NAESP Honors Distinguished Principals With Inspiring Recognition Program

Fifty-eight principals traveled to Washington, D.C. to be honored during National Principals Month.

By Jenny Nauman
October, 2016, Volume 40, Issue 2

I cannot imagine a more rewarding profession than that of a school principal. While making sure all students are achieving each and every day can be a tough task with little time to stop and take praise for all that you do each day, NAESP did just that with the 2016 National Distinguished Principals (NDP) program and award ceremony. On October 6 and 7, NAESP celebrated our nation’s most distinguished principals with two days full of learning, celebrating, and making connections.

The two-day event began at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, D.C., with NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly congratulating the NDPs. Then, each of the 58 principals delivered a two-minute presentation on their school and community—all while wearing a beautiful lei provided by the NDP and Zone Director from Hawaii. Common threads through the success stories included innovation, building relationships, and setting high expectations.

That evening, the distinguished principals and their guests were treated to a phenomenal evening at the National Archives with guest speaker, David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. Dr. Keith Miller, Director of the Office of Overseas Schools, and Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce A. Barr, both from the U.S. Department of State, also addressed the group. The Archives were closed to the public that evening, but the principals were able to view the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, all while getting to know their NDP colleagues better.

Friday morning began bright and early with a walk to the White House and photo opportunity thanks to Lifetouch (who captured each and every moment of the two day event), followed by a day of professional development.

Our first speaker was Colonel Art Athens, who began our learning talking about integrity:

  • What does it mean?
  • What does it look like?
  • How do we maintain it?
  • How as leaders to we create a climate of integrity?

Without the use of any technology, Col. Athens had the audience engaged the entire 90 minutes as we reveled in his stories.


His presentation was followed by a round table discussion on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was led by NAESP’s Kelly Pollitt and Department of Education Principal Ambassador Fellow Jean-Paul Cadet. NDPs collaborated and shared with the group their ideas and knowledge around the topic. We encouraged each other to be active in our state as we roll out ESSA.

Lastly, we shared our creative side with an interactive presentation from Cheri Sterman, director of education at Crayola. We used art to discuss art integration and to determine how we could better implement art-infused education in our schools.

The pinnacle of the two-day event was the Friday evening awards ceremony. The Presidential Ballroom at the Capitol Hilton was all decked out and the NDPs and their guests were treated like royalty. The black-tie affair, also known as the “Principal’s Prom,” was truly a celebration of all the amazing principals in the room.

During the awards ceremony, each NDP was greeted by NAESP President Steven Geis and NAESP President-Elect Brian Partin before receiving their framed certificate and commemorative bell. The audience cheered as NDPs from each state made his or her way across the stage. As with tradition, the NDPs concluded the ceremony by ringing their bells in unison “for each child that that they have served.”

After the ceremony and dinner, each NDP was presented with a white chocolate White House for dessert. The event continued with a live band and dancing late into the evening.

Upon returning from this event, teachers, students, parents have all asked me: “How was it?” My response is always the same: It was an amazing, once in a lifetime event that left me feeling special and appreciated. The best part was meeting a group of colleagues that now share a special bond (NDP Class of 2016), who will continue to challenge me to continue to be the very best principal I can be for the sake of my students, community, and state!

Jenny Nauman is principal of Shields Elementary School in Lewes, Delaware.

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