2020 National Distinguished Principals

National Distinguished Principals Program

Congratulations to our 2020 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.


Dilhani M. Uswatte

Rocky Ridge Elementary School
Hoover City Schools
Hoover, Alabama


As a leader of Rocky Ridge Elementary for the last decade, Dr. Dilhani Uswatte builds on 13 years’ classroom experience as a math and science teacher. In her six years as principal, Uswatte has been a champion for pre-K education and helped make the community’s dream of a STEAM school a reality. By using the school’s strength in the arts as the “natural, creative glue to meaningfully integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Uswatte has leveraged the support of private funders to bring multidisciplinary learning to the center of the school’s learning culture. The school earned international STEM accreditation in 2019 through AdvancEd (now Cognia), a first-in-the-district achievement, with Rocky Ridge being just the eleventh school in the state to receive this distinction. Driven by her passion for mentorship, Uswatte won the distinction of becoming a National Milken Award Educator in 2009. Her impact in the field of mentoring has rippled out beyond the school and community levels to cultivate the leadership of promising educators. Uswatte has launched both statewide and national mentoring programs, the latter of which has reached nearly 100 educators, nurturing contributions in advanced leadership, research, and professional development. These efforts were recently recognized with the 2019 CLAS Alabama Education Leadership Award. Uswatte holds Ed.D, Ed.S., and master’s degrees in Education Leadership from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, as well as B.Sc. degrees in Education and Biology from the Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Email: duswatte@hoover.k12.al.us


Eric Pederson

Paul Banks Elementary School
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Homer, Alaska


Principal Eric Pederson is a community-builder who prides himself on cultivating a welcoming and positive atmosphere at Paul Banks Elementary School (PBES), where he has served as principal for the past seven years. Guided by a responsive approach to leadership, Pederson has developed a variety of programs that shore up this affirmative school culture while fostering “caring, confident, problem-solving students.” Pederson’s approach is not one-size-fits-all. Rather, throughout his career, he has practiced deep listening as a basis to assess the unique needs of each community he has served and develop initiatives for differentiated instruction, family engagement, and social-emotional support. While working at a predominantly Native school in the rural north of Alaska, for example, Pederson hosted community feasts and launched initiatives such as a kindergarten bootcamp to foster trust between families and the school’s majority-white staff. At PBES, he has implemented universal violin instruction and built a hard-working Intervention Team that collaborates to target instruction so that all students reach their full potential. Most recently, with the support of his PTA and staff, Pederson launched a Care Team initiative to assess family needs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, distributing $5,000 in food vouchers and other financial assistance for families unable to work during the crisis. Pederson holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska, and a bachelor’s degree in Math and Science for Elementary Education from the University of St. Thomas.

Email: EPederson@KPBSD.k12.ak.us


Heather L. Anguiano

Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School
Chandler Unified Schools #80
Chandler, Arizona


For Heather Anguiano, “relationships are at the center of everything.” Deeply committed to community, Anguiano has spent the past nine of her 16 years of principalship beating the odds as leader of Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School (HSEES), which earned the 2017 A+ School of Excellence Award for the first time under her leadership. Anguiano’s data-driven approach to equity has made HSEES stand out in the district and the state for strong achievement in a high-poverty context; in 2011-2012, the school was one of very few to to move from “D” to “A” status in one year. Anguiano commits herself to closing the racial and economic achievement gaps through strong differentiated instruction and robust social support. Using a “whole child, whole family” approach, Anguiano led HSEES to be the first school in Chandler, Arizona, to guarantee free breakfast to all students. Noting poor representation of students of color and students from poverty in the district’s gifted program, Anguiano worked with district leaders and parents to launch a self-contained program that creates a streamlined, STEAM-focused path to college preparatory classes for high-achieving students in these demographic areas. She also fiercely advocates for resources that support inclusion and family wellness and prioritizes hiring staff that reflect the community, particularly Spanish-speakers. Anguiano holds two M.Ed. degrees in Leadership and Curriculum from Northern Arizona University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Iowa State University.

Email: anguiano.heather@cusd80.com


Justin C. Swope

Lee Elementary School
Springdale Public Schools
Springdale, Arkansas


Justin Swope has spent the last nine of his 12 years of principalship guiding the turnaround success of Lee Elementary School (LES), a high-poverty K-5 school with high racial and ethnic diversity and a large immigrant population. Swope’s efforts have led to sustained achievement gains across three years in MAP and ACT Aspire assessments and have earned LES the distinction of being among the top in the state for growth in 2018 (top 5 percent) and 2019 (top 10 percent). In 2019, Arkansas recognized LES as a “Beating the Odds” school for high growth among the highest-poverty schools in the region. Swope credits this success to building a collaborative professional culture that harnesses the expertise of all stakeholders to create sustainable change. To address the need for cultural change, Swope stewarded a collective, research-based assessment process to identify key targets and metrics for improvement. A firm believer in distributed leadership, Swope built a multi-stakeholder leadership team to guide principal decision making on everything from curriculum and family engagement to fiscal management and even seeks out the leadership of stakeholders whose insights are traditionally overlooked, such as the Instructional Assistant team, with whom meets quarterly. Swope holds an Ed.S. in Leadership and an M.Ed. in Administration from the University of Arkansas and an B.S.E. in Elementary Education from the University of Central Arkansas.

Email: jswope@sdale.org


Jill A. Lliteras

Prairie Ridge Elementary School
St. Vrain Valley School District
Firestone, Colorado


In her 32 years in education, Jill Lliteras has held a variety of leadership positions at the elementary and secondary levels. Currently principal of Prairie Ridge Elementary School, Lliteras has guided several participatory processes to clarify school mission and vision, laying the groundwork for focused goals that align to increase student achievement. At the center of these efforts have been her passion for collaboration and creative teamwork as a pathway to supporting students in meeting their academic goals in an environment that balances high expectation with high levels of targeted support. Lliteras has leveraged this approach to lead the turnaround success of two struggling schools, both of which were successfully moved from Priority Improvement status to Performance in just one years’ time during her tenure. Drawing on her experience as an instructional approach, Lliteras has successfully scaled her impact by taking on increased leadership at the district level, training school leaders in standards-based instruction, selecting Power Standards in ELA and Math, and guiding the implementation of Data Teams. Lliteras relishes the opportunity to be a thought partner with other leaders and has served as a mentor to multiple administrators in the districts she has served. She holds Principal Licensure and an M.A. with a focus in Gifted and Talented Education from the University of Northern Colorado, as well as a B.A. in Elementary Education with a focus in Reading from Metro State University.

Email: lliteras_jill@svvsd.org


Barbara J. Silverio

Isabelle M. Pearson School
Winchester Public Schools
Winsted, Connecticut


In her six years as principal of Isabelle M. Pearson School, Barbara Silvero has drawn on her prior experience as a classroom teacher and curricular consultant to guide a successful turnaround effort that has led to sustained gains in student achievement, positive culture, and community cohesion. As part of Pearson’s participation in the Commission’s Network Turnaround Program, Silvero has implemented a robust professional development program to promote consistent, well-paced instruction that targets high student engagement. These efforts have led to a five-year gain in CTA Next Generation Accountability Index Ratings, increasing from 71.2 to 80.5, well above the state average. The school has also received state recognition as a School of Distinction for outstanding gains in math performance, achieving all-time high growth rate of 58.9 percent with 79.7 percent of students in grades 3-6 achieving their projected target on the Smarter Balanced Math Assessment. Along the way, she has supported collaboration between stakeholders, leading to a clarified school vision, a school-wide embrace of data-driven instruction, and increased extracurricular and community engagement opportunities for students and families. Pearson will build on these gains as a continuing participant in the program. Silvero holds an Intermediate Administrator Certification from Sacred Heart University, a 6th Year Professional Diploma in Reading and Language Arts from Central Connecticut State University, and an M.Ed. and Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Hartford.

Email: barbara.silverio@winchesterschools.org


Nigel D. Pillay

Otis A. Mason Elementary School
Saint Johns County District
Saint Augustine, Florida


Dr. Nigel Pillay has served several schools in his decade-plus career as an administrator, most recently leading pre-K through fifth grade Otis A. Mason Elementary (OAM). In his five years as principal of OAS, Pillay has led an impressive turnaround effort, while enhancing the professional and learning culture of the school through a collaborative, community-driven approach to leadership. In the first year of his tenure, when OAM received a “C” grade under a new state evaluation system, Pillay was quick to engage the internal experience and expertise of his team, leading a collaborative process to analyze root causes and chart a long-term plan for improvement. In just one year, these efforts elevated the school’s grade to a “B,” an impressive gain that has been sustained ever since. Meanwhile, Pillay has diversified and enhanced the teaching and learning environment at OAM through strategic investments to bring the school’s technological resources up to date and aligned with 21st Century learning goals. Pillay is known by his colleagues as a trusted resource and mentor and prides himself on cultivating a professional culture of risk-taking and growth. Pillay holds an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and a B.S. in Mathematics Education from the University of Central Florida, as well as an M.S. in Educational Leadership from NOVA Southeast University.

Email: nigel.pillay@stjohns.k12.fl.us

Georgia (Elementary)

Stephanie Morrow

Annie Belle Clark Elementary School
Tift County School District
Tifton, Georgia


Dr. Stephanie Morrow has a long track record of effective leadership, most recently serving as principal of Annie Belle Clark Elementary School for the past nine years. Morrow takes a collaborative approach to school improvement; for example, along with district leadership, she engaged a broad set of community stakeholders in conversations about how elementary instruction can better prepare students for their future roles as workers and community members. This work has led to a strong focus on early literacy and the implementation of a tiered approach to guided reading, which has in turn yielded broad academic gains. Morrow’s approach is also responsive and strategic. When Annie Bell Clark Elementary was identified as a Focus School in 2012, she guided the school’s leadership in a rapid turnaround, with the school removed from the list in just one year. Morrow sees herself as a servant leader and values mutual trust and teamwork as bedrock elements of her professional growth and effectiveness. She is also a strong believer in the responsibility of principals to build the capacity and leadership of their staff and colleagues and is proud to have mentored two assistant principals who have gone on to assume higher leadership roles in the district. She holds an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University, M.Ed. and Education Specialist degrees from Albany State University, and an undergraduate degree from Georgia Southern University.

Email: smorrow@tiftschools.com

Georgia (Middle)

Rhonda Lowe Gulley

Upson-Lee Middle School
Thomaston-Upson County Schools
Thomaston, Georgia


Rhonda Lowe Gulley builds on nearly two decades of experience as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and administrator in her role as principal of Upson-Lee Middle School, a sixth-through-eighth grade school where she has served for the past seven years. Throughout her tenure, Gulley has had an impressive impact on all aspects of school life—from culture and curriculum to the organizational structures that ensure a thriving professional community for teachers and an accessible learning environment for all students, regardless of socioeconomic background. At the forefront of Gulley’s leadership is a commitment to maintaining high standards for learning and achievement, guiding the school to beat the odds despite growing poverty. While Upson-Lee’s curriculum is standards-based, meeting the standard is only a starting point. Grounded in real-world application and higher-order thinking, the school’s curriculum promotes opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and is in constant development through a participatory PLC model. Gulley is an active mentor and relies on the power of distributed leadership to realize school improvement. For example, she successfully led a grant writing team to secure a $2.5 million, three-year Striving Readers Literacy Grant, allowing the school to draw on Comprehensive Reading Solutions to improve literacy instruction school-wide. Gulley holds an Educational Specialist degree in Leadership from Columbus State University, an M.Ed. with a focus on Instructional Technology from Troy State University, and a B.S in Middle Childhood Education from Mercer University.

Email: rgulley@upson.k12.ga.us


Brenda L. Vierra-Chun

Major Sheldon Wheeler Middle School
Central School District
Wahiawa, Hawaii


Brenda Vierra-Chun has served Major Sheldon Wheeler Middle School (MSWMS) in Wahiawa, Hawaii since 1992. In her 17-year tenure as principal, Vierra-Chun has focused her energy on creating structures that build the leadership capacity of her team members. For her, this work is about creating a culture in which educators “hold each other accountable and feel empowered to contribute authentically.” This approach to distributed leadership has resulted in the career and leadership advancement of multiple teachers, while creating the conditions of sustained academic achievement and growth. Students at MSWMS consistently score among the highest in the state in Language Arts and Math, building on impressive long-term growth, particularly in math, where proficiency has increased from 11 percent to 76 percent under her leadership. This trajectory of improvement has been anchored by Vierra-Chun’s mastery of data-based progress monitoring as a guide for strategic interventions, which she has systematized and embedded into the professional culture of MSWMS. Her collaborative spirit has also led to a generative response to student survey results indicating a need for increased sense of safety at the school, which was quickly achieved through stakeholder-led implementation of whole child development practices and a school wide RESPECT campaign. Vierra-Chun holds an M.S in Counseling Psychology from San Diego State University and a B.S. is Speech Pathology and Audiology from the University of Hawaii.

Email: Brenda.Vierra-chun@k12.hi.us


Jason S. Leforgee

Eagle Hills Elementary School
West Ada School District
Eagle, Idaho


Jason Leforgee has served Idaho students and families since 1995. In his 19 years as principal of Eagle Hills Elementary School, Leforgee has built a strong and resilient institution known for its warm, people-centered culture, which is reflected in the school’s status as a level one certified Marzano High Reliability School. This culture has translated into high student engagement and sustained academic success; for the past two years, Eagle Hills students have scored in the top 10 percent for math achievement, as well as for student academic progress in ELA, where student achievement also recently reached the 90th percentile. In 2019, Leforgee led a rapid turnaround after identifying a need for improved support for students with disabilities in ELA and math. Through strong collective strategizing, Eagle Hills teachers closed the achievement gap between students with disabilities and their non-group peers in just one year’s time. Throughout his tenure, Leforgee has retained highly motivated, collaborative, and engaged teachers, allowing the school to be particularly agile in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with an “all hands on deck” attitude guiding the creation of a student-centered remote learning plan. Leforgee holds Ed. S. and M.Ed. degrees in Educational Leadership from the University of Idaho at Boise, as well as a B.S. in Secondary Education and a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Idaho at Moscow.

Email: leforgee.jason@westada.org


Mandy E. Ellis

Dunlap Grade School
Dunlap School District
Dunlap, Illinois


Mandy Ellis has served Dunlap Grade School (DGS) as principal for eight years, building on eight years’ prior experience as a Special Education teacher. Ellis’ instructional leadership style is driven by her positive attitude, collaborative spirit, and strong appetite for lifelong learning, qualities which she models and scales through programming that engages staff, students, and family in the process of constant improvement. According to one DGS parent, Ellis is so skilled at connecting and communicating that “families who attend DGS regularly speak of it as a big family.” Passionate about literacy, Ellis is proud to have launched a district-wide One School, One Book project, leveraging local community partnerships to build a culture of reading that extends beyond the walls of the school. She has also successfully transformed the school’s approach to behavioral intervention, implementing supports that have helped build common language and shared expectations, decreasing disciplinary referrals and out-of-school suspensions and increasing the number of positive office referrals. Ellis is an effective team builder and has grown a dynamic instructional leadership team that includes support staff and parent representatives, using reflective coaching tools to identify actionable priorities for improving instruction, culture, and management. With a strong track record of both professional and community service, Ellis holds M.S. degrees in Curriculum and Administration and a B.S. in Elementary Education from Bradley University.

Email: mellis@dunlapcusd.net


Ashlee R. Bruggenschmidt

Sharon Elementary School
Warrick County School Corporation
Newburgh, Indiana


Ashlee R. Bruggneschmidt is a firm believer in the importance of empowering others through distributed leadership. For the last decade, Bruggenschmidt has built Sharon Elementary School into a well-known community institution that “parents, grandparents, and the community wants their children to attend.” By building strategic community partnerships, Bruggenschmidt works tirelessly to meet the needs of all students of Sharon Elementary, which has high special education enrollment and a large number of low-income students. By forwarding a loving, kid-centered, personalized approach to teaching, she has successfully led the school from academic watch to four-star status, with special recognition of promising practice. Among her many community service commitments, Bruggenschmidt is the founder and president of the Play for Kate foundation, which successfully passed a state helmet law in honor of her daughter, who passed away in a tragic ATV accident. Bruggenschmidt dedicates this national recognition to Kate and her staff, whom she credits for helping her persevere through this loss. Bruggenschmidt was named Elementary School Principal of the Year by the Indiana Association of School Principals and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Southern Indiana. She holds an M.S. in School Administration from Indiana State University, a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Southern Indiana, and an A.S. in Physical Therapy from the University of Evansville.

Email: abruggenschmidt@warrick.k12.in.us


Amy A. Denney

Perry Creek Elementary School
Sioux City Community School District
Sioux City, Iowa


Amy Denney recently celebrated 20 years of service to Sioux City students and families, and has served for four years as principal of Perry Creek Elementary School (PCES) and Clark Early Childhood Center (CECC). Known for her strength in change management and instructional leadership, Denney has made numerous district-level impacts. In 2015-2016, she led the construction of PCES from a merger of three community schools. The only principal in Iowa who is also a Certified Blueprint Trainer, Denney has led the charge to elevate literacy instruction at Perry Creek. She provides intensive professional development to teachers and leaders, laying the groundwork for the implementation of evidence-based literacy modules, which have yielded three-year growth from 70 percent to 81 percent in reading proficiency, as well as growth at other district schools. She spearheaded development of a specialty schools model in the district, winning critical stakeholder support and paving the way for her former school, Hunt Elementary, to be designated as an A+ School in the Arts. Other schools in the district have gone on to develop specialties in dual language, coding, STEM, and environmental science. Additionally, Denney has led the way for PCES and CECC to be candidates for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, including piloting transdisciplinary, inquiry-based models for instruction. Denney holds an M.S. in Education Administration from Wayne State College and a B.A. in Education from Morningside College.

Email: denneya@live.siouxcityschools.com


Stacey M. Green

Stockton Grade School
USD 271 Stockton
Stockton, Kansas


Stacey Green began her tenure at Stockton Grade School (SGS) as a new principal with an ambitious goal: transform the school’s culture from an isolated, individual classroom focus to an integrated, responsive, and collaborative environment where teachers lead with the whole child and the whole school in mind. In just six years, Green has had remarkable success, not only because of her individual talents, but because of her belief that change happens when leaders “empower others to remove barriers and transform problems into opportunities.” Green has used this approach to lead SGS through the Kansas School Redesign process, earning the distinction of being named a Kansas Mercury School in 2017. On the path toward personalizing student learning, Green has supported teachers in aligning with school vision and purpose through personalized professional development. SGS teachers have since embraced trauma-informed practices, increasing connection with students across experiences, and improving staff’s capacity for mutual support, self-care, and vicarious trauma prevention. Today, SGS is known for high community and family engagement, regularly hosting visits and presenting at conferences on the power of redesigning instruction through research-based practices. Superintendent Roger Lowry notes Green’s insatiable quest for knowledge of education and leadership, calling her the best principal he has observed in his 20 years as an administrator. Green holds an M.S. from Fort Hays State University and a B.A. from Bethany College.

Email: sgreen@usd271.com


Jerry B. Bond

Hunter Hills Elementary School
Laurel County School System
Corbin, Kentucky


Brian Bond has served Jackson and Laurel County families as a teacher and an administrator for 25 years, most recently leading Hunter Hills Elementary School as principal for the last decade. There, he has led a successful cultural turnaround effort and broken the cycle of leader turnover; seven principals led the school in the 11 years prior to his tenure. His steady leadership has buoyed academic success at Hunter Hills, which now serves as a national example among large, high-poverty schools. Hunter Hills has ranked in the top 10 schools in the state based on assessment scores for multiple years, is one of the only five-star elementary schools statewide, and was named a model school by the state of Kentucky, with over 25 schools sending observation teams over the last five years. Bond’s style is generous and proactive. Recognizing a trend that many of the young boys with frequent disciplinary referrals lacked positive male role models, Bond formed the Jedi Club program, where he directly provides character education and life skills development, effectively reducing office referrals. His efforts have increased school readiness among early learners and ensured that students experiencing poverty are exposed to greater opportunity through overnight, out-of-state field trips. Bond holds an M.A. in Elementary Education with Rank I credentials from Union College and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Eastern Kentucky University.

Email: brian.bond@laurel.kyschools.us


Lisa M. Burns

W.T. Lewis Elementary School
Bossier Parish School Board
Bossier City, Louisiana


When Lisa Burns took the helm at W.T. Lewis Elementary School, the school was in the midst of a demographic shift and a downward trend in performance. These conditions set Burns on a mission to transform teaching and learning at the school, realigning practice to meet the changing needs of a diverse student body. Driven to ensure opportunity for students of all backgrounds and abilities, Burns has supported her team in bridging performance gaps to elevate performance among economically disadvantaged students, students of color, and students with disabilities. Today, students of all ethnicities are performing in the top 20 percent for the state, and students with disabilities are performing better than 95 percent of schools in Louisiana. Burns says this success was made possible by a cultural shift grounded in her ability to “unleash the power of ‘we’ ”—increasing professional purpose and collaboration, shoring up loving support systems, and centering relationship and social-emotional development through initiatives such as restorative practices and a house system. Committed to inspiring greatness and leadership in others, Burns has used this transformative process as an opportunity to mentor several teachers to pursue advanced leadership and education. Burns has served Bossier City as a teacher and an administrator for the past 23 years. She holds an M.Ed. in Leadership from Louisiana State University and an M.Ed. in Technology and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Northwestern State University.

Email: lisa.burns@bossierschools.org


Kimberly A. Sampietro

Dayton Consolidated School
Dayton School Department
Dayton, Maine


Kimberly Sampietro understands that community relationships cannot be an afterthought in school leadership, especially in a small community like Dayton, Maine. That is why, in her six years as principal of Dayton Consolidated School, she has made it a priority to align the school’s vision with state expectations and with those of the local community. Taking a transparent, engaged, and highly visible approach to leadership, Sampietro has cultivated relationships that benefit students and teachers, moving school culture to be more student and parent-focused while building a strong sense of community and pride across stakeholders. This commitment to trust and relationship building is the foundation for Sampietro’s successful transformation of a traditional, rural school into a progressive institution that addresses the needs of all learners—an achievement which she defines as her greatest legacy. Sampietro has stewarded and developed a number of programs to achieve an outcome of increased academic rigor while also personalizing learning for each student. These efforts range from improving special education supports, rethinking RTI strategies, and building on existing Gifted and Talented and Title I programming. Sampietro holds a certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from St. Joseph’s University, an Assistant Principal Certificate from the University of Southern Maine, an M.Ed. in Literacy from Lesley University, and a B.S. in Education from the University of Maine, Orono.

Email: ksampietro@daytonschooldept.org


Troy D. Barnes

Monocacy Elementary School
Frederick County Public Schools
Frederick, Maryland


Troy Barnes has led Monocacy Elementary School for the last four years with humility and deep commitment to student empowerment. While Barnes’s leadership has earned him local and national recognition, he says that his accomplishments “will never be measured by awards and accolades, but [rather] on the lives [he has] touched.” This spirit of service has guided Barnes’ implementation of a “One Team, One Goal” framework to approach cultural change and closing achievement gaps. By cultivating collaboration through engaged leadership and professional development, Barnes’ team has achieved steady gains in reading and math, both of which have seen a 10-percent increase in MCAPP/PARRC data across five years, gains which have been accompanied by positive growth in school culture surveys. Over the past two years, Barnes has led his team in adopting trauma-informed approaches to social and emotional development to sustain these academic gains through the PATHS program, which has also improved attendance and referrals. He has also advocated for expanding pre-K education, supporting early success and integration into the school community. Barnes is a 2020 Washington Post Principal of the Year nominee, a recognition which he says “belongs to each and every member of our community.” He holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, Administration and Supervision from McDaniel College and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University.

Email: troy.barnes@fcps.org


Stephen T. Wiltshire Jr.

North Street Elementary School
Grafton Public Schools
Grafton, Massachusetts


Stephen Wiltshire Jr. has served as principal of North Street Elementary School for the past five years. An effective team builder with a passion for instructional development, Wiltshire has demonstrated a capacity at harnessing the internal knowledge and skills of his staff to improve school culture and data-based teaching practices. This approach guided the implementation of social and emotional learning goals at North Street, as Wiltshire assembled a committee tasked with ensuring teachers have the resources and professional development necessary to bring SEL best practices into their classrooms. Through collective leadership, this committee developed a schoolwide tier system aligned with established PBIS and Responsive Classroom techniques. Notably, this committee regularly integrates student perspectives and feedback in its ongoing work. This systematic and participatory approach to SEL has led to decreased referrals and classroom disruptions and a stronger embrace of the school’s core values. Wiltshire has also shown that he can revive failing collaborations in a way that restores community trust. When he arrived at North Street, teachers had little faith in the Support Team, but by reestablishing group norms and creating a transparent, streamlined process for analyzing data and determining goals, teachers have regained confidence and students have made immediate gains. Wiltshire holds a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Western New England University and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Springfield College.

Email: wiltshires@grafton.k12.ma.us


Amie M. McCaw

Sunset Lake Elementary School
Vicksburg Community Schools
Vicksburg, Michigan


Amie McCaw has served Vicksburg and Richland, Schoolcraft, and Vicksburg communities in Michigan as a teacher and an administrator since 1998 and has been principal of Sunset Lake Elementary School for the past five years. In her 13 years as principal, McCaw has proven adept at shifting school culture, building the leadership of others, and implementing multi-tiered systems of support that ground differentiated learning in data-based practices. A strong believer in the power of a student-centered leadership paradigm, McCaw has successfully implemented the Leader in Me philosophy in three districts, working closely with staff to secure the resources necessary to integrate LIM principles into the fabric of the school community. She has had similar success at all three districts creating and building on systems for teacher collaboration and data monitoring. At Sunset Lake, where strong multi-tiered support programming was already in place when she arrived, McCaw has focused on elevating teacher voice and autonomy to make these systems more flexible and responsive to better serve all students. At each school she has led, McCaw has strived to empower both teachers and family stakeholders to strengthen school and community, building leadership through school improvement committees and parent action teams. McCaw is a Ph.D. candidate at Western Michigan University, where she previously earned an M.A. in Educational Leadership. She also holds a Teaching Certificate from Goshen College and a B.A. in Restaurant-Hotel Management from Purdue University.

Email: amccaw@vicksburgschools.org


Bret J. Domstrand

Lake Marion Elementary School
Lakeville Area Schools
Lakeville, Minnesota


As principal of Lake Marion Elementary School for the past six years, Bret Domstrand has built on his nine years’ experience as a Special Education teacher to strengthen school culture and align culturally relevant teaching with data-based instruction practices. Thanks to his leadership, LME teachers have adopted language and curricular strategies that value diversity and youth culture, while leveraging digital literacy tools to personalize the learning experience for all students. With the support of highly trained tutors, LME students are supported to reach their full literacy potential by balancing core instruction and targeted support, grounded in a commitment to equity and access for all. This commitment does not stop at high academic rigor, however. Domstrand has also supported the integration of social-emotional learning goals at LME through an intentional redesign of the school’s specialist schedule, leading to a reduction in referrals and improved early behavioral interventions. He has also increased participation and shifted the culture of the school’s breakfast program from 70 to over 200 by giving kids the opportunity to eat in the classroom after the bell so that no students miss a meal or are late to class. Lake Marion Elementary received recognition in 2017 as a National Blue Ribbon school. Domstrand holds a Principal License and a Master of Educational Leadership from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from St. Cloud State University.

Email: bret.domstrand@isd194.org


Debra R. Houghton

Mannsdale Upper Elementary School
Madison County Schools
Madison, Mississippi


Debra Houghton began her administrative career five years ago as principal of Mannsdale Upper Elementary, a third through fifth grade school in Madison, Mississippi. Throughout her tenure, Houghton has proven herself a passionate and effective leader, particularly adept cultivating distributed leadership and building rich and complementary programming to support growth for students and teachers alike. Houghton launched Mavs on the Move, a program for academically advanced fifth-graders, which has since expanded to serve students in the third and fourth grades as well. She has also developed a garden classroom program that teaches students key principles of land stewardship and the importance of growing food. Students work together to raise chickens and grow vegetables, selling produce to community members in a farmers-style market. Houghton takes an assertive and hands-on approach to teacher development, coordinating weekly classroom observations and feedback loops to support teachers in setting goals and coaching them in how to achieve them. These efforts have buoyed student achievement while increasing teacher confidence, risk-taking, and creativity. Houghton has taken a similar initiative to elevate instruction at the district level, serving as a leader and catalyst for a first-of-its-kind teacher collaborative designed to bring teachers together to share and develop best practices. Most recently, Houghton was named the 2020 Administrator of the Year for the state of Mississippi. She holds a B.A. from Louisiana College, a master’s degree in Leadership from Mississippi College, and a Specialist Degree in Curriculum from William Carey University.

Email: dhoughton@madison-schools.com


Howard E. Fields III

Givens Elementary School/Steger 6th Grade Center
Webster Groves School District
Rock Hill, Missouri


Dr. Howard Fields III has served St. Louis area schools since 2008 and has quickly earned a reputation as a courageous leader and a steadfast champion for social equity and diversity. In 2014, Fields entered his first year as principal in the midst of mass racial justice protests and civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. His leadership not only supported the community under these circumstances but also successfully increased learning outcomes, driving an impressive 200-percent increase in his school’s Annual Performance Report. As principal of Givens Elementary School and Steger 6th Grade Center for the past three years, Fields has focused on creating systems to address institutional racism that contributes to access and achievement gaps among students of color, students from low-income families, and students with learning disabilities. Through creative problem solving, Fields increased elective course options for students by adding Computer Science, Foreign Language, Drama, and Art and Design with existing district certified staff. His leadership, which includes empowering staff to be their authentic selves and engage in self-care, has allowed Fields to transform two schools in vastly different contexts. Fields is cofounder of Black Males in Education St. Louis and an adjunct professor at Harris-Stowe State University. He is currently working to create a Regional Memorandum of Understanding to address inclusion, equity, diversity, anti-bias, and antiracism within schools and organizations. He holds Ph.D., Ed.S., and M.A. degrees from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Email: howard.fields@kirkwoodschools.org


Travis L. Niemeyer

Beartooth Elementary School
Billings Public Schools
Billings, Montana


Travis Niemeyer is nearing a decade of school leadership experience, building on a prior decade of leadership at the classroom level. At Newman Elementary, his first principalship assignment, Niemeyer transformed a punitive school culture into one that openly embraces collaboration and mutual trust, shifting mindset to view behavior as teachable through dialogue and repetitive practice. As a result, his team was able to cut suspensions by 48 percent. Niemeyer also built a thriving community partnership with an engineering and architecture firm to provide targeted reading and math support to at-risk Newman Elementary students, 70 percent of whom concluded the program with grade-level performance. At Beartooth Elementary School, where Niemeyer has served as principal for the past four years, he has parlayed these experiences to increase parent engagement, shore up professional collaboration, and improve student connection to the school community. He has led his large school district, home to several high-poverty schools like his own, in adopting a school house system that supports positive relationship building and a manners curriculum that promotes community participation and respect. More recently, Niemeyer has had to lead his team in adapting to and overcoming the loss of Title I funding by maximizing resources through strategic scheduling and enhanced PLCs. He is a founding member of Men in Education and serves on the Education Advisory Board for Rocky Mountain College. He holds an M.S. in Educational Leadership from Montana State University and a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Nebraska.

Email: niemeyert@billingsschools.org


Jill L. Clevenger

Kenwood Elementary School
Kearney Public Schools
Kearney, Nebraska


Jill Clevenger has been a leader in public schools and a principal for a total of 22 years. In the 15 years that Clevenger has served as principal of Kenwood Elementary School, she has organized against the odds to improve Kenwood’s academic performance. Starting in 2014, Clevenger began working with staff to analyze data, identify needs, and develop action plans to improve student success. In just one year, Clevenger successfully moved Kenwood out of the “At Risk” category for “Persistently Low Achieving Schools.” A motivating force, Clevenger mobilized staff to implement WIN (What I Need), allowing students 30 minutes of enrichment time to their daily schedule, effectively raising student achievement. As a principal, Clevenger has worked to make her school “welcoming, comforting, and safe.” Displaying immense commitment to her students and their families, Clevenger held various leadership positions beyond her role as principal. She is an involved community member and a Sunday School teacher and has been a board member and volunteer for the Kearney Therapeutic Horse Riding Program. Notably, she has held the titles of board member and president of the Nebraska Association of Elementary School Principals, where she now serves as treasurer. Cleaver holds a B.A. from Kearney State College and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Email: jilclevenger@kearneycats.com


Rebecca J. Tschinkel

Ruben P. Diaz Elementary School
Clark County School District
Las Vegas, Nevada


Since 2014, Rebecca Tschinkel has served as principal at Diaz Elementary School, a high poverty Pre-K through fifth grade school in Las Vegas. An accomplished leader, Tschinkel has successfully rejuvenated Diaz Elementary School with thorough and well-researched professional development programs, an improvement task force, and the involvement of parents and community members. Tschinkel executed a complete culture overhaul to improve student achievement. Through her hard work and community engagement, Tschinkel was able to take Diaz Elementary School from an underperforming school to a top performing school. Under her leadership, the academic proficiency of her students has charted sweeping improvements, with proficiency in mathematics growing 14.5 percent and proficiency in English growing 12.9 percent between 2017 and 2019. Her efforts have resulted in numerous honors for school achievement, including five-star school ratings and numerous Nevada Shining Star awards. She has been recognized by her superintendent as a “visionary leader [with] passion ingrained in her mission.” Committed to both her community and her students, Tschinkel inspires those around her to strive for the best. Tschinkel holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University and M.S. degrees in Special Education and Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is a Ph.D. candidate for Teaching and Learning at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Email: tschirj@nv.ccsd.net

New Hampshire

Eris Hersey

Idlehurst Elementary School
Somersworth School District
Somersworth, New Hampshire


For the past five years, Eris Hersey has served as principal of Idlehurst Elementary. Building on years of classroom experience, Hersey takes great pride in connecting the dots between parents, teachers, and students. Central to her philosophy is the idea that student achievement is not measured just academically but also socially and emotionally. As an administrator, she prioritizes making the school feel like a second home for all who enter its doors. Hersey has invested time and energy into educating both herself and her staff about the relationship between poverty, education, and access. Noting issues with performance and parent-teacher relations, Hersey wrote a school improvement grant and was awarded over $300,000, which she invested in a robust professional development and growth program. Thanks to her superb leadership pedagogy and holistic approach to education, there was a 20 percent increase in student involvement, with parent-teacher conference attendance at 86 percent. Under her steady leadership, Idlehurst Elementary has improved drastically in state testing and has been removed from New Hampshire’s priority school list. Hersey has received a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership and a master’s degree in K-12 Literacy from University of New England, Maine, in addition to two bachelor’s degrees from Keene State College.

Email: ehersey@sau56.org

New Jersey

Christian J. Paskalides

Middle Township Elementary School #1
Middle Township School District
Cape May Court House, New Jersey


Christian Paskalides has been principal of Middle Township Elementary School #1 since 2012. Paskalides is particularly versed in working with students with disabilities and was at the helm of developing an inclusion program for K-2 special education students, allowing them to learn alongside their typically developing peers. Paskalides is a transformational leader who focuses on inspiring and motivating his staff and the students they serve. For him, connections with students and staff are integral to school success, and he regularly provides informal instructional feedback to staff. To further a sense of belonging and ensure staff success, Paskalides developed a strong mentorship program for all novice teachers. He prides himself in meeting regularly with grade-level teams to provide measurable goals and a clear vision for instruction. Paskalides has also been an invaluable resource for seeking out and implementing school-wide improvement. In 2019, Paskalides co-wrote a grant from the New Jersey Department of Education and, shortly thereafter, won the grant and instituted a high-quality, full-day preschool program. Displaying strong leadership, Paskalides led his school through an $11.3 million referendum project that included upgrades, new facilities, school procedures, and more. Paskalides holds an M.A. in Educational Administration from the University of Massachusetts and a B.A. in Teacher Education from Stockton University.

Email: paskalidesc@middletwp.k12.nj.us

New York

Alison J. Clark

Stratford Road Elementary School
Plainview Old-Bethpage Central School District
Plainview, New York


For 15 years, Dr. Alison Clark has been instituting progress and creating impactful change as principal of Stratford Road Elementary School. Clark has transformed the once traditional and didactic school into a center for vibrant exchange and engagement. Formerly on watch from the New York State Education Department for performance gaps, under Clark’s leadership, the school is now studied at local universities as a model of sound instruction and holistic student-teacher relationships. Her passion, patience, and dedication are an inspiration to parents, staff, and students alike. In addition to being a socially and emotionally competent leader, Clark’s scholarly approach to pedagogy has aided the development of strong Response to Intervention and multi-tiered systems of support. As a result, school staff are able to closely monitor and assess student achievement. Her expertise has made her a force in both the global education conversation and within her district. A forever learner, Clark brings her collegiate-level students at SUNY Old Westbury out of the classroom and into the field by providing students with internships at Stratford Road Elementary. Clark also works on doctoral student dissertations at Concordia University. She is a published author with numerous articles in educational journals. Clark received her Ph.D. from Concordia University Chicago and holds a Professional Diploma from Long Island University and M.S. and B.A. degrees from CUNY Queens College.

Email: aclark@pobschools.org

North Dakota

Steven A. Guglich

Missouri Ridge School
Williams County School District #8
Williston, North Dakota


In his 11 years in the position of principal, Steven Guglich has been recognized for his blend of sharp leadership and compassionate planning. Steven is a community beacon whose talent for forming relationships and cultivating loyalty has afforded incredible resources and opportunities for Missouri Ridge School, where he has been principal for nine years. It is because of his talent for creating team unity that Missouri Ridge was able to achieve AdvancED Accreditation, exceeding the expectations of the AdvancED Team Reviewers. Guglich’s passion bleeds beyond his talent for organizing staff members; he is also deeply driven and inspired by the potential of his students. With the help of his teachers and community members, he was able to develop a Media Arts Program for Missouri Ridge, creating partnerships with KUMV-TV, the North Dakota Council of the Arts, and ND Strong. The students have since had the opportunity to produce two short Hollywood-style films and have learned about the way creators imbed messaging into media with their use of different production styles. In 2019, Guglich was recognized as the Principal of the Year by the Region 1 Principal Association. He has been a member of both NDCEL and NDTAL since 2011. Guglich strives to be an active community member and is also a volunteer with his church. Guglich holds a master’s degree in Education Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University.

Email: steven.guglich@k12.nd.us


Kati E. Mann

Brunswick Memorial Elementary School
Brunswick City Schools
Brunswick, Ohio


Kati Mann has been principal at Brunswick Memorial Elementary for the past seven years. Mann lives by the principle that our actions as adults have the potential to make positive impacts in the lives of children. Every day, she strives to be a model to both her staff and students. Mann spends extra time visiting classrooms, ensuring that teachers feel their lesson plans and hard work are seen and appreciated. Students benefit from Mann’s relationship-centered approach to administration, and she can often be found chatting in the hallways with students or connecting with families. She deeply believes that meeting the social and emotional needs of children is a priority. Her drive to put students first led her to organizing a 5k benefit run and walk for a student who had a brain tumor and cancer. Mann is also a firm advocate for equality and pushes to ensure that students are treated fair and equally, and she’s been working to establish a more holistic, schoolwide PBIS system. Mann is a lifetime learner who educates herself about best practices and new techniques. Teachers are encouraged to be leaders and are often recruited to lead professional development, allowing everyone to grow. Mann has a PK-12 Principal’s license and master’s degree in Reading Endorsement (K-12) from Baldwin-Wallace College, as well as a Superintendent’s License from Ashland University.

Email: kmann@bcsoh.org


Vicki L. Wilson

Homer Elementary School
Byng Public Schools
Ada, Oklahoma


Vicki Wilson has been working in Byng Public Schools for 21 years and has been principal of Homer Elementary School for 14. Wilson is a committed administrator and educator, and she regularly spends time with teachers analyzing student achievement data. Because of her commitment to helping students reach their highest potential, she has been able to successfully implement a STEM lab, robotics, and a mentoring program at her school. The connection between student engagement and student success is not lost on Wilson, who is a believer in real-life learning beyond the classroom. She is continuously engaging with new ideas and programs to benefit her students. Under Wilson’s leadership, Homer Elementary has won many awards, accolades, and grants and was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2008, making Homer one of the top schools in the country. Beyond her notable achievements, Wilson has succeeded in creating a warm, welcoming school culture where every student feels valued and where equity and inclusion are paramount. Families often encounter Wilson at school sporting events or driving hours to cheer on a dance recital. She is a true pillar of the community, often conducting home visits and finding ways to deliver medical access and food. Wilson holds a master’s degree in Education from East Central University, a Teaching Credential from Patten University Graduate Program, and a B.B.A. with Special Distinction from the University of Oklahoma.

Email: vicki.wilson@byngschools.org


Matthew D. Moyer

Rupert Elementary School
Pottstown School District
Pottstown, Pennsylvania


Matthew Moyer has been principal of Rupert Elementary, an underfunded, urban school, for the past 15 years. As a former student of Rupert Elementary, Moyer invests considerable energy into bettering his school community. He makes a great impact on the students he serves—graduating high school seniors often invite him as an honored guest, noting that he is an educator who has had a significant impact on their lives. Moyer leads his district in Non Violent Crisis Prevention training and was responsible for bringing this transformative program to Pottstown School District 10 years ago. He has certified over 200 staff members throughout his time, single-handedly sustaining the program. In doing so, he has helped develop community skills for managing and responding to anxious, hostile, or violent behavior, while balancing the responsibilities of care. Moyer also serves as the district’s Safety Coordinator and has authored the District All Hazards Plan and Emergency Flip Charts used by administration and staff. In addition to these responsibilities, Moyer makes time to bond with his students, many of whom are dealing with complex social and emotional issues. Moyer’s building is one where joy is celebrated. He has been seen running around the school in a fox costume, has kissed a pig, dyed his hair purple, and has even been slimed to promote student engagement. Moyer has a Superintendent Letter from the California University of Pennsylvania, an M.Ed. and a Principal’s Certificate from Cabrini College, and a B.A. from Shippensburg University.

Email: mmoyer@pottstownk12.org

Rhode Island

Courtney Monterecy

Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School
Providence School District
Cranston, Rhode Island


Courtney Monterecy’s six-year leadership has been transformational for Mary E. Fogarty Elementary. In the years prior to Monterecy’s principalship, Fogarty was known as the “lowest performing school,” with consistently low ELA and math scores, and it had an hapless revolving door of administrators. Rebuilding the school from the ground up, Monterecy has been a true agent of change for Fogarty. With her consistent and focused leadership, Monterecey has been able to institute regular school routines, gather staff to analyze data, maximize instructional support, and implement a blended learning model in all classrooms. Thanks to her efforts, in 2019, Fogarty was taken out of Transformation. In 2018, Monterecey executed the formidable task of becoming an Empowerment school, a designation that required Monterecey to write a grant that was supported by 70 percent of the faculty. Organizing staff-wide working sessions, Monterecey was able to achieve an 80-percent approval rate from her staff and ultimately was awarded Empowerment status. Not only is Monterecy laser focused on school improvement, her building and mentorship also serve as an incubator for future leaders in education. Her assistants and mentees have moved on to attain principalship roles, and her fierce advocacy and support resulted in one of her teachers winning a Milken Education Award. Monterecy holds an M.A. in Education Administration from Providence College, an ESL Certification from Rhode Island College, and a B.A. from Rollins College.

Email: courtney.monterecy@ppsd.org

South Carolina

Jessica S. Patterson

Liberty Primary School
School District of Pickens County
Liberty, South Carolina


Jessica Patterson currently serves as principal of Liberty Primary School, formerly Chastain Road Elementary, a rural school in Liberty, South Carolina. In her six years as principal, Liberty has become a model school for the School District of Pickens County. Within just one year, Patterson was able to turn school report cards from below average to excellent. Patterson’s commitment to excellence is felt by Liberty teachers, who report that Patterson incentivizes professional development, generously absorbing the cost of endorsements and enriching experiences. Ever-committed to the wellbeing of the whole child, Patterson’s work on student engagement and personalized learning has resulted in many honors. In February of 2019, Liberty was selected to host an Inquiry Lab on personalized learning for the South Carolina State Department of Education. Patterson and her staff hosted 35 educators from across the state and were subsequently asked to host two more times the following school year. The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta also visited Liberty, ultimately selecting the school to be featured at their celebratory gala hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Patterson is steadfastly committed to expanding the district’s early childhood education program. Her school is the district’s first to offer Pre-K to three year olds. Patterson holds an M.A. in school leadership from Furman University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Clemson University.

Email: jessicapatterson@pickens.k12.sc.us

South Dakota

Tracy L. Vik

Sonia Sotomayor Elementary School
Sioux Falls School District
Sioux Falls, South Dakota


Dr. Tracy Vik has been principal of Sonia Sotomayor Elementary School for the past six years. Sotomayor Elementary is the only Spanish immersion school in the Sioux Falls School District, and it serves over 700 students from preschool to fifth grade. Spanish-speaking instructors are from 14 different countries, encouraging the community to celebrate differences and seek understanding in diversity. Vik and her staff worked tirelessly to ensure that lessons are consistent with district standards and collaborated with national consultants to make sure that the Spanish language instruction is of the highest caliber. Ninety percent of instruction at Sonia Sotomayor Elementary is in Spanish, while 100 percent of the students are native English speakers. By the time students graduate from the school, their average Spanish language proficiency is an intermediate level on the ACTFL scale, and their achievement scores are the highest in the state. In addition to spearheading the academic accomplishments of Sotomayor Elementary, Vik works exceptionally hard to make the school a place where each and every visitor feels welcomed and valued. At the crux of Vik’s educational values is a belief in community wellness, and she strives to bring awareness to global issues. Vik holds an Ed.D. in Education from the University of South Dakota, an M.A. of Technology in Education from Lesley University, and a B.A. in Elementary and Special Education from Black Hills State University.

Email: tracy.vik@k12.sd.us


Ashley Aldridge Wilson

Nolan Elementary School
Hamilton County Department of Education
Signal Mountain, Tennessee


Dr. Ashley Aldridge Wilson has served as an elementary administrator for a total of 14 years, the last two of which have been at Nolan Elementary School. Throughout her career as a principal, Wilson has been a fervent leader, always working toward excellence for her students and her staff. In 2012, when she was chosen to lead Jack Anderson Elementary, she independently elected to become one of the first Tennessee schools to be STEM-certified, requiring significant research and persistence on the part of Wilson. She formed a STEM leadership team composed of faculty, community members, and business partners. She created a STEM lab, built an outdoor classroom pavilion and an art gallery, and privately funded a STEM teacher to be onsite. She has since been appointed to serve on the Tennessee Department of Education’s STEM Leadership Council. Jack Anderson went on to become a finalist for FETC’s National STEM Excellence Award. Wilson is deeply committed to student achievement but also prioritizes mentorship and growth of new talent within the field. Wilson has been elevated to the role of Principal Mentor, in recognition of her deep experiences and her ability to help the professional growth of her peers. Wilson holds an Ed.D. in Learning and Leadership and a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, as well as an Education Specialist and M.A. in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Technological University.

Email: wilson_ashley@hcde.org


Irma C. Davis

Dishman Elementary School
Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District
Combes, Texas


Irma Davis has been principal at Dishman Elementary for the past nine years. Davis has championed building a culture of strength and positivity, focusing on academic excellence. A small town school with 97 percent of students economically disadvantaged, the school’s standing has improved under Davis’ leadership. Her strong comprehension of data and community relations has made her an impressive hand in closing achievement groups for subgroups, while ensuring consistency. After instituting a plan to boost campus morale—a huge factor in Davis’ ability to improve performance for Dishman—Davis transformed the school from a low-scoring campus to the highest in six of eight testing areas in the school’s district. Dishman was recognized on the Texas honor roll from 2016 to 2018 and was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2018. Further, her campus was awarded an A Rating on the Texas Education Agency House Bill 22 A-F accountability system and has earned five of six eligible distinctions on the STAAR State Assessment. Dishman’s families are more engaged than ever before under Davis’ leadership. You can frequently find parents spending lunch on campus grounds, where Davis makes time to chat with students on a regular basis. Davis holds both an M.A. and a B.A. from the University of Texas.

Email: irma.davis@hcisd.org


Nadine Hancey

Santa Clara Elementary School
Washington County School District
Santa Clara, Utah


Nadine Hancey has been in education for 42 years, serving as a classroom teacher for 19, a Learning Coach for eight, and most recently, as the principal of Santa Clara Elementary for the past 12 years, putting her in an excellent position to mentor and guide her faculty. She was recognized as Utah’s Principal Mentor of the Year in 2015 for her ability to lift up those around her. Her talent for intrinsically motivating people and bringing out the best in individuals makes her an excellent leader, and her intuitive nature makes her adroit at fostering social and emotional wellbeing. Hancey was able to secure a full-time, on-campus counselor for her students and also created a Wellness Room, where students can go if they need space to decompress. Monthly social skills assemblies are also a result of Hancey’s drive to provide for the whole child. Hancey has taken special time to assist her staff in educating students with complex emotional needs and has been a leader in providing students with holistic care. Hancey is a champion for creating well-rounded curricula, and she has spearheaded an effort to bring music instruction and the arts to her campus. In addition to her emphasis on social-emotional learning, Hancey also began a Chinese dual-immersion program on her campus, leading her students to exceed expectations. She has an Administrative Endorsement and an M.S. from Southern Utah University, Reading Endorsements I & II from USOE, and a B.S. from the University of Utah.

Email: nadine.hancey@washk12.org


Mark V. Speno

Green Street School
Windham Southeast School District
Brattleboro, Vermont


Mark Speno has been principal of Green Street School for the past six years. In his tenure at Green Street School, student achievement and academic scores have improved steadily. Speno’s efforts to transform academic performance at Green Street began with increasing the number of staff, improving his campus’ physical condition, and providing a diverse range of enrichment activities for students. Spearheading a shift from individual tutoring to after school programs, 80 percent to 90 percent of the Green Street community is involved with at least one after school activity. But Speno’s efforts to improve extracurricular involvement doesn’t stop at students. Faculty are also involved in enrichment activities as mentors. A newfound sense of community has emerged at Green Street as a result of Speno’s commitment to his students. Focus on athletics, the arts, and academics has improved campus morale and helped to foster more bonds between students and staff. Additionally, students participate in weekly STEAM classes and Art Integration. Creative scheduling has allowed Speno to support student learning and maximizes social and emotional development. This scheduling system supports distributed leadership, and Speno checks in with teachers on a weekly basis to plan staff professional development. Speno makes a concerted effort at developing distributed leadership and ensuring that systems of support are clear and accessible. Speno holds a post-master’s in Education Leadership from Keene State College and an M.A. in Education and a B.A. from the University of Vermont.

Email: mspeno@wsesdvt.org


Susan K. Danielson

Rosa Parks Elementary School
Prince William County Public Schools
Woodbridge, Virginia


Susan Danielson has been principal at Rosa Parks Elementary School for the past nine years. In a process that took six years, Danielson led Rosa Parks Elementary in 2012 to becoming the first International Baccalaureate–Primary Years Programme School in the Prince William County District, making Danielson a trusted instructional leader for her building. In addition, the school has earned the recognition of School of Excellence every year since its inception. In 2014, Danielson was selected to participate in the Lifetouch Memory Mission trip, allowing her to educate her students about the importance of giving back and to work directly with children in the Dominican Republic. Extremely conscious of her role as a leader and as a relationship builder, Danielson still remains in contact with her fellow colleagues she met on this trip. She considers her strong relationships and open communication with Rosa Parks parents and families to be among her greatest achievements as an educator and an administrator. Danielson makes time on a daily basis to connect with students, greeting them in the mornings and afternoons with smiles, laughter, and high fives. In addition to her work creating a strong social and emotional safety net, Danielson has worked diligently to support her students academically. Danielson has years of experience providing classroom instruction and working as a school counselor in addition to her work as an administrator. She has an M.A. in Education Leadership from George Mason University, an M.A. from Virginia Tech, and a B.A. from Kearney State College.

Email: danielsk@pwcs.edu

West Virginia

Alicia D. Lett

Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary School
Raleigh County School District
Beckley, West Virginia


Alicia Lett has been principal of Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary for the past eight years. Lett has been a successful leader in promoting the social and emotional growth of her students. She was able to secure funding for the Leader in Me program at her school, which allowed the community to grow in the areas of academics, attendance, discipline, and culture. Since initiating the Leader in Me program, Cranberry-Prosperity has been named a Lighthouse School for Excellence in Leadership. Lett has gone the extra mile in terms of supporting her students, many of whom belong to single-parent households. She established a community and mentoring partner program with the local Chamber of Commerce and Appalachian Bible College, pairing at-risk students with a suitable mentor who can serve as a role model. Under Lett’s leadership, Cranberry-Prosperity received an Apple Distinguished School Designation. The school prides itself on having students and staff who are very competent with technology and was one of the first in West Virginia to receive such an honor. The West Virginia Department of Education recognized the school as one of the state’s Technology Model Schools, affording them a budget for technology and professional development. Lett has an M.S. and B.S. in Communication Disorders from Marshall University and an Administration/Superintendent Certification from Salem International University.

Email: alett@k12.wv.us


Janna D. Cochrane

North Greenville Elementary School
Hortonville Area School District
Greensville, Wisconsin


Janna Cochrane is the first principal of North Greenville Elementary School, which opened in 2014. Cochrane hired all staff, selected and purchased all materials for the building, and collaborated on the design. Throughout this process, she carefully listened to staff to develop a cohesive mission, vision, mantra, and collective commitments. It is this same collaborative ethos that led to the development of multiple dynamic teams—grade level, content, school leadership, and intervention—and has brought great success to North Greenville. Together, these teams support staff, and students are able to achieve at their highest level. North Greenville lives their mantra, Kids. First. Always. Teachers are very invested in their collaborative work and often lead the Hortonville Area School District in their efforts. Deeply committed to the work of improving children’s lives, Cochrane educates herself about new modalities and practices. She is currently a Solution Tree Consultant, traveling the country to share her expertise to assist educators and children alike. Cochrane is known for leading with warmth, and she goes the extra mile to create spaces where students can connect and form friendships. She hosts summer events like Popsicles on the Playground and promotes Literacy and Math nights for students and their families, building a culture in which parents are truly connected. She has an M.S. in Educational Leadership from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a B.S.in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota, Moorhead.

Email: jannacochrane@hasd.org


Heather M. Moro

Slade Elementary School
Albany County School District
Laramie, Wyoming


For the past 12 years, Heather Moro has focused on building a strong learning community at Slade Elementary School. Under her laser-focused leadership and emphasis on positivity, the school has received a state performance rating of “Exceeding Expectations” for five of the past six years and, in 2019, had one of the highest mean percentile growth rates in Wyoming. A proactive leader, Moro is continually furthering her skills. At the district level, she has taken on the multi-tiered system of support coaching roles and facilitation of Instruction Leadership Framework, learning modules for her administrative team. Moro believes in sharing leadership, ensuring all teachers, staff, students, and families are learning. This encourages goal setting, positive thinking, and a focus on future successes. Moro is the president of the Wyoming Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals and regularly leads initiatives that educate the principals of Wyoming. This passion for learning and improvement extends to her staff, whom she prides herself in supporting fervently. Moro works alongside teachers to resolve sometimes challenging issues, implement rigorous instructional programs, and create protocols to ensure students receive appropriate instructional intervention. Her high expectations and belief in students has contributed to much progress and growth at Slade Elementary. Moro has a Principal Endorsement from the University of Wyoming, Laramie, and an M.S. and a B.S. from the University of Oregon, Eugene.

Email: hmoro@acsd1.org

Private Schools


Kristine M. Meyer

St. Paul's Lutheran School
Waverly, Iowa


Dr. Kristine Meyer has been the principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School for the past five years. As early as her first year, Meyer was ready to take on challenges and make changes. She initiated a complete renovation of the playground, raising $85,000 through grants and fundraising projects and involving the family, students, and alumni. Meyer instituted a new vision and set of values in the school. These new ideas took inspiration from Bible verses from the Galatians: “But the fruit of the spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” She also helped her staff design a Response to Behavior plan to define expectations. Because of this important work, there has been an 85-percent decrease in disciplinary visits to the principal’s office. Her relationship-focused leadership style has led to a significant increase in school enrollment. She instituted a parent task force and focused her efforts on community outreach and making families aware of the value to be had at St. Paul’s. Enrollment has increased 23 percent. Meyer makes a concentrated effort to provide training and professional development to her staff. Recently, teaching staff has been trained in the Nurtured Heart Approach, Transforming White Privilege, and Resiliency Education. She holds a B.S. and an M.S. from Buena Vista University and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Iowa State University.

Email: krismeyer55@gmail.com


Scott D. Browning

St. Paul Lutheran School
Texas District of LCMS
Forth Worth, Texas


Scott Browning has served as principal of St. Paul Lutheran School for the past seven years. With a combined 15 years of experience as principal, Browning prides himself on pushing for innovative developments among an increasingly diverse array of learners. Under Browning’s leadership, St. Paul has undergone many improvements. St. Paul received a total of more than $600,000 in gifts in the past seven years, allowing Browning to take on important projects, such as building a new playground, renovating the art studio, and increasing financial aid. Through assessment, resource allocation, and educational programming, Browning has prioritized creating space for gifted students. Determined to make a major shift in the St. Paul science curriculum, Browning led an effort to increase technology in the daily lives of students. Because of his efforts, science classes at St. Paul have gone from boring to a favorite among students. All teachers have received professional development training on various apps and Google Classroom to enhance student learning. Browning believes in a whole, well-rounded education and has used his tenure at St. Paul to advocate for the importance of extracurricular activities; students at St. Paul can choose from eight sports, in addition to fine arts, drama, clubs, and academic competitions. Browning holds an M.A. in Educational Administration from the University of Arkansas and a B.S. in Education from Concordia College, Seward.

Email: scott.browning@sharingnewlife.com


Iram Shaikh-Jilani

Brighter Horizons Academy
Garland, Texas


Dr. Iram Shaikh-Jilani has served as principal for a total of 16 years, the last five of which have been at Brighter Horizons Academy. In only two years of Shaikhi’s leadership, student achievement jumped 30 percent in reading and in math in the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP). As a result, Brighter Horizons Academy is in the 90th percentile in MAPs. Additionally, every individual student’s performance improved thanks to Shaikh’s focused and centered approach to leadership. Shaikh undertook the project of providing tenured teachers with support around identifying performance gaps and creating individual data teams for each student, their parents, and their teacher. Focused on well-rounded improvement, Shaikh also encouraged staff to examine their motives and intentions around their role as teachers. She motivates the team by open communications and authentic relationships as performance climbs. In addition to her work as a respected and balanced leader, Shaikh has led over seven accreditations in the past five years across three different schools. At Brighter Horizons Academy, she has led all three accreditations of CISNA, AdvancED, and International Baccalaureate–Primary Years Program. Shaikh takes the role of service in education seriously, spending many evenings and weekends supporting students via phone, Zoom, and text, as well as prioritizing work with “at risk” students and underfunded schools internationally and domestically. Shaikh holds a Certification from the Texas Superintendent Program, a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Northeastern University, an M.B.A from Averett University, and a B.A. in Political Science from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Email: dr.iram@bhaprep.org

Department of State, Overseas Schools


Melissa M. Schaub

American International School of Lagos
Lagos, Nigeria


Melissa Schaub joined the American International School of Lagos in Nigeria as the elementary principal in 2019. Schaub believes deeply in the importance of serving as an instructional leader and finds purpose and meaning in the role she plays supporting teachers in designing, implementing, and monitoring curriculum. At AISL, she has facilitated teacher development in the process of unit review and alignment using protocols to deepen understanding of learning targets, assessment design, and best practice instruction. As a result, the elementary staff have grown in their knowledge of unit design and added critical skills to their professional tool kits. Schaub has spearheaded efforts to create a data-informed assessment culture where teachers engage in meaningful collaborations to review, analyze, and learn from student learning data and work. Driven by a deep belief that students should own their learning and become self-directed in that journey, Schaub has encouraged shifts and strategies in unit design to allow students to set goals, engage with success criteria, seek feedback, and reflect on their own learning. More recently, with the impact of the coronavirus, Schaub leveraged her proclivity for collaboration and team-centered approach to student learning, allowing her staff and students to innovate and excel in the realm of distance learning. Through her efforts to unite student, teacher, and parent voices, Schaub encourages “the hearts of [her] community to beat as one,” and says that celebrating “our shared accomplishments is the music of my work.” Schaub is a trainer at the Principal’s Training Center, where her focus is developing assessment leadership, and is working toward an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Wilkes University. She holds both a Post Graduate Leadership Certification and an M.A. from The College of New Jersey and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from San Francisco State University.

Email: mschaub@aislagos.org


Daniel Todd

International School of Uganda
Kampala, Uganda


Daniel Todd has been an educational leader at the International School of Uganda for the past 15 years and has held the position of principal at the school for the past five. Todd works diligently to ensure a collaborative, open environment where staff are encouraged to innovate and take leadership. This team leadership approach has allowed Todd to completely transform the Junior School. Always working toward inclusion, Todd has given considerable focus to modeling healthy communities for the students served by ISU. Students and parents alike are considered partners in the project of creating a healthy and stimulating environment for all. In empowering all members of the community, the school has been able to strengthen both its practice and its pedagogy. Todd embodies this holistic approach and makes a special effort to be present with students and families, getting to know each person and their communication and learning styles. Even teachers are supported in their personal learning journey, which has allowed further research and development at the school. Todd works closely with students to understand their needs and sits down with student leaders to design and build environments that will serve their educational needs. A lifelong learner, Todd is a committed and passionate leader. He is finalizing his M.A. in Educational Leadership and Management from the University of Bath and holds a B.A. from the University of Warwick, both in the United Kingdom.

Email: jsprincipal@isumail.ac.ug