NAESP and Nebraska Department of Education Honor 2023 Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy Cohort

These educators represent the third Nebraska cohort to participate in the award-winning professional learning program.

Alexandria, VA—May 2, 2023—The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Nebraska Department of Education are pleased to announce the second Nebraska cohort to participate in the NAESP Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy®, an award-winning professional learning program that provides principals and other school leaders with a job-embedded experience in developmentally appropriate leadership practices.

“NAESP is proud to partner—for the third year—with the Nebraska Department of Education in supporting educators as they boost their skills to provide a seamless continuum of learning for students age 3 to age 8,” said NAESP Executive Director L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE. “NAESP congratulates these 24 Nebraska educators who have earned the distinction as a Pre-K–3 Credentialed Leader. Their commitment to uphold high ethical standards and take part in ongoing professional learning in the practice of early childhood instructional leadership will inspire those around them and positively impact on the students they support.”

The academy has directly supported Nebraska’s school leaders in deepening their knowledge of the needs of young children and sharpening their skills as instructional leaders of early learning, a critical missing component in aligned early learning systems. NAESP’s foundational competency guide, Leading Learning Communities: A Principal’s Guide to Early Learning and the Early Grades (Pre-K−3rd Grade), provides the framework for the NAESP Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy.

The Nebraska cohort focused on competencies such as developing and fostering partnerships with families and communities, ensuring equitable learning opportunities, promoting a culture of continuous improvement, and building professional capacity across the learning community. In addition to coursework, cohort members participated in a culminating Capstone Project that allowed them to apply their learning to a problem of practice within their school or district.

“The Nebraska participants who completed the NAESP Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy have skills that will help them beyond their own school building,” said Melody Hobson, Office of Early Childhood Administrator at the Nebraska Department of Education. “They are truly leaders in early childhood education. We are fortunate to be able to partner with NAESP and to have such dedicated participants from every part of Nebraska.”

The academy is already showing success in bridging the gap between early childhood programs and early elementary schooling. Results from an implementation study conducted by the Southern Regional Education Board indicate that 90 percent of respondents reported that the academy helped them to “better meet the needs of vulnerable children.” Participants also reported growth in Pre-K–3 leadership competencies such as ensuring developmentally appropriate teaching and using multiple measures of assessment to guide growth in student learning.

NAESP and the Nebraska Department of Education congratulate these Pre-K–3 Leadership Academy participants, who received their certification as a Pre-K–3 Credentialed Leader:

  • Jodi Benson, Principal, Bear Cub Preschool
  • Wendy Craig, Director of Special Education, Falls City Public Schools
  • Lyndsey Douglas, Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning, North Platte Public Schools
  • Sunny Edwards, Early Childhood Principal, Morrill Early Learning Center
  • James Feeney, Principal, Bryan Elementary School
  • Christie Ference, Assistant Director, Central Nebraska Action Partnership
  • Megan Flohr, Principal, Eagle Elementary School
  • Niki Gemar, Family Engagement Specialist, Head Start C&FDP, Inc.
  • Amy Hostetler, Principal, Creek Valley Public Schools
  • Daniel Kennedy, Principal, Lawrence-Nelson Schools
  • Alison Klein, Head Start Coordinator, Wahoo Public Schools
  • Susan Lindblad, EC Administrator and Special Education Director, Adams Central Public Schools
  • Holli Lovegrove, Student Services Supervisor, Educational Service Unit 6
  • Bradley Luce, Principal, Centennial Public Schools
  • Delanie McMillan, Director of Student Services, District 145 – Waverly
  • Chanc McIntosh, Principal, Arnold Public Schools
  • Paige Parsons, Principal, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge Elementary School
  • Nicole Pechous, Director of Special Education, DC West Community Schools
  • Mary Beth Pistillo, Education Facilitator, University of Nebraska – Buffett Early Childhood Institute
  • Sarah Roesler, Early Childhood Coordinator, Educational Service Center Unit 5
  • Joycilyn Rozelle, Principal, Norman Rockwell Elementary School
  • Cara Stoll, Director of Special Services, Centennial Public Schools
  • Dusti VanSlyke, Literacy Coordinator, Loup City Public Schools
  • Becky Jo Wylie, Early Childhood Special Educator, Morrill Early Learning Center

The leadership academy advisors were:

  • Andy DeFreece, Director, Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Millard Public Schools
  • Kim Flanders, Principal, McDonald School
  • Amy Kroll, Director of School Improvement and SPED, Weeping Water Public Schools
  • Megan Schmidt, Principal, Bright Futures/Kearney Public Schools
  • Tiffany Shonerd, Children Services Director, Blue Valley Community Action Head Start
  • James York, Principal, O’Neill Elementary School

For more information about the NAESP academy, contact NAESP Associate Executive Director, Professional Learning, Gracie Branch, Ph.D., at