tutoring. Prior to becoming principal, Noid spent the first 18 years of his career as a high school teacher (8 yrs.),elementary teacher (10 yrs.) and part-time college-level instructor. He holds a dual B.S. in Political Science & Communications and Social Studies from Weber State University, an Administrative Endorsement from Utah State University, an M.P.A. from the University of Utah, and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from the University of South Dakota.

Email: chris.noid@k12.sd.us


Ann-Marie Gleason

Harpeth Valley Elementary
Metro Nashville Public Schools
Nashville, Tennessee


As an instructional leader, Ann-Marie Gleason tasks herself with creating the conditions for adult learning and building systems to monitor student learning. As principal of Harpeth Valley Elementary (HVES), this approach has enabled the implementation of impactful programs that have transformed the school culture while buoying student achievement. Upon taking leadership five years ago, Gleason implemented a robust RTI program supported by job-embedded professional development opportunities to empower teachers to effectively target individual needs for intervention and enrichment. This program has not only led to academic gains, but has helped build a highly collaborative professional environment in which Gleason takes an open and honest approach to communicating about decision-making, planning, and exploring student data. She also led the successful implementation of PBIS at HVES, earning the school statewide recognition in 2017 as a Model Demonstration School after showing decreased referrals and notable shifts in climate. Gleason has scaled her impact within public education by serving as a mentor for new teachers and aspiring administrators. At HVES, she established an in-house program for new teachers that provides monthly professional development and structured mentorship with more experienced teachers. Gleason is an alumnus of Vanderbilt University’s Principals Leadership Academy; she holds a B.S. from Belmont University as well as an M.Ed., and an Ed.D., from Trevecca Nazarene University.

Email: ann-marie.gleason@mnps.org


Jennifer Parker

Purple Heart Elementary School
Socorro Independent School District
El Paso, Texas


According to her supervisor, the hallmark of Principal Jennifer Parker’s leadership is her keen emotional intelligence, which she leverages to motivate stakeholders to join her in making change. In the two schools where she has served as principal, this skill has allowed her to move “recalcitrant, set-in-their-ways faculties” and “economically and culturally diverse parent groups” to embrace initiatives that have allowed her to affect “large-scale change in complex environments.” As founding principal of Purple Heart Elementary School (PHES), a pre-K-5 school that opened in 2015, Parker has played an instrumental role in developing a unique, 21st Century learning environment—the first of its kind in the El Paso area. Designed to promote flexibility and collaboration, PHES emphasizes college-readiness, lifelong learning, and critical and creative thinking skills through technology-supported and interdisciplinary, project-based learning. To meet the needs of PHES’s highly mobile community of military families, Parker has strived to create a high-impact experience by hiring, retaining, and cultivating teachers who are curious, creative, and eager to hone their practice to meet the learning needs of students living in a global society. As Parker says, “we are teaching the students of the future, so we had to leave some teaching practices in the past.” She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master of Education, and a Principal Certification all from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Email: jparker@sisd.net


Chad Argyle

Santaquin Elementary
Nebo School District
Santaquin, Utah


When he took the position of principal at Santaquin Elementary nine years ago, Chad R. Argyle had six years of principalship under his belt. He wasted no time diving into the challenges faced at his new school, which was then the fourth highest-poverty Title 1 school in the district. Argyle knew that motivating teachers to nurture their professional development would be key to improving classroom outcomes, and to that end, he has supported over sixty teachers and staff members in attending professional training each year, resulting in a dramatic shift in school culture and test results to match. Students’ end-of-level test scores have increased 12 percentage points in math, 10 in language arts, and 18 in science since 2014. Argyle also introduced a holistic and efficient intervention system to enhance student literacy achievement, where all staff collaborate to identify and meet student needs. This endeavor has resulted in an increase in grade level reading from 47% to 77% over a three-year period. Teachers and staff appreciate Argyle’s commitment to high standards, with one teacher noting, “when the bar is set high, he is great at encouraging those around him to reach for it and to not ever give up.” Argyle holds an A.S. from Utah Valley State College, a B.A. from Weber State University, and an M.Ed. from Brigham Young University.

Email: chad.argyle@nebo.edu


Joyce Hakey

Franklin Elementary School
Franklin School District
Franklin, Vermont


Under Principal Joyce Hakey’s leadership, Franklin Elementary has been recognized as a Gold Medallion School for highest elementary academic achievement statewide and overall school quality. The Vermont Department of Education named this rural, high-poverty school one of three Roots of Success schools, in which students of all income levels achieve high academic results. Hakey credits these awards to the culture of collaboration she has fostered in her 17 years as Franklin Elementary’s principal. Hakey’s leadership philosophy is grounded in the idea that relationships form the foundation for success, and this outlook is demonstrated by consistent efforts to engage parents in the learning process, as well as by fostering leadership in teachers, staff members, and other stakeholders. Hakey’s colleagues describe her as a highly effective and data-driven leader who has succeeded in maintaining high success rates even on a small school budget. Hakey is proud to continue the school’s tradition of enriching community-building activities. These activities include students learning about their town’s farming roots by participating in the community garden and educational programming about food, farms, and nutrition; having school each year on Memorial Day for students to participate in the town's parade and presentations; and intergenerational projects such as students hosting an Annual Senior Dinner, where seniors are invited to enjoy a theme-based afternoon with dining and special student performances. Hakey holds a B.S. in Business Administration from University of Vermont, an M.Ed. from St. Michael’s College, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from the University of Vermont.

Email: jhakey@fnwsu.org


Andrew M. Jacks

Ashland Elementary School
Prince William County Schools
Manassas, Virginia


In eight years as principal, Principal Andrew M. Jacks has been at the helm of transformation at Ashland Elementary School. The school has skyrocketed from an overall student achievement ranking in the 62nd percentile in 2010 to an impressive 96th percentile ranking in 2017. Ashland has seen a dramatic closing of the achievement gap for the most at-risk student groups, and referrals and suspensions have plummeted to close to zero each year, a result of Jacks’ dedication to fostering a collaborative, communicative relationship with each teacher and using data to steer performance goals. A leader of innovation throughout the district, Jacks has led numerous staff workshops on integrating new technology to support cooperative learning and district-wide public relations and branding. About half of the students at Ashland come from military families, and Jacks’ efforts to meet their unique challenges has led to commendations from veterans’ groups and national recognition in the form of a visit from the U.S. Secretary of Education. Jacks’ makes it a priority to advocate for his most at-risk students, investing in adaptive technology and top-tier staff for the school’s autism and special needs programs. Jacks holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Grove City College and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Supervision from George Mason University. He will receive his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Tech University.

Email: jacksam@pwcs.edu


Gina Naccarato-Keele

Linwood Elementary
Spokane Public Schools
Spokane, Washington


Gina Naccarato-Keele has served as principal at Linwood Elementary for ten years. Naccarato-Keele has ensured she and her staff live up to the school’s vision of high expectations and maximum student support by implementing PBIS and Restorative Practices, a Child Study Team that works to create differentiated support and interventions for struggling students, and a character-building program that helps students learn crucial emotional and social skills. A strong focus on putting systems and practices in place to help young learners succeed has resulted in 81% of first-grade students reading at the target level. Thanks to Naccarato-Keele’s focus on implementing data-driven supports in this diverse school with 70% of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, Linwood students are outperforming schools with similar demographics 72% of the time in language arts and 67% of the time in math. In addition, Naccarato-Keele’s partnership with a local food bank and Gonzaga University’s business school has ensured that students in need can access a free bag of food to bring home each weekend. She has worked to establish a dedicated PTO, established a fruitful teaching partnership with a local art museum, and connected with local churches whose members volunteer daily. Naccarato-Keele’s supervisor praises her as a reflective and supportive leader whose dedication to student and staff success never wavers. Naccarato-Keele holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Eastern Washington University.

Email: ginan@spokaneschools.org

West Virginia (Elementary)

Cathi Bradley

Kanawha City Elementary
Kanawha County School District
Charleston, West Virginia


Cathi L. Bradley served as principal at Elk Elementary for eight years and has been principal of Kanawha City Elementary for the past four years. Colleagues describe Bradley as a loyal, inspiring, and hardworking principal who leads by example and who is dedicated to nurturing teacher leaders. A strong arts advocate, Bradley applied for and received a grant to train teachers at the Kennedy Arts Center in Washington, D.C., succeeding in integrating arts and creativity across all grades at Elk Elementary, which has contributed to increased test scores and decreased behavioral problems. At Kanawha City Elementary, Bradley has focused on creating systems for analyzing student data and implementing differentiated supports and individualized instruction for all learners. Bradley makes communication and community-building her focus. Parents and staff praise Bradley’s commitment to nurturing a positive, friendly school community where students know they are truly cared for. Bradley makes sure to personally greet students each day, and she stays involved in each student’s progress by commenting on report cards and meeting with parents. The introduction of a schoolwide mobile app has further strengthened communication with Bradley and her staff, enabling parents to more easily reach out with questions or concerns. Bradley holds a B.S. in Education from West Virginia State University and an M.A. and Ed.S. from Marshall University.

Email: clbradley@mail.kana.k12.wv.us

West Virginia (Middle-Level)

Renee E. Warner

Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School
Upshur County School District
Buckhannon, West Virginia


Renee E. Warner has served as principal of Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School for 12 years. In 2015, Warner brought a team of teachers to a PBIS training and began steering the school in a new direction by integrating their learnings into the school culture. This includes the CARE program, a weekly schedule that integrates time blocks for academic and behavioral guidance, targeted instruction, and club events, where students get the opportunity to make new connections with teachers who sponsor various recreational activity groups. In this low-income school, one of Warner’s greatest successes has been the creation of a fully-stocked food pantry program for students experiencing food insecurity, partnering with a local grocery store and student families for donations. Warner’s focus on the holistic needs of her students during the formative years of middle school is also demonstrated by her commitment to partnering with Community Care of West Virginia to maintain an on-site health clinic, which has helped keep students healthy and has boosted attendance. From the Buccaneer-Thon fundraiser, which raises money for local hospitals, to a school garden run by the agriculture club, students and staff alike have been encouraged and motivated to connect with one another and give back to the community under Warner’s leadership. Warner holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from West Virginia University.

Email: rewarner@k12.wv.us


Scott Walter

Riverside Elementary School
Menomonee Falls School District
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin


In his 10 years as principal at Riverside Elementary, Scott Walter has been at the helm of integrating the Plan, Do, Study, Act model for improvement into all of the school’s processes. Teachers work in 10-15 day learning cycles, at the end of which students are asked for input on what teaching strategies are working for them. Their feedback is seamlessly integrated into the teachers’ next learning cycle lesson plans. Grade level teams monitor reading and math proficiency using formative assessments to improve teaching and target student needs. Since 2009-2010, the school has seen an 82.7 percent increase in the number of students performing at the 70th percentile or higher on the Reading MAP test. Walter also works to maintain high staff morale by introducing bi-yearly employee engagement surveys, followed by one-on-one check-ins. This system has resulted in a fundamental culture shift in the school, with staff feeling engaged, appreciated, and listened to. Walter counts community outreach as another one of his accomplishments as a principal, focusing on engaging local seniors as volunteers with the school’s afterschool tutoring program, pen pal program and Readers’ Café program, where students get to connect with a caring adult as they build their reading skills over a six-week period. Walter holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master in Administrative Leadership from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Email: waltsco@sdmfschools.org


Roy Michael Wood

Glenn Livingston Elementary
Park County School District #6
Cody, Wyoming


With the student demographics at Livingston Elementary School’s shifting rapidly, Mike Wood has spent his 4 years as principal there focusing on strengthening and aligning curricula, instituting a culture of shared responsibility to ensure maximum student success, and enhancing intervention and enrichment opportunities. Wood’s leadership has helped make Livingston Elementary one of the highest-performing elementary schools in the state. Having served as principal at three schools over a period of 19 years, Wood is known as much for his ability to transform struggling schools into high performing ones as for his student-centered focus and commitment to making his school a warm and welcoming place. Wood focuses on ensuring high standards by embedding MTSS and PLCs into the foundation of the school. Staff teams monitor student learning, assess interventions, and construct formative assessments. The result is data-driven success with high staff morale and high student performance. Wood believes that students work best when families are actively involved, and to that end, he has encouraged staff to cultivate relationships with student families. Parent volunteer participation is high, and Wood has ensured that there are multiple avenues for parents to contribute, from traditional in-class volunteering to helping with the massive student-painted murals that now beautify Livingston’s hallways. Wood holds a B.A. in Elementary Education and an M.A. in Educational Leadership from the University of Wyoming.

Email: mikewood@park6.org

Private Schools

District of Columbia (Private)

Michael R. Thomasian

St. Anthony Catholic School
Archdiocese of Washington
Washington, District of Columbia


Michael R. Thomasian has served St. Anthony Catholic School for 18 years as a teacher, associate principal, and for the past 7 years, as principal. Thomasian counts expanding cultural horizons as one of his most significant accomplishments as a principal at this urban school. St. Anthony now boasts a rigorous Spanish language program, and the school has introduced celebrations of Latino cultural events and holidays into its traditions. This program both gives St. Anthony students advantage in a culturally diverse world and is an enticement to prospective students and families. As principal, Thomasian led the effort to replace the school’s outdated technology with Smart Boards, iPads, and ChromeBook carts working to achieve 1:1 technology integration. He has also ensured that teachers are supported in adapting to and integrating the new technology through intensive trainings. In 2017, Thomasian introduced the Danielson Framework for Teaching to his instructors and staff in order to boost effective teaching and robust learning. Positive results have already been seen in more motivated, engaged students and in more focused, productive staff meetings. Described by a colleague as a humble servant leader, Thomasian’s passion for nurturing the development of each of his students and staff shines through all his work. Thomasian holds a B.A. in Psychology from Assumption College, an M.A. in Teaching from Trinity College, and an M.A. in Educational Administration from the University of Notre Dame.

Email: michael.thomasian@catholicacademies.org

Illinois (Private)

Anthony Christopher Comella

Pilgrim Lutheran Church and School

Chicago, Illinois


Anthony Christopher “Chris” Comella has served as an educational professional since 1982, and is now in his 6th year as principal of Pilgrim Lutheran School. Comella’s strong focus on academic strength is reflected in the adoption of a math specialist, fine-tuning of the 4th-8th grade instructional model, and implementation of a schedule that allows students to be instructed at their specific level across grades, permitting more focused instruction. Comella also understands that student physical, social, emotional, and spiritual development are integral to supporting academic success, and he encourages staff to understand the classroom from this perspective as well. He has introduced a PBIS program to serve student needs, and he constantly challenges students to connect with others to change the world for the better. He supports Pilgrim students to engage in service learning at every grade level, including inter-generational learning; cross-cultural learning that partners mostly English-speaking Pilgrim students with students in a nearby school whose student body is majority Spanish-speakers;.working on behalf of local food pantries; and supporting refugee families. Comella’s dedication to meeting the needs of the whole student has led one colleague to remark that “the difference his work has on students is palpable.” Comella holds a B.A. from Wabash College and an M.A. from Northeastern Illinois University, and extensive language study at the Goethe Institute.

Email: ccomella@pilgrimchicago.org

Pennsylvania (Private)

Helen M. McLean

Saint Andrew School
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania


Helen M. McLean’s distinguished career at Saint Andrew School has spanned forty-one years, the past 11 of which she has served as the school’s principal. In her tenure as principal, she took the lead in dramatically reversing declining enrollment and consulting with experts to implement a sustainable budget for the school while still investing in major improvements to the school’s infrastructure. McLean has spearheaded the school’s integration of 21st Century technology into the classroom, and the school’s deep commitment to STEM has resulted in Saint Andrew students consistently advancing in regional science competitions. In McLean’s tenure as principal, the school has installed a modern computer lab and has begun utilizing the LabLearner science program. Classrooms are on the way to achieving 1:1 technology integration. Using the Instructional Support Team model, the school has been successful at identifying and supporting individual student needs. McLean has also introduced the PBIS model, and the school is poised to fully integrate the model into the curriculum for the upcoming school year. Acknowledged by colleagues as a tremendous, highly-respected leader who is always looking to move her school and parish forward, McLean is recognized both for her commitment to data-driven school improvement as well as her dedication to mentoring students and teachers alike. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from West Chester State College, an M.Ed. from Cabrini College, and is expected to be awarded an Ed.D. from Neumann University in December 2018.

Email: hmclean@saintandrewschool.com

Wisconsin (Private)

Dawn D. Oldenettel

St. John's Lutheran School

West Bend, Wisconsin


Over her forty years of service, Dawn D. Oldenettel’s educational career spanned the roles of teacher, community college instructor, and school administrator until she stepped into the role of principal at St. John’s Lutheran School 6 years ago. Oldenettel immediately began strengthening the school’s instructional culture by supporting teachers in professional and curricular development, introducing new reading and math programming, and integrating technology into the classroom. By utilizing MAP assessments and working with an onsite Title 1 teacher, Oldenettel and staff are able to analyze data and provide individualized instruction and in-depth parent-teacher conferences. A commitment to community is evident in the school’s student fellowship gatherings, school improvement projects, and staff-led academic family events. Teachers visit each student’s home before the start of the school year, setting the tone for a productive year in which families are welcomed to participate in all aspects of school life. Oldenettel seeks to develop a school community of servant leaders. To that end, students are encouraged to develop service projects to help those in need, from park clean-ups to delivering donated gifts to families. Oldenettel’s open-door policy and welcoming, proactive attitude have earned her respect from colleagues, parents, and students alike. She holds a B.A. in Classics from San Diego State University, a B.S. in Education from Concordia University, and an M.S. Ed. from Pittsburg State University.

Email: doldenettel@stjohnswestbend.org

DoDEA & Overseas Schools

Department of Defense Education Activity

Penelope A. Miller-Smith

Kaiserslautern Elementary School
DoDEA Europe East
Kaiserslautern, Germany


A recipient of the 2017 DoDEA and DoDEA Europe Principal of the Year Award with a “roll up your sleeves” leadership style, Penelope A. Miller-Smith is described by colleagues as a highly encouraging and supportive mentor dedicated to developing teacher leaders. Over eight years of principalship, four of which have been at Kaiserslautern Elementary, Miller-Smith has stayed true to a philosophy of whole-child education developed over 10 years as a special education teacher. In 2015, Miller-Smith spearheaded the rollout of the College and Career Ready Standards for Mathematics (CCRSM) curriculum. Administration began classroom visits to model teaching with the new curriculum, and instructors attended one-on-one follow-up meetings with Miller-Smith to ensure they felt supported and confident in introducing the CCRSM materials. Miller-Smith and her staff continue working collaboratively to strengthen the vertical and horizontal articulation of CCRSM throughout grade levels. Miller-Smith’s focus on educating the whole child is reflected in the introduction of a school-wide abuse prevention education program, Speak Up Be Safe, in partnership with her school’s psychologist. Students are also encouraged to take the lead in conservation efforts, and Kaiserslautern Elementary has been honored with the Army Green Boot program recognizing organizations that have taken significant steps to reducing waste. Miller-Smith holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Teacher Certification from California State University Long Beach, and M.A.s in Evaluation, Measurement, and Research and Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University.

Email: penelope.millersmith@eu.dodea.edu

Department of State – India

John Smithies

The American School of Bombay

Mumbai, India


In his five years of principalship at this progressive international school with students of over fifty nationalities, John M. Smithies has focused on aligning standards and goals among instructors to foster a safe, supportive, and strong school community. Described by colleagues as an extraordinary leader and innovative educator, Smithies has met the unique challenges of serving a school with a highly diverse and transient population of both students and teachers. By utilizing collaboratively-created instructor Common Expectations documents and fostering a staff mindset dedicated to professional development, Smithies has ensured the preservation of institutional memory. In a school with high turnover, outreach to new families is key, and Smithies works individually with families and students to make sure they are on-board and comfortable with the school’s progressive structure. Identifying that some of the needs of the school’s neurodiverse student body were not being met, Smithies worked to support a schoolwide shift to a more inclusive mindset where educators are supported in taking a student-centered approach. The school now boasts a Sensory Learning Hub and an integrated mindfulness program. In the words of the School Head, Smithies’ “vision, constant reaffirmation of our mission, and ability to bring people into the fold and allocate resources have made his division a teaching and learning environment like none that I have witnessed or experienced.” Smithies holds a B.A. in Education from Tasmanian State Institute of Technology and an M.A. in Education from Deakin University.

Email: esprincipal@asbindia.org

Department of State – Netherlands

Timothy Messick

American School of the Hague

Wassenaar, Netherlands


In his over 22 years as a principal and 11 years as principal of American School of the Hague (ASH), Tim Messick has focused on fostering a collaborative “we” mentality within staff, students, and parents. With a leadership style described by colleagues as resilient, empathetic, and patient, Messick helmed the transition from one to two campuses when ASH created a self-contained special education program for high needs students, while still fostering a sense of cohesion and school identity. This new special education program, along with the opening of an Early Childhood Center, means that ASH is now a truly inclusive school. Under his leadership, the school has experienced an increase in standardized testing across all curricula, with fall 2016 MAP data showing elementary students performing above U.S. and international standards. Messick himself has taken the lead in rolling out a special fourth-grade leadership curriculum, which he instructs, providing individualized mentorship to students, resulting in positive feedback from students, teachers and parents. Promoting teacher swap programs, regular peer visitations to classrooms and instilling a collaborate spirit within the division, he helps grow a strong culture of professional development among instructors. During the summer, he serves as an adjunct professor with Trenton College as part of their summer abroad program. Messick holds a B.S. from Concordia University, an M. Ed. from University of Oregon-Eugene, a Certificate of Advanced International School Leadership from Principals’ Training Center, and an Educational Leadership Certificate from The College of New Jersey.

Email: tmessick@ash.nl



Sponsors for the 2018 Program are: