National Distinguished Principals

NAESP recognized the 2019 class of National Distinguished Principals during a celebration in their honor.

NAESP recognized the 2019 class of National Distinguished Principals during a celebration in their honor.
October 2019, Volume 43, Issue 2

NAESP recognized the top principals in the country and overseas who made up the 2019 class of NAESP National Distinguished Principals (NDPs). Leading up to a two-day celebration in their honor, NDPs flew in to Washington, D.C., from around the globe—even from Panama and Ecuador—to take part in the Oct. 10-11 ceremony. They left with a renewed passion for education, a group of fellow principals who likely will remain lifelong friends, and colleagues they can add to their professional learning networks

Sharing a Passion for Education

The opening event gave principals the opportunity to tell their NDP peers about their passion for education. These 2-minute speeches long have been a favorite of many principals who are honored as NDPs—and this year was no different.

Each principal, despite having their own path to the position, faced similar challenges like budget cuts, trauma in schools, and ensuring equity and equality for all students. But they all fought to overcome the challenges because their students, staff, and community mean the world to them.

Creating a Dialogue With Education Officials

This year, to open the celebration, the U.S. Department of State held a welcome reception for our NDP class. Tom Shearer, director, Office of Overseas Schools, U.S. Department of State, and Carrie Cabelka, assistant secretary, Bureau of Administration, U.S. Department of State, congratulated the principals for being recognized for their hard work on behalf of students.

The following day, NDPs walked to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House Complex to meet with leaders of the U.S. Department of Education, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Making Memories

The NDPs participated in memento-sharing to show their pride for the school and state they represent. Each principal was able to take home from each state a trinket, which included treats like cookies and chocolate and keepsakes like ornaments and magnets. Plus, an annual tradition, the NDP from Hawaii—this year, Stacie SG Kunihisa—once again brought leis for everyone to wear.

Learning Together

Two leadership sessions gave principals from all corners of the U.S. the opportunity to learn together. First up was Joe Reeder, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who now works at a law firm in Washington, D.C., who shared insight into picking good people to surround you, setting parameters, and getting out of the way to let success happen.

Then, a familiar face from the 2018 NDP class—Andy Jacks, principal of Ashland Elementary School in Virginia and an NAESP Center for Innovative Leadership fellow—merged the movie “Top Gun” with leadership lessons, resulting in a high-energy session where principals figured out their “unique similarities” to show how they can lean on each other as they work to overcome obstacles in their schools and find success.

Celebrating Accomplishments

The celebration concluded with a black-tie ceremony to recognize each of the NDPs, who received engraved bells—another tradition of the event—that symbolized their dedication to their students, faculty and staff, schools, and communities.

Congratulations to the 2019 class of National Distinguished Principals! Learn more about the program and this year’s recipients on the NAESP website. Check out #naespNDP on Twitter to see highlights from the event.

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