People Person

Longtime Minnesota principal Nancy Antoine gets to know students and stakeholders.

Topics: Principal Leadership

Nancy Antoine has served 19 years as a principal during her 33-year career in education, employing data as a guide for targeted instruction as the principal of Bridgewater Elementary School in Northfield, Minnesota, since 2007. Championing culturally responsive leadership, she surveys stakeholders to identify areas for growth and helps colleagues ascend to leadership roles.

Antoine has worked closely with teachers and community partners to integrate STEAM teachings into the Bridgewater curriculum, including a makerspace that emphasizes student engagement by creating hands-on, project-based learning experiences. Attuned to the needs of the whole child, she has offered broad support to the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Principal magazine recently asked Antoine several questions about her career, leadership, and lifestyle. Here’s what she said:

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in schools during your long career?

Incoming students are much more prepared now than in the past. Parents are doing a great job of preparing their children to be ready for kindergarten academically and socially. Teachers are also much more prepared coming out of college. They are receiving authentic classroom experiences during their college years, and this helps them take on their own classrooms.

What is your favorite part of leading a school or best “leadership moment”?

Building relationships with students, teachers, and families is my favorite part of leading Bridgewater. I enjoy getting to know people on an individual basis and helping them be more successful than they ever thought possible. I get to work with great people every day, watch and support them while they are “in flight” to greatness.

What have you seen emerge from your makerspace?

The greatest gain I have seen is our students learning to be better thinkers and see alternative ways of solving problems. This thought process is much more than a project, but through the various projects, students learn to think innovatively and creatively.

What is culturally responsive leadership?

To me, culturally responsive leadership is the work leaders do to ensure that all students are served and have the same opportunities to be successful in school and life. We have to listen to the voices and the input of our stakeholders—parents, teachers, community members—to know for sure that we are making a difference in the lives of children.

What was the best book you read this year?

My favorite book this summer is a children’s book with so much meaning: I Am Enough by Grace Byers. We all need to know that we are “enough” just as we are; we don’t have to change just to please others.