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April 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 7
I work with Brad Latzke, an incredible middle school principal at the Shanghai American School in China. Mr. Latzke says that as he gets wiser, he gets softer. Recently, one of his teachers got the green light to adopt a child from Africa after waiting for years and suffering through many disappointments. The teacher had to take leave multiple times to go and sign the paperwork and then spend time in the United States before coming back to her teaching job in China. Mr. Latzke not only ensured that she got the time off, but also allowed another teacher in his division to travel with her. Mr. Latzke has been a leader in supporting the family and collaborating with staff to ensure that her duties are covered while she is gone. The entire school has gone through this experience together; the staff feels as though they are all adopting this child.
—Debbie Lane, elementary principal, Puxi Campus, Shanghai American School, Shanghai, China
The "nose flare" was an artful technique of disapproval that principal Howard Williams pulled off with conviction. As a new assistant principal studying his every move, I would practice that technique. Conversely, his warm heart and willingness to freely give hugs or a deep belly laugh was infectious. I am proud to say I am very adept at the nose flare now: Without my saying a word, kids perceive my displeasure. Better yet, I am a confident hugger, and the love I feel for the students in my school makes my job a true joy. Mr. Williams is a direct contributor to the passion I am fortunate to live day in and day out.
—Lori Perez, principal, The Classical Academies, Vista, California
Nadia Hionides of the Foundation Academy is disorganized, highly impulsive, never on time, and rarely follows a set schedule. She is disorganized because she will never say no to doing good, and there is too much good to be done. She is impulsive because if she thought too long about paying a family's rent for the year, she would realize it's not in her budget. When she's not on time, it's probably because she is picking up a student on the other side of town so that student won't miss school. She doesn't follow a schedule because hunger doesn't, and there is always a kid who needs a meal. As much as she cares about education, she cares about lives more. She is a servant—and the best principal I've ever known.
—Madaline Hill, music teacher, The Foundation Academy, Jacksonville, Florida
Here are three things that made Marilyn Prall (now retired) the most memorable elementary school principal I ever worked with. First, she found any opportunity she could to wear her Elmo suit. The kids loved her for it. Second, she held her teachers accountable for student achievement. I used to joke that she was like a ninja walking in and out of classrooms: You never heard her come in; she was just there. Third, she was kind yet firm. She would support her teachers in public and save any reprimands for private. I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with her and learn from her.
—Virginia Loh-Hagan, professor, Ashford University, San Diego, California
Innovative, compassionate, respected, and a visionary—these words describe my principal, Brent Cudly. Mr. Cudly is constantly asking us, "What can we do together to improve our school, our classrooms, and our students' learning?" When it comes to individual students, we are encouraged to ask not, "How can I stop this student from causing so many problems?" but rather, "What can I do to help this student overcome his or her difficulties?" The focus is always on the students and how we, as dedicated professionals, can work together to make a difference in their lives.
—Shelly Whitman, literacy coach, Fremont Public Schools, Fremont, Nebraska
Principal Glo Merrill never let anything sit on her desk that could be handled at that moment. She was insistent that she would tackle every issue right then if possible, whether it was a signature, an appointment, or a proposal. Glo would rarely file things away to be completed later. Her focused attention when I would bring up a new idea made me feel like I was important and like she was taking me seriously. It also inspired me to do the same with my students.
—Mary Nackos, English teacher, Seattle Archdiocese, Seattle, Washington
When you walk through the door of Lincoln Junior High School, you will see principal Reid Gault interacting with the students in the halls, at lunch, and especially in classrooms. It is common for Mr. Gault to pop in to see what is going on in the classroom. He makes himself available at all times; he even went so far as to order a mobile desk so that he can set up an office anywhere in the building and be visible to anyone who needs him. He encourages his teachers to interact and often assigns them to observe one another. He has created such a powerful community of learners among the students, and more specifically among the teachers. Using social media, Mr. Gault created the hashtag #teamljh. Teachers and students use this hashtag to celebrate the things they are doing in the classroom. He is setting a powerful example for principals everywhere.
—Allison Holland, eLearning coach, Plymouth Community School Corporation, Plymouth, Indiana
One of the best principals I have known is Paul Dowdy. He would walk through the classrooms daily, always pausing to wave or say a few words. He regularly asked about my mom, my family, and my life outside school. He treated everyone in the school this way. I enjoyed watching Mr. Dowdy interact with the kids. When he walked down the hall, he always visited with them. He was outside during every recess, organizing activities, getting to know the kids, even teaching them how to fly-fish. Some people thought he could be too easy on the "frequent visitors" to his office. What I saw was someone filling a father role for many, myself included. He had a way of making kids want to do the right thing.
—Rhonda Howard, 6th grade LA/SS teacher, Richland School District, Richland, Washington
In my first year as a teacher in the Salt Lake City School District, principal Rosemary Baron dropped by my classroom every day. It meant a lot to me to know that the principal would take time out of her busy schedule to say hello. She was always so positive, on message, organized, and gracious. I later learned that she did the same thing for every teacher in the building, every day! She also met the kids at the bus who came for breakfast each day. Many of them came from low-income homes and difficult family situations. Often she could be seen hugging them and just cheering them up. After retiring, she is now serving as a chaplain in our city, comforting veterans and families during times of loss and hardship.
—Afton Lambson, district assessment specialist, Salt Lake City School District, Utah
Dennis Grimmer was the principal of O'Fallon Township High School in O'Fallon, Illinois, where I was a student teacher and eventually became a member of the faculty. Dennis is a big man with a commanding presence. He'd be a scary guy if not for his warm manner and sense of humor. Everybody knew that Dennis genuinely cared about kids, teachers, and the wider school community.
Dennis was an ideal principal, chiefly because he was a master teacher first before being promoted to lead learner and administrator. During my first year, he would visit my classroom—sometimes formally, but often spontaneously. He would casually pop in and take a seat, just to see how I was faring. One day as he was offering me some advice, he ended our conversation by saying, "Look, we hired you because we thought you were the best person for the job. Now we want to see you go from being a good teacher to being a great teacher. So don't be nervous. We want you to succeed." Years later, as I work with new teachers, I often find myself repeating Dennis's words. These novice teachers react as I did then: relieved to know that their leaders are on their side and ready to support them.
—Cindy Zavaglia, director of professional growth and English department chair, Westminster Christian Academy, Town & Country, Missouri
As a new teacher in Robbinsville, New Jersey, I had a principal named Dan Donnelly. He took a keen interest in new teachers, coaching and counseling them through the difficulties of those first few years. I remember when he told me that he was thinking of transferring me from kindergarten to 2nd grade. I loved kindergarten and was successful there; I was not eager to transfer. With great sensitivity and authenticity, Dan explained professional growth, career progression, varied experiences, and teacher leadership—all things I hadn't considered much as a novice. I made the move and never looked back. I often think how right he was and thank him for the opportunity to expand my professional skills. Since I have entered administration, I have asked myself many times, What would Dan Donnelly do? He passed away a few years ago, much too young, but his influence lives on every day.
—Helen Payne, superintendent, North Hanover Township Schools, Wrightstown, New Jersey
In 5th grade, I lived in a small town in Montana, and my teacher was the principal of the school. When Mr. Houston had to do "principal business," he would set us a task by saying something like, "Memorize the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, and I'll be back in an hour." No one in the room would dare defy him because he was, after all, the principal. He trusted us to learn what we could, and then, when he returned, he built on what we had learned. I've always felt that he was one of my best teachers and wish more administrators still had the opportunity to teach.
—Sue Vaughn, teacher, Washoe County School District, Reno, Nevada
Bambi Betts, now director of the Principals' Training Center for International School Leadership (PTC), is the most accomplished, effective principal I have encountered. She came to Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela, to create a model middle school program in a secondary school where 6–8 graders had been getting lost. Within one year, she created a vibrant program that included an assessment-driven curriculum (a first in international schools); hired a cadre of outstanding teachers; developed an engaging after-school program; renovated available space; and got to know every one of the 200 students in her care. Teachers trained under her have become international school leaders throughout the world. Bambi Betts went on to direct and transform the PTC, which now trains more than 800 education leaders every summer to be more effective principals and teacher leaders in their schools around the world.
—Forrest Broman, publisher, The International Educator (TIE), Cummaquid, Massachusetts
The most memorable principal I have known was Dame Patricia Collarbone, the head teacher of Haggerston School, Hackney, in the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. She led the school to academic success. She was an advocate for pupil voice, was the instigator of the Haggerston Conference, and brought U.S. educators to Haggerston in her drive for excellence. She was tough but extremely fair. She was visionary and involved everybody. As a school principal, I often confront issues by asking myself, What would Pat Collar—bone have done?
—Enda Cullen, principal, St. Joseph's Grammar School, Donaghmore, Northern Ireland
The best school principal I ever knew led my high school. Even though the school had more than 1,400 students, any student who did anything to distinguish himself or herself, or the school, received a handwritten note of commendation from him. We knew that even in that large school, we were known and appreciated. We would have walked across Antarctica for that man.
—Gene Kerns, vice president and chief academic officer, Renaissance Learning, Dallas, Texas
What did the best principal I have ever known do when I was new on her staff? She trusted my colleagues and me. In previous years, Mount Eagle's grade 4 students had not performed well on the Virginia social studies assessment. My colleague Arlette and I sought to change that with the collaboration of the reading teacher, the special education team, and the English for speakers of other languages team. Our principal, Cynthia Buck, made sure we had whatever resources we needed. She purchased materials; provided time for us to meet and talk about students, curriculum, teaching, learning, and assessment; and enabled us to attend numerous professional learning opportunities and participate in teacher collaboration across schools. Mount Eagle soared to an almost 90 percent pass rate on the grade 4 social studies assessment.
—Kevin Simpson, global education collaborator, Know.Do.Serve.Learn (KDSL), Dubai, United Arab Emirates
On my first day of teaching, I stood by my classroom door excited but nervous as I waited for students to arrive. My principal, who had just hired me a few weeks earlier, came by and asked how I was doing. When I told her honestly that I was both happy to start the day and a little nervous, she told me not to worry—it was her first day as a new principal as well, and she was nervous, too. She told me that I was her first official hire as a principal; she was confident in her ability to hire and in my ability to teach, and she knew we would both finish the day just fine. I remember her honesty and humility and always respected her leadership style.
—Mary Thomas-Madonna, acting principal, Jordan-Elbridge High School, Jordan, New York
I worked with principal Brian Lucas for almost two years at Aurora Elementary School in South Los Angeles. I learned so much from him about hard work, understanding, and dedication. One of his most memorable practices is giving teachers help and support with all the crazy paperwork so that they can actually focus on what they're best at—teaching and taking care of students' needs. He believes that teachers' extra effort after work hours shouldn't be spent on paper; it should be spent on doing things for students, planning, or simply resting so they're fresh the next day.
—Haydee Lopez, teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District, California
When I became a school counselor, I knew nothing about the education system: I had entered the job through alternative certification after majoring in psychology and working in youth services for 10 years. My principal had precise expectations, but he also had the patience to show me how to meet them. If a parent criticized a counselor or a teacher, he was quick to stand behind us. I appreciated that loyalty, as well as his organization: He made sure we had schedules completed months in advance, which meant less stress on the counselors. He prepared for challenges proactively rather than responding reactively, which set the tone for the entire school. I am grateful that I had the experience of working with such a wonderful person as my first principal.
—Tracie Gipson, counselor City Heights Elementary, Van Buren, Arkansas
Pat Schob is a great principal because I know that I can talk with her anytime and get honest, productive guidance on almost any issue. Pat has a thorough understanding of the children, the families, and the military community we serve. Although the students are always at the top of her concern, Pat is also there to support and encourage the teachers. She knows exactly where to find extra support, whether it's for basic needs for a family, school supplies, or a study trip. Even when dealing with difficult special education concerns or computer disasters, Pat makes us feel like we can get through any challenge. She's not above the staff—she's part of the staff, taking the lead.
—Susan Harlan, special education teacher, Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina
In addition to working easily with the major issues—budget, scheduling, testing, and so on—Principal Bob Woodruff found time to pay attention to details. By the first few days in a new school, he knew the names of most of the faculty. He also quickly learned the names of many of the students and spoke to them personally when he met them in the halls or cafeteria. Mr. Woodruff understood the importance of respect. He focused his full attention on whoever was talking with him and conveyed the feeling that no issue was more important than the issue that person was raising. And regardless of the controversy he was in charge of resolving, he always attempted to make it a win-win situation and maintain the dignity of everyone involved.
—Elizabeth Kessler, lower division studies administrator, University of Houston, Texas
As a daughter, I could not have asked for a better mother; as a teacher, I could not have asked for a greater principal. My mother, Linn Dunton, is the epitome of a servant leader. I've watched her paint the walls of the school, apply for grants in her free time to get new P.E. equipment, cry with students who were experiencing grief, and use her own battle with breast cancer to motivate and inspire the teachers she leads. She is the first to arrive and the last to leave, the first to believe and the last to give up. She has gone above and beyond what is required of a principal, even to the point of returning to the classroom and teaching again in the name of doing everything she can to make her school great and her students the best versions of themselves.
—Chalese Dunton, English teacher, Classical Academy High School, San Diego, California
Our school had a rigorous grade point average eligibility policy for athletes. One student, struggling academically and physically, ran alone long into the night to prepare for cross country and then hit the books later. The student's attempts at improvement were sincere. Still, just before a meet, the student barely missed the grade cut off. The principal, Bruce Derr, not only took it upon himself to declare the student eligible to run, but cared enough to talk with the student and provide encouragement. The student did not win the race but did stay in school and graduate. Amazingly, despite bucking the bureaucracy and its constraints, Bruce went on to become superintendent. Most recently, he came out of retirement to become principal at a troubled high school in the district he once directed.
—Gil Mueller, curriculum coordinator, The American School of Bangkok, Thailand
Kevin Tashlein is a tireless student advocate. His encyclopedic memory of not only student names, but also their classes, sports, and achievements is astounding. As a result, the 3,200-plus students at Peachtree Ridge love and respect him. He is equally devoted to our faculty and parents. He challenges, encourages, and supports us all to be truly excellent at what we do.
As a new assistant principal with bus duty, I received a radio call to hold the buses because several band students were running late. On Dr. Tashlein's signal, "Stop them!" I jumped in front of three rows of buses with their engines gunned and their drivers' feet poised on the gas pedals. I turned to see him beside me. Afterward, I commented, "I just jumped in front of a bus for you!" He replied, "And I stood right by you." That kind of uncommon leadership inspires uncommon loyalty and can only lead to an extraordinary school.
—Rosie Placek, assistant principal, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Suwanee, Georgia
Fresh out of Howard University, I was eager to begin teaching, not fully aware of the complexities of working with preadolescents, parents, and colleagues. There were nights I went home questioning my chosen profession. But with the unfailing support and encouraging words I received daily from my principal, Charles McIlwain, I survived my first year. His guiding philosophy was rooted in the belief that you must first be able to connect with students before you can teach them. He took time to mentor young educators and treated us like consummate professionals even when we struggled. Now that I am an assistant principal, Mr. McIlwain's legacy continues to influence my interactions with students, parents, and teachers.
—Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac, elementary assistant principal, Uniondale School District, Uniondale, New York
Ron Newnes of the Thames Valley District School Board was an outstanding responder to teacher needs. As a new teacher, I e-mailed many questions to Ron. He always responded, and his responses were always concise and to the point. Ron recognized staff efforts through monthly celebrations at staff meetings. His finger was on the pulse of the school, and he publicly celebrated events and accomplishments that many staff members had not been aware of. I'm sure that Ron learned about some of these events through conversations he had in the staff lunchroom. Yes, Ron boldly joined the teaching staff for lunch from time to time. It sure could change the tone of the lunchroom from a pity party to a celebration!
—Kim Gadsdon, teacher and department head, Thames Valley District School Board, St. Thomas, Ontario
I've taught at three high schools over more than 20 years and have also worked with and supported school principals as a central-office administrator. My current principal, Mr. Eichorn, stands above the rest. Not only is he consistently present in the hall and in our classrooms, but he meets with his students and teachers on a regular basis, positively challenges us, and sends out appreciative e-mails to anyone who demonstrates sacrifice or goes the extra mile for a student or staff member. He listens to our ideas and implements those that will make a difference. In this day of teacher bashing, Mr. Eichorn's professionalism makes us feel appreciated.
—Kate Dail, High School English/ESOL teacher, Prince William County Schools, Manassas, Virginia
In the mid-1990s, when facilitative leadership was the Next Big Thing, Principal Michael Miller not only talked about it but also demonstrated his commitment to it by providing authentic opportunities for staff members to grow as education leaders. He encouraged and supported my involvement in districtwide initiatives related to multicultural education, which led to my decision to pursue my masters in educational leadership and eventually to my current position as coordinator for several districtwide programs. I have never forgotten how he made that possible, and I have based my leadership style on his. I make an effort to seek out potential leaders, make them a part of our leadership teams for these programs, and encourage them in their leadership journeys.
—Cindy Flora, multicultural staff developer, Pinellas County Schools, Largo, Florida
The principal of my elementary school, Bill Brousard, earned the respect and trust of every student and staff member. At the time, Harrison Elementary was one of the toughest schools in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Mr. Brousard stayed true to just a few simple principles—he was always available to talk to anyone, he held everyone responsible for their actions, and he gave out rewards and punishments when we earned them.
Mr. Brousard was such a positive influence on me that years later, when my wife applied to be a student teacher in the Cedar Rapids School District and the district said it had no openings, I called Bill and told him the situation. He hired my wife to start her career (which is now going on 30 years) in his building.
—Tracy Sankot, director of operations, Pearson Education, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Holly drove the staff hard with high expectations, and she drove herself hardest of all. She was the first one there in the morning and the last to leave at night. Yet she also knew the importance of fun. In the dead of winter, she held a beach party for the staff before school. Blenders pumped out non-alcoholic piña coladas. Beach Boys music played in the background, and the teacher's lounge was festooned with beach towel tablecloths. She created a caring community.
—Becky Whittenburg, gifted and talented specialist, Boulder Valley School District, Boulder, Colorado
My younger daughter attends May Steeet School. One day, I dropped her off and had my older daughter, who has autism, with me. I introduced Principal Roberts to my older daughter. She looked to the ground and mumbled something. Principal Roberts encouraged her to make eye contact and repeat her greeting to him. He knew that she needed this, without my telling him about her special needs. He is an intuitive, kind man who puts his heart and soul into May Street School. His love for the children shines, and I consider my child lucky to have him as a principal.
—Jennifer Daly, rehabilitation counselor, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, Worcester, MA
One year, I volunteered to teach the dreaded class of 14 boys and 6 girls (including 9 students with individualized education programs). Many boys in that class were notorious for fighting. As I looked for research to prepare myself, I found an upcoming conference focused on special education and the instruction of boys. When I asked to attend the conference, my principal, John Wataoka, wholeheartedly agreed and immediately began the paperwork needed to send me. He combined high expectations with support, he enforced the idea that professional development was valuable, and he trusted me to make the right decisions for our students. I felt valued and respected, and my students had a very successful year. Each day, I walk confidently into my classroom because I know I stand on the shoulders of my principal.
—Lisa Barton, 6th grade full-inclusion ELA specialist Waianae Elementary School, Waianae, Hawaii
Nicole Covey gave me opportunities that allowed me to grow both personally and professionally, opening doors for me that I had never known existed. She inspired me to focus my energy on my students and their needs. Before, I would assess my students and move on, assuming it was their fault when they failed. Now, because of her guidance and support, I look at my students and always ask, How can I help them today? Her motto, "Whatever It Takes for Every Child," makes me take a step back and look at the bigger picture in my classroom. Because of Dr. Covey, I am a better teacher and my students are more prepared for their futures.
—Jennifer Easley, 1st–2nd grade looping teacher, Brookland School District, Brookland, Arkansas
Our principal began his career as an intern in the junior high of our small but demanding district. He rose to the high-profile position of high school principal in record time and at an age (29) when most are just feeling comfortable as teachers. He won over a skeptical veteran faculty and earned our respect through talent, fairness, and integrity. But it was the message in his commencement speech at the end of his fourth year with us that is worth sharing. Addressing students embarking on their first taste of real freedom, students who would be making important decisions about what they would do and who they would become, he spoke about their most prized possession—their name. "Your name," he said, "is your calling card, your legacy, your family's treasure. It is meant to last a lifetime. It is the only one you will ever have, and you would be wise to respect it, to cherish it, and to protect it from harm as you carry it with you into the future." Powerful.
—Linda Conlon, academic specialist, Quaker Valley School District, Sewickley, Pennsylvania
The best principal I ever had was April Haught. She was considerate of her employees. She always gave us small treats, and she would cater dinner for us when we had parent-teacher conferences. She gave prizes for the teachers who participated in positive behavior programs in our school. She was genuinely concerned for our physical and emotional welfare and protected us like a mother hen protects her chicks. Dr. Haught also worked tirelessly. She helped coach track with her husband and seemed to be at every school-related event. She was available to us regularly, and she sought out our ideas. She modeled a great work ethic and the meaning of responsibility. She was a friend, a confidant, a boss, a leader, an example, and a great human being.
—Deanna Campbell, world language teacher, Ritchie County Schools, Ellenboro, West Virginia
In 1972, a wooden paddle hung on the wall by Mr. Corwin's desk. The paddle was owned by a thin, energetic man who was the life of Jackson Elementary School—but it was used more for shock value than discipline. Mr. Corwin's strength was not in his ability to threaten. Instead, he looked past the tough facade and saw a child's heart. Mr. Corwin cared about each student, especially those who received little guidance at home. He never tolerated disrespect, but consequences were not just punishments. Mr. Corwin always required offenders to look beyond themselves and give back to others, so Jackson Elementary was constantly cared for by a crew of student "volunteers." Mr. Corwin's students knew he was committed to them. He played games with the kids at recess. During vacations, he organized backpacking and camping trips for students in the Sierra Nevada mountains and on the beaches of Baja. Once, he even crawled into a dumpster to help a 5th grader retrieve her lost retainer. Mr. Corwin showed his students he cared.
—Dawn Sullivan, writing teacher, The Classical Academy, Escondido, California
More than 40 years ago, I met Dorothy Fisher for the first time. I was one year into my teaching career as a science specialist in Detroit Public Schools, and she was looking for teachers who were willing to work on one of seven new magnet middle schools, which were to be created collaboratively by teachers, students, parents, and administrators of all different backgrounds. Meetings were held most evenings, with Dorothy presiding over discussions about scheduling, goals, curriculum, teaching methods, and motivation of students in grades 5–8. Everyone's ideas were heard and respected. The school's format and structure were the result of combining and refining all of these ideas. Dorothy Fisher did not insist on her own vision but helped everyone create a common vision and then become totally invested in its success. She was able to bring everyone together for a common goal. She is a most remarkable and gifted administrator.
—Janet Glodich, online tutor, ATS Project Success, Clinton Township, Michigan
Gerry Montgomery was my first principal as a beginning high school teacher. He was memorable because he strongly supported students and, therefore, strongly supported teachers who went over and above the call of duty to similarly support students. He had high expectations for all, a clear vision of what the school should provide students, and personal values and beliefs that made him stand out as our respected leader.
—John Phipps, professor of educational leadership, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia
My current principal, Michael Galvin, is one of the best principals ever. He is a principal for a K–8 school. His door is always open for us to talk with him. He goes out of his way to help us with all of the new changes for educators in Indiana. He is always trying new ideas to help us as well as the students. Students really look up to him, and they know he cares about them. If we have a tragedy, he will ask if anyone wants to have a prayer circle for that person. He is always positive and laughs with us. He is a rare gem among principals.
—Linda Stephens, math teacher, Fort Branch Community School, Fort Branch, Indiana
I consider myself lucky to have had Paul Brost as my administrator for almost my entire education career. Paul provides the structure and direction our school requires to tackle the difficult process of encouraging student learning and growth. Because he has encouraged me and given me the time and space to grow, I have worked to continually improve my teaching practice, helped train staff on new initiatives, presented at a number of state and national conferences, and moved out of the classroom and into a role of instructional coach. These accomplishments were possible for me because Paul shares leadership and decision making with the staff, thereby empowering people to blossom as individuals and as leaders.
—Nichole North Hester, instructional coach, Monona Grove High School, Monona, Wisconsin
My current principal, Todd Bidlack, leads by example. He does not ask his teachers to do anything that he wouldn't do. He encourages and supports us to think outside the box and try new things in our classrooms. His first year in our school, he asked a group of teachers (myself included) to plan our upcoming professional development day with very few strings attached. It turned out to be an enjoyable learning experience. Since then, we've been given the opportunity to plan other PD days for our staff with themes like Amazing Race, Star Wars, and 21st Century Cyber-Cafe.
—Kristin Locke, media specialist, Sashabaw Middle School, Clarkston, Michigan
Kelly Schofield is the best principal I have ever known. Several years ago when our students were scoring poorly on end-of-grade assessments, she told us as a staff to look at our students and connect names and faces with student data: Instead of being concerned about a certain percentage of students not making goals, we were to be concerned about specific children. She helped us realize that there should be no excuse for a student not to learn. We all have students who come to school hungry and needing clothes—she addresses those needs, but she doesn't let them be an excuse. Every child in our school is seen as having the potential for success. In just a few years she has led our school to become a National Title I School and an Intel School of Distinction for math.
—Kristen Walter, music/art teacher, Dana Elementary School, Hendersonville, North Carolina
Ruben Lopez opened a new elementary school with a huge challenge: Only five teachers on our campus had five or more years of experience. He worked with us and planned for our professional development. Our students were from lower-income families and had limited outside experiences. The teachers were given the chance to create opportunities on campus for these students. For example, we planted trees on campus, and the students took care of them. They came away from the experience knowing that they could plan and carry out goals. They were able to see their success, which translated into confidence in the classroom. Not many people expected anything of this school in the way of student achievement. But with Mr. Lopez's leadership, we became a high-performing campus within three years.
—Kim Keebaugh, teacher, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, Edinburg, Texas
Gail Lyon was seen in the halls of the school and took the time to know the name of every kid. She showed emotion, she showed passion, and she showed trust in both her staff and her students. At Merivale High School, she oversaw one of the most supportive and proactive schools in which I have had the pleasure to work. At times, she did things that "experts" and educators would tell you she should not have done. But the students, parents, and staff at the school would have done anything for her.
—Tom O'Connor, teacher, Waterloo Regional District School Board, Kitchener, Ontario
Kelly Withers of Carson High School in North Carolina has been regional principal of the year and a top contender for the entire state. She leads our school with a mission statement of "Students First." She puts students at the front with cutting-edge programs such as a night school for struggling students. Mrs. Withers strives every day to motivate her staff to be their very best. She has initiated a health initiative with the staff by partnering with a local hospital. She uses technology to help with the productivity of the school. Mrs. Withers is extremely knowledgeable about curriculum and is a strong instructional leader. She places teachers in their areas of strength and gives opportunities for professional growth and leadership. She is honest and fair and loves her job. But most important, she motivates us to be better teachers for our students every day.
—Amie Williams, social studies teacher, Jesse Carson High School, China Grove, North Carolina
Although our principal at Derry Village Elementary School in New Hampshire seemed nice enough, I connected more with Mr. Blanchard, our vice principal. He said hello to me by name and seemed ever-present within the school. After 5th grade, we had a choice—we could stay at Derry Village for 6th grade or go to the middle school. I was torn, but I knew that if I stayed Mr. Blanchard would be my teacher. I stayed.
That year, our principal was often absent because of illness, so Mr. Blanchard did double duty, with an unwavering grace. He listened, he was fair, and he loved learning and kids. I still remember entire lessons and units from that year. Throughout the school, he engendered a caring community, connecting students to mentor others, help teachers, and even support parents. (He set several of us up to babysit while parents attended conferences and workshops.) Mr. Blanchard went on to be principal for many years. As a pre-practicum student, I saw him displaying the same qualities more than a decade later.
—Lisa Goldthwaite, inclusion facilitator, Newton Public Schools, Framingham, Massachusetts
Nardos King is principal of Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, where I attended school. She would be able to tell you every student's name and something about them (and I mean every student). She builds and keeps relationships with former students after they have graduated from Mount Vernon and has a personal connection with each student. I believe she really is invested in all of her current students and former students and does everything in her power to give them the support, advice, and sometimes connections they need to succeed. She is a remarkable leader and treats all the students like they are her own children.
—Marla Carter, human resources manager, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Alexandria, Virginia
We want to hear your stories! Future "Tell Me About" columns will feature readers' experiences with building student resilience, leveraging teacher leadership, and more. To see upcoming questions and contribute a response, go to www.ascd.org/tellmeabout.
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