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

The program provided participants with a job-embedded experience in developmentally appropriate leadership practices.

CONTACT: Kaylen Tucker, NAESP
Phone: 703-518-6257

Alexandria, VA—January 28, 2020—The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Nebraska Department of Education are pleased to announce the first 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. The program participants were recognized Jan. 8, 2020, during a meeting at La Vista Educational Service Unit 3 in La Vista, Nebraska.

The NAESP 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 Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice, provides the framework for the NAESP Academy.

The Nebraska cohort focused on competencies such as providing personalized learning, using multiple measures of assessments for young learners, 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.

“NAESP is proud to partner with the Nebraska Department of Education in supporting school leaders as they build their capacity to provide a seamless continuum of learning for students age 3 to age 8,” said NAESP Executive Director Dr. L. Earl Franks, CAE. “This Academy fills an important void in professional learning opportunities for school leaders and others engaged in early learning. NAESP extends our congratulations to those Nebraska educators who received their certification as a Pre-K–3 Credentialed Leader in recognition for completing the prescribed coursework and implementation components, pledging to uphold high ethical standards, and committing to ongoing professional development in the practice of Pre-K–3 instructional leadership.”

“Research has shown that learning starts long before kindergarten, and the ability to effectively teach Pre-K children is crucial,” said Nebraska Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Deb Frison. “We congratulate the educators that completed this program and hope they can share what they learned with colleagues around the state to improve the educational outcomes for Nebraska’s youngest students.”

The NAESP 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 NAESP 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:

  • Kimberly Beran, principal, High Plains Community Elementary School
  • Bill Comley, elementary/preschool administrator, Schuyler Elementary School
  • Traci Costlow, administrator, Jefferson Elementary School, North Platte
  • Kim Flanders, principal, McDonald Elementary School
  • Kris Friesen, principal, York Elementary School
  • Erin Gonzalez, principal, Harvey Oaks Elementary School, Omaha
  • Matt Irish, principal, Lincoln Elementary School, North Platte
  • Sherise Loeffelbein, principal, Palmer Elementary School
  • Nicole Long, principal, Perkins County Elementary School
  • Trisha Nichelson, principal, Elmwood-Murdock Elementary School
  • Tammy Schaefer, principal, Cross County Elementary School
  • Megan Schmidt, principal, Kearney Education Center
  • Patty Smith, principal, Central Elementary School
  • Joan Stewart, preschool teacher/director, Santee Elementary School
  • Bristol Wenzl, principal, Weeping Water Elementary School
  • Joe Wiechman, principal, Kenesaw Elementary School
  • Jodi Wolf, pre-start director, Minatare Public Schools
  • Jim York, principal, O’Neill Elementary School

The Leadership Academy advisors were:

  • Josie Floyd, Sutherland Public Schools
  • Andy DeFreece, Millard Public Schools
  • Jason Hippen, Nebraska City Public Schools
  • Amy Kroll, Auburn Public Schools
  • Tara Peterson, Grand Island Public Schools

For more information about the NAESP Academy contact Dr. Gracie Branch, NAESP’s associate executive director, Professional Learning, at