Every year, the NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year (APOY) program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school assistant principals from across the country who provide high-quality learning opportunities for their students. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, and the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools selects one assistant principal to represent them, and from these, three finalists are chosen. These assistant principals have been selected for their exemplary contributions to the profession.

We are excited to announce the three 2021 APOY finalists: 

Heather Gerrard
Ogden High School
Ogden, UT

Heather Gerrard believes that by creating systems and supports that foster building relationships intentionally schoolwide, she can ensure that the right connections are being made in a purposeful effort toward meeting the social-emotional learning (SEL) needs of students and staff. In doing so, she has implemented a schoolwide system that puts building relationships at the center of Ogden High’s focus, thereby ensuring the school is a safe and positive place to learn and grow. She did this by implementing a schoolwide grade level advisory program to increase student connections to adults in the building; facilitating teachers in setting SEL goals for their advisory class, including documenting interventions so administration and support staff and follow through on high-need situations; celebrating staff and student connections schoolwide; and increasing participation in family and community nights through targeted resources and supports to build family understanding of school goals. Ogden High scored in the 99th percentile nationally for students feeling safe, and the graduation rate has increased from 76 percent to 96 percent. 

Amanda Grundel
Ponaganset High School
Glocester, RI

Students and faculty need to feel valued and safe so they can be at their best to learn and interact—which is why Amanda Grundel fosters a culture of productive interactions and sound learning by focusing on creating a strong behavioral core. She led the development of the PHS Behavioral Expectations Matrix, which uses restorative discipline to help students make better choices and support them in repairing any harm they may have done to others. Students can fill out a reflection sheet to contemplate their behavior and foster qualities that all Ponaganset High School graduates should possess. She also builds student development around decision making with the SODAS method. Students are guided through a process where they analyze the Situation, the Options they had, the Disadvantages of those options, the Advantages, and the Solution they chose. This restorative approach has helped reduce discipline referrals. As a leader, Grundel implements a distributive leadership approach to help adults learn and interact with purpose as everyone takes ownership of the work and builds in accountability measures. 

Chelsea Jennings
Lakeside Junior High School
Springdale, AR

Arkansas has the highest rate of adverse childhood experiences in the nation at 60 percent. Trauma and stress often manifest as behavior problems, and if educators can learn to see these as calls for help and opportunities to teach missing skills, they have the ability to lessen the negative impact and create productive learning environments centered on well-being and safety. That’s why Chelsea Jennings is leading an initiative to make trauma-informed SEL interventions and resources accessible for every adult and student. Additionally, she has partnered with Ozark Guidance to expand school-based counseling services with an additional therapist and behavioral paraprofessional this year, doubling the amount of students receiving services. Each year, teachers submit a list of students they are struggling to reach and teach. The teachers go around together and list everything they know about each student. The information, or lack thereof, is always eye-opening. Teachers select one student to mentor for the year. Then, in meetings that include counselors and other school staff, they discuss the students and develop an action plan for interventions, services, and home visits. When students are in danger of slipping through the cracks, they work collaboratively as a “triage” team.

The APOY national winner will be announced on April 9 during National Assistant Principals Week and recognized—alongside all state APOY winners—in a special ceremony during the 2021 National Principals Conference in July!

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