It’s AP Week, a time to celebrate the terrific work of assistant principals across the country. To highlight all that they do, we spoke with three NASSP 2022 State Assistant Principals of the Year: Diane Fox, an assistant principal of Hampton Bays in Hampton Bays, NY; Amber Grady, previous assistant principal of Elkins High School in Missouri City, TX; and Scott Wisniewski, an assistant principal of Wayne Valley High School in Wayne, NJ.

Diane Fox
Amber Grady
Scott Wisniewski

School of Thought: What inspired you to become an assistant principal?

Fox: Becoming a school leader was a natural progression of my desire to positively influence students and the greater school community. I knew that I wanted to continue working with students and found that my impact was greater when I made connections with more students and their families.

Grady: As a teacher, I had a lot of success with my students’ achievement in mathematics, along with building strong relationships. I was inspired to become an assistant principal so that I could spread my tools of success to other teachers, and have a larger impact on more students, particularly those at-risk.

Wisniewski: Though I truly enjoyed my time in the classroom and as a coach, the opportunity to move into administration has allowed me to have an even greater impact on our school and the student body. The greatest reward is to see a once struggling student find a pathway to success, be it an improvement in grades, attendance, or managing their mental well-being.

School of Thought: What strategies have you found to be most effective in fostering a positive school culture and improving student outcomes?

Fox: Communication and relationship-building with families, students, and staff members on a regular basis, which can be done through team meetings with teachers, partnerships between families and learning support teams, daily or weekly check-ins with students that need additional support, and daily visits with students during lunch/recess.

Grady: Being intentional and visible is always the goal. For example, meeting with students one-on-one to develop behavior intervention plans and set goals; sending birthday cards to each student; assigning each student in danger of failing an on-campus mentor; and celebrating those students who are achieving with honor roll parties, no-tardy parties, and parties for perfect attendance, etc.

Wisniewski: Integrating activities that show appreciation for the work that students and staff do daily is so important. Our third-party compliments activity is a great example of a program that creates a forum for teachers and students to show their appreciation for each other. I also strongly believe that integrating students into decision-making processes, where appropriate, and giving them a platform for their voices to be heard is a powerful way to build trust.

School of Thought: What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career as an assistant principal?

Fox: An assistant principal is one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs in education. You have the ability to impact so many lives, students, parents, and community members. Advice I give to anyone considering becoming an assistant principal, would be to stay true to your “why” and remember to always make decisions in the best interests of your students.

Grady: You should find a scheduling system that allows you to balance appointments, emails, observations, meetings, and most importantly spending time with students. Remember to keep “kids first” as your guiding principle in everything you do, because that is your responsibility and privilege as a school leader.

Wisniewski: Build relationships with students and staff through positive engagement and genuine interest in their success. Find opportunities to work collaboratively with students to provide them with a way for their voices to be heard and for them to share in programs that will have a positive impact within the school. Each year, try to find a different project or initiative to integrate into the school that is intended to benefit the staff and/or students. Above all else, never forget your reason for being an educator, your personal “why.” Let that guide you through your journey.

Have an assistant principal you’d like to celebrate during Assistant Principals Week, April 3–7? Send them an e-card.

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