Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Office of Overseas Schools, and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity will select one assistant principal to represent their state. State winners are selected from applications submitted to the state associations.

Because each state’s selection process varies, please contact your state association for more information on their selection process.

2022 State Assistant Principals of the Year

StateNameSchool
AlabamaAshley BowlingFlorence Middle School
AlaskaWill ChervenakKenai Central High School
ArkansasLindsay GriffinGreenbrier High School
CaliforniaFelicia LimbrickMonrovia High School
ColoradoMichelle JohnsonCanon City High School
ConnecticutDana PerezRogers Park Middle School
DelawareHolly LangleySussex Technical High School
GeorgiaKrista PearsonLowndes High School
HawaiiRyan MicaleJames B Castle High School
IdahoBill HicksCanyon Ridge High School
IowaLori CoolingJohn Adams Middle School
KansasConnie RedicSoutheast High School
LouisianaCassady HickingbottomDeRidder High School
MainePhilip RossettiWindham High School
MarylandKimberly CulbertsonTowson High School
MassachusettsPatrick LemieuxSouth Hadley High School
MichiganAl ReickardNorth Rockford Middle School
MinnesotaNicholas BakkeMora High School
MississippiSpence RodmanLewisburg High School
MissouriRandy OliverVan Horn High School
NebraskaAnna ThomaMillard Public Schools
NevadaDavid Kirkhart-FormanSig Rogich Middle School
New JerseyScott WisniewskiWayne Valley High School
New MexicoShawn HavillV. Sue Cleveland High School
New YorkDiane FoxHampton Bays Middle School
North CarolinaAllison GrahamMorehead City Middle School
North DakotaKatherine Neumann-CieslakFargo North High School
OhioSara CrooksWooster High School
OklahomaFielding ElsemanJenks Freshman Academy
OregonKatherine HoldenAshland Middle School
Rhode IslandRenee WalkerCentral High School
South CarolinaEra RobertsBatesburg-Leesville High School
TennesseeAmber GailbreathWalter J. Baird Middle School
TexasAmber GradyElkins High School
UtahMichael FelixLake Mountain Middle School
VirginiaCharlee BreedenTomahawk Creek Middle School
WashingtonMegan MauroLaVenture Middle School
WisconsinMatthew RaduechelJohn Muir Middle School
WyomingWalter Reggie MillerRiverton High School

Alabama

Ashley Bowling

Florence Middle School
Florence, AL

Grades: 7-8
Students: 703
Region: Suburban

To enhance school culture, I led the development of a Behavioral Support Classroom (BSC). This classroom focuses on behavioral instruction coupled with differentiated academic instruction. With a specialized structure, the BSC schedule provides additional reading and math instruction along with social skill instruction, counseling, and cognitive breaks. This program has resulted in a drastic decrease in office referrals for participating students. Leading the development and implementation of the BSC program for students with behavioral and academic difficulties is an effective means to motivate students and equip them with core competencies. One student attested to the success of this program with his comment that he feels his voice is finally heard as equally as the voices of his peers. When this student attended the school honor roll party for the first time, the smile on his face was an additional acknowledgment of the program’s effectiveness.


Alaska

Will Chervenak

Kenai Central High School
Kenai, AK

Grades: 9–12
Students: 430
Region: Suburban

While initial student assessment scores are well within the norm, many of our students have forgotten how “to do school.” They are not used to being on a regular daily schedule, arriving prepared and on time to classes, and advocating for themselves to the adults in the building. To better support them, we have created a master schedule that includes a homeroom period, with a focus on building relationships with our kids, getting to know them again, working on student skills such as organization and task completion, and engaging them in team-building exercises to familiarizes them with classmates they have not seen for some time. The net result has been better attendance, fewer office disciplinary referrals, and ensuring that our students feel comfortable speaking with adults in the building about issues of concern.


Arkansas

Lindsay Griffin

Greenbrier High School
Greenbrier, AR

Grades: 10-12
Students: 794
Region: Rural

I have been able to provide ongoing support to students who are identified as being at-risk for various factors such as experiencing poverty, homelessness, trauma, or mental health issues that significantly impact their lives. I work with some of these students through our VIP after school program, where students are given an opportunity to receive instructional support from teachers, as well as enrichment opportunities that focus on building positive life experiences. Examples include learning budgeting skills, planning nutritious meals, and acquiring cooking skills. Other ways I support students include my involvement in placing students in our FOCUS program which is our district alternative school for students who are at risk of dropping out. Through FOCUS I can ensure that students are supported academically and emotionally by providing resources for counseling and tutoring, as well as focusing on teaching soft skills that students need as they move into the workforce upon graduation.


California

Felicia Limbrick

Monrovia High School
Monrovia, CA

Grades: 9-12
Students: 1,586
Region: Suburban

After working in Abu Dhabi for 3 years and retuning to the United States, I was hired by Monrovia USD. I immediately became a part of the study session focused on our state test data for Monrovia High School (MHS). During the study session, the principal shared I would be the administrator in charge of mathematics, the school board’s particular area of concern. The most recent SBAC data revealed that only 29% of MHS’s Juniors were meeting or exceeding proficiency. I could clearly see the vision of the school board, but I also felt an enormous amount of pressure to lead change. By facilitating the PLC model, MHS was able to boast a 17% increase in three years. But more importantly, a culture of collaboration based on student achievement was born, and it has transformed the way teachers collaborate at MHS.


Colorado

Michelle Johnson

Canon City High School
Canon City, CO

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,032
Region: Rural

As a teen mom who spent a portion of my high school years in an underserved education system, I developed a fierce advocacy for equity initiatives. At Canon City High School (CCHS), I launched the “We Are Canon” campaign to raise the voices of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ members of our community. The campaign featured short films about under-represented community members, implicit bias training, and a reframing of discipline processes to focus on preventing acts of hate. I formed a staff and student Civility Committee, eventually turning CCHS into a “No Place for Hate” school. I made it a priority to foster a culture of safety and well-being for all students. My efforts to improve discipline processes work in tandem with the implementation of mindfulness and restorative practices. This shift reduced behavior infraction recidivism by 20% in my first year as assistant principal, effectively eliminating out-of-school suspensions and bolstering teacher and student morale.


Connecticut

Dana Perez

Rogers Park Middle School
Danbury, CT

Grades: 6-8
Students: 1,012
Region: Urban

At Rogers Park Middle School (RPMS), we strive to foster a community where ALL stakeholders feel a sense of belonging. Collaborating with building leaders, I formed and facilitated a School Climate Transformation Group (SCTG). This group is composed of nine staff members who meet monthly to review discipline data and feedback from student and staff surveys. The group has established building-wide expectations, improved building policies, and addressed disparities in school discipline practices. Additionally, the SCTG team formed a student group called the RPMS Student Ambassadors. Incorporating these student voices has allowed the team to make the dress code policy more equitable, improve the experiences students have in the cafeteria, and rethink the decor in our classrooms just to name a few examples of positive changes. Establishing these two groups has resulted in decision-making practices being grounded in evidence while also being inclusive of the entire school community.


Delaware

Holly Langley

Sussex Technical High School
Georgetown, DE

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,303
Region: Rural

As a CrossFit coach and yoga instructor I have the knowledge, skills, and passion to foster and nurture an intentional focus on wellness for my students, staff, and myself. I truly believe that focusing on the dimensions of wellness (physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental, and occupational) is the best approach for a holistic education. In helping to build the culture at Sussex Technical High school I am involved in several organizations that promote wellness. I play an integral role on our SEB (social, emotional, and behavioral) support team, where I monitor 38 of our most at-risk students, providing resources to help them succeed. But what I am most proud of this past school year is being able to implement professional development sessions pertaining to mindfulness. I modeled breathing techniques, yoga poses, Metta meditation, visualization, and guided body awareness scans, which many teachers have applied to their classrooms.


Georgia

Krista Pearson

Lowndes High School
Valdosta, GA

Grades: 9–12
Students: 3,200
Region: Rural

My efforts as a school leader influence all facets of teaching and learning. By leading school improvement initiatives, I have positively impacted the school’s culture through the creation of the Crimson Creed. Working alongside teachers and students, I facilitated collaborative discussions to define our common Viking Values. The Creed was developed as a set of “We believe” statements that encompass the ideals shared by our school community of over 3,200 students and 200 adults. School improvement initiatives are tied to the tenants of the Crimson Creed to ensure alignment with our principles. The Crimson Creed is the basis for our Positive Behavioral Response to Interventions and Support. It is the cornerstone of our advisement and mentorship programs. The Creed can be found on our school walls, class t-shirts, The Voyage Academic Guide, and our social media presence. However, the Crimson Creed is more the words; it reflects who we are!


Hawaii

Ryan Micale

James B. Castle High School
Kaneohe, HI

Grades: 9-12
Students: 1,109
Region: Suburban

The pandemic has devastated communities across the world, but I see its effects as a doorway. As we walk through it, we choose what to bring with us and what to leave behind. I have chosen to focus on school culture and climate by leaning away from a more consequence-driven disciplinary approach. I successfully lead the implementation of a program called HERO, a digital platform for behavior management which focuses on Positive Behavior Interventions and Support. After only one semester, we are learning to recognize and reward positive behaviors schoolwide. All faculty members and students are integrated into the HERO system to track positive behaviors and help shift the entire school culture. Using the customizable features of the program, I successfully established a means to assign Response to Intervention across all classrooms and track student attendance. This has helped build school culture, increase accountability, and promote positive behavior.


Idaho

Bill Hicks

Canyon Ridge High School
Twin Falls, ID

Grades: 9-12
Students: 1,452
Region: Suburan

I have been instrumental in developing my school’s culture since its inception. I was the first person hired prior to the opening of Canyon Ridge High School in 2009, and I have been working to improve our culture ever since. When we opened, we hired staff based on the philosophy of developing a school culture based on mutual trust and respect where all students feel welcome and empowered to take control of their learning. I believe the school is my family, and each member of the school community is treated as such. Success comes from my commitment to work hard for the greater good while respecting the diversity of everyone. I work daily to establish a school culture of respect where all students feel welcome and accepted. I have worked to establish a student-centered approach with an emphasis on high expectations and academic success.


Iowa

Lori Cooling

John Adams Middle School
Mason City, IA

Grades: 7-8
Students: 541
Region: Rural

Trying to keep students and staff safe when we returned to the school building in August 2020, I developed an elementary school-type model in which students stayed in one classroom all day. Students were learning and having fun and their needs were being met because of the small class sizes and the time we took to build relationships with the students. By the end of the school year, when we returned to full capacity, however, we didn’t have any substitute teachers. I was having to take away teacher’s planning periods in order to cover other classrooms. To fix that, I redid our master schedule over the summer to give every teacher two planning periods. Although the teachers would have to use one planning period to cover a classroom, they would always be guaranteed at least one planning period each day.


Kansas

Connie Redic

Southeast High School
Wichita, KS

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,025
Region: Urban

Shortly after being named Kansas Assistant Principal of the Year, I become a head principal at the middle school level. In the wake of pandemic, my new school had a reputation for challenging student behaviors, and it needed a clear vision with a focus on building relationships. To improve the school culture, I conducted whole staff meetings, small group/team meetings with teachers and students, and then held individual conferences with every staff member. After all this data gathering, we adjusted systems and communicated a new vision, and since then we have seen a complete 180 degree turn in our previous areas of concern, specifically a significant reduction in discipline incidents and students arriving late to school.


Louisiana

Cassady Hickingbottom

DeRidder High School
DeRidder, LA

Grades: 9-12
Students: 674
Region: Rural

During my second year as assistant principal, schools in Louisiana shut down due to COVID-19 and remained closed for the school year. I was the only administrator out of typically three to lead the school. I focused on communication, wellness, and successfully completing the year virtually. I was adamant about students receiving a quality education and earning the recognition they deserved. Hours were spent communicating with teachers, students, and parents to ensure students could do their work online or on paper for those without internet. I continuously checked on my staff’s wellbeing, knowing that the circumstances weighed heavily on everyone. Thanks to my dedication, I led the school through several celebrations, such as a senior awards ceremony, despite the incredibly challenging school year.


Maine

Philip Rossetti

Windham High School
Windham, ME

Grades: 9-12
Students: 975
Region: Suburban

People make mistakes, but it’s what we do afterwards that defines who we are. This is often a phrase that I use when working with staff and students at Windham High School. Such reflection has led to transforming our culture from punitive to restorative. Successful educational foundations are built on relationships. Just like in any relationship there will be moments when mistakes occur. Since becoming an assistant principal, I have ensured that restorative practices are a foundational part of our approach to conflict. By adopting a restorative approach, we have created safer environments where students and staff can have conversations about actions or events that have taken place; reflect on what occurred; and then move forward by repairing the harm that was done. This approach has allowed for staff and students to express their feelings in a more productive by fostering stronger relationships.


Maryland

Kimberly Culbertson

Towson High School
Towson, MD

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,713
Region: Suburban

Leading learning to ensure that each student will succeed in a globally competitive society is my purpose and passion as an instructional leader. Recently, I collaboratively developed schoolwide professional development on culturally responsive teaching and brain-based learning. This professional development, along with continuous instructional coaching, empowered teachers to design and deliver high quality instruction that was culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of students and enabled them to reach higher levels of cognitive independence on challenging tasks. By leading learning, I have seen an increase in the percent of students of color who are taking at least one gifted and talented or AP course at our school. Recognizing that the work of a leader of learning is never complete, I continue to develop learning opportunities that raise the bar and close opportunity gaps so that all students succeed and thrive in today’s global community.


Massachusetts

Patrick Lemieux

South Hadley High School
South Hadley, MA

Grades: 9-12
Students: 568
Region: Suburban

I have worked extremely hard to help foster a supportive, caring, responsive environment at South Hadley High School (SHHS). This is the core of our mission, and it is central to our restorative philosophy. I have helped institute restorative practices through faculty training and professional development as well as by attending numerous conferences and PLCs on the topic. Creating a sense of community is something that I am deeply invested in. Having adults, including myself, work with students to identify feelings, effectively articulate those feelings, and then fulfill students’ needs is some of the most rewarding work I have done in my 20 years in public education. Restorative practices have helped me develop and maintain many relationships with students, resulting in positive outcomes. Knowing that our staff takes time to build community through restorative circles or discussions helps everyone be part of something bigger than just a high school: a community.


Michigan

Al Reickard

North Rockford Middle School
Rockford, MI

Grades: 6–­­8
Students: 898
Region: Suburban

When I first came to North Rockford Middle School, I quickly noticed a lack of engagement in our student co-curricular attendance. I firmly believe that students need to be active and involved, in some way, with their school outside of the classroom to help build a more positive school culture. So, I created an annual Family Tailgate prior to one of the football games where students can bring their families and have fun in a carnival-like atmosphere. Kids win prizes, play games, and have fun with their schoolmates, prior to attending the football game and cheering on their school. Attendance at events has steadily increased and students’ sense of belonging and pride in their school have increased along with it.


Minnesota

Nicholas Bakke

Mora High School
Mora, MN

Grades: 7–12
Students: 796
Region: Rural

The cornerstone of my success, and what allows me to truly shape our school culture as a leader is my passion for learning from the stories of others. Student’s stories are windows into their lives and allow me to understand their diverse backgrounds, experiences, traumas, dreams, barriers, and mentors. This knowledge inspires me to serve and guide them through whatever challenges our students face and helps me create a school experience that enables them to reach their dreams while being supported with love and grace.


Mississippi

Spence Rodman

Lewisburg High School
Olive Branch, MS

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,238
Region: Suburban


Missouri

Randy Oliver

Van Horn High School
Independence, MO

Grades: 9-12
Students: 1,074
Region: Urban

Our school has a unique story. Fourteen years ago, Van Horn was annexed into the Independence School District from Kansas City Public Schools. Some challenges existed from the very beginning, but as enrollment rose, one thing became clear…we needed to take a long look at the culture of our school and try to shape our identity. So, the staff created a shared vision with a focus on student-centeredness. We communicated a plan that included graduation progress checks on all students through our Academy Time once a week. School leaders embraced relationships as foundational. And an equity focus through our Cultural Competence Team allowed us to guarantee each student was known and felt valued. And finally, excellent communication with an emphasis on relationships has helped move us from a 50% graduation rate to a present-day graduation rate of 89.4%. This is exactly why we created a culture centered around students.


Nebraska

Anna Thoma

Millard North Middle School
Omaha, NE

Grades: 6-8
Students: 799
Region: Suburban

In an International Baccalaureate MYP school, our mission is to prepare students for our global society and develop caring citizens who create a better world through intercultural understanding and respect. Evidence that we accomplish this mission at Millard North Middle School (MNMS) is how our students interact, understand, and empathize with one another regardless of their racial and ethnic differences and their various abilities. MNMS was the first middle school in the state of Nebraska to be named a National Banner Unified Champion School. This is a great honor with high expectations for the level of inclusion our students experience throughout their typical school day and year. As the evaluating administrator for our alternative curriculum program, I spend my days immersed in idea sharing, problem solving and supporting our special education teachers in sustaining and promoting such an amazing community!


Nevada

David Kirkhart-Forman

Sig Rogich Middle School
Las Vegas, NV

Grades: 6-8
Students: 1,575
Region: Urban

After a student at my school accidentally overdosed on fentanyl mixed with other drugs, I worked with the Prevention, Advocacy, Choices, Teamwork (PACT) Coalition, the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) to develop a focused presentation for all enrolled students. Experts from these organizations presented information focused on identifying illegal drugs, making positive choices, and understanding prevention aspects with a specific focus on fentanyl. Over a three-day period, the presenters met with small groups of students and all 1,575 students participated in the presentations. From these presentations, I worked with my counselors to follow up with students based on questions and information they shared during the presentations. Additionally, I coordinated a parent night to provide families with additional resources and supports for talking with their children about substance abuse.


New Jersey

Scott Wisniewski

Wayne Valley High School
Wayne, NJ

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,208
Region: Suburban

As a school leader, developing a positive culture and environment in which students and staff feel accepted, empowered, and appreciated has been a major focus. While participating in the ADL’s No Place for Hate Initiative, I helped coordinate activities with staff and student leaders that have reduced discipline referrals by 56% from the 2016-17 school year through the 2019-20 school year. These activities have included a building-wide wellness fair, third-party compliments, and mindfulness training for our freshmen. I was able to obtain a grant to provide Teen Mental Health First Aid training for our entire junior class and our staff members. During hybrid learning, we shared over 2,500 anonymous messages of encouragement and kindness within our school community. When students enjoy attending school, developing positive relationships, and feeling a strong sense of belonging, most discipline issues fade away.


New Mexico

Shawn Havill

V. Sue Cleveland High School
Rio Rancho, NM

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,565
Region: Suburban

The culture of our school is at the heart of each success I celebrate alongside my colleagues and students. As we begin each academic year, I am elated to see the number of V. Sue Cleveland High School alumni that join our team as teachers and as staff. Knowing that the family approach of our campus carries beyond the walls of the classroom and becomes part of how our students choose their careers and path in life is not only the greatest professional compliment but also the most reassuring feeling to know that we have taught and instilled our values of tradition, family, community, and learning. The fact that our students believe in what we do at our school to the extent that they want to live those values long after they graduate is our greatest success.


New York

Diane Fox

Hampton Bays Middle School
Hampton Bays, NY

Grades: 5–8
Students: 616
Region: Suburban

Relationships can encourage students to strive for and accomplish their goals. In Hampton Bays Middle School, we have a daily advisory period to ensure that students start their day in a positive manner with their teachers through activities, eating breakfast together, or receiving individual tutoring. Teachers meet as teams each week with me or our building principal to identify students who need additional support. Our goal of developing positive relationships led to the creation of an MTSS program in 2019 that includes parents, students, teachers, and our learning support team. Through this program, we develop specific behavior or academic plans to support students. We also developed a robust afterschool Academic Intervention Services program for each grade level that is reviewed weekly and has assisted in providing remediation services for over 120 students. Each of these initiatives is built on our foundation of strong relationships with each child and family.


North Carolina

Allison Graham

Morehead City Middle School
Morehead City, NC

Grades: 6-8
Students: 451
Region: Rural

A challenging aspect of working with middle school students is the constant balance of high expectations and supporting students through the emotional and physical challenges of being a young person. Since coming to Morehead Middle School, I have made a concerted effort to work with sixth grade teachers specifically to help them understand that we are responsible for guiding students through the transition to the next phase of their education. I make it a priority to meet with teachers regularly to discuss student concerns and needs. I also meet and work with small groups of students on organization and study skills. These efforts, coupled with a close relationship with the counseling department, allow me to work with students and their parents to ensure a successful transition to middle school and ultimately a successful transition to high school.


North Dakota

Katherine Neumann-Cieslak

Fargo North High School
Fargo, ND

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,017
Region: Urban

I believe that a positive school culture provides an encouraging, safe, and supportive environment for all. To promote such a culture, it was important to remove barriers to student attendance, success, and readiness for learning. So that our school could meet the basic needs of our students and ease the burden of not having what most of us take for granted, we created “The Open Door.” A food and supply pantry within our school, The Open Door provides a safe place where students can get toiletries, blankets, food, clothing, gift/gas cards, bus passes, etc. Students have easy access to it and can visit as often as they need. Sending students home with food over holidays and school breaks has been a godsend for many. I’ve become very proud of this resource, and our staff and community have supported us and share our passion. Seeing the smiling faces of those who have been helped is the driving force behind its success and continued growth.


Ohio

Sara Crooks

Wooster High School
Wooster, OH

Grades: 8–12
Students: 1,300
Region: Suburban

I am incredibly proud of working with my team to develop what is now our building-wide Reintegration Process. When a student experiences a crisis such as a suicide attempt, extreme physical illness, or familial trauma, they are appointed a Reintegration Liaison (RL). The RL ensures that as the student returns to school, barriers are removed, and the child is supported on a path toward success. The RL coordinates a meeting with the family, counselor, administrator, trusted staff, and community resources to brainstorm a plan to reintegrate the student into the school community. The team’s plan can include strategies such as providing academic accommodations, modifying a student’s schedule, connecting a child with mentoring services, on-site clinical counseling, providing food and other resources needed in the home, and providing transportation. This plan is shared with the student’s family and educators and is monitored by the liaison.


Oklahoma

Fielding Elseman

Jenks Freshman Academy
Jenks, OK

Grades: 9
Students: 919
Region: Suburban

Over the past four years, I have engaged the two teaching departments I supervise, science and social studies, in an extensive redesign of the curriculum. When I first came to Jenks Freshmen Academy, there was very little structure in place to guide our teachers in their delivery of the curriculum. Teachers were vaguely aware of the standards and there were common final exams that were given at the end of each semester, but very little had been done to define the instructional goals and methods of the departments. I began to lead our departments through a process of establishing a clear vision for teaching and learning and an overarching mission. Using resources from Building Ranks and Understanding by Design, I led a collaborative effort to define the essential skills and power standards for each content area and developed curriculum guides and assessments.


Oregon

Katherine Holden

Ashland Middle School
Ashland, OR

Grades: 6–8
Students: 467
Region: Rural

My effort to transition Ashland Middle School from traditional letter grades to a proficiency-based feedback system and the use of Essential Learning Rubrics in all content areas has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve spent hundreds of hours working with teachers assisting them to better understand the standards, supporting the authorship of rubrics that are clear, explicit, and accessible to students, and engineering a schoolwide system which included development of new software that is now our gradebook. The resulting data show that we are leveling the playing field regardless of students’ race, gender, first language, socioeconomic status, or support at home. At AMS we’ve identified a targeted proficiency performance benchmark. Ninety-five percent of students who cross this threshold meet or exceed on standardized statewide assessments. One teacher noted, “Now that I’m so clear on what I want my students to do, I need to go back and look at my instruction to be sure that I’m teaching it!”


Rhode Island

Renee Walker

Central High School
Providence, RI

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,215
Region: Urban

Amid a global pandemic, I recognized that our school had to do more for our students and their families. So, I established the Central Cares team. At its core, “Central Cares’ is about building relationships with our students, especially those in crisis. Students either seek out “CC” assistance or are referred by staff. The “CC” consists of our restorative justice team, the SEL support staff, administrative assistants, the SRO, and teachers. Students identify any staff member whom they have a relationship with to “walk them through” their issue. Additional CC wrap-around supports include our food pantry, grab-n-go hygiene bags, the CC Closet where families can fill a bag with clothes and Peer Restorative Circles. We also do “CC Grilled Cheese Fridays” where the team makes grilled cheese lunches for the staff and faculty once or twice each month to contribute to a positive school culture as well.


South Carolina

Era Roberts

Batesburg-Leesville High School
Batesburg-Leesville, SC

Grades: 9–12
Students: 563
Region: Rural

Creating an environment at Batesburg-Leesville High School for students to own their learning and use that as a catalyst for high achievement is one of my greatest personal successes in education. With the belief that student empowerment is the byproduct of an authentically student-centered culture, we altered our lunch hour into a flexible intervention period. This time provides all students the freedom to own their learning by practicing a growth mindset. They no longer see time with a teacher as something to shy away from but as an opportunity to improve. Consequently, data from thousands of sessions indicate reasons for seeking help have shifted from simply making up work to obtaining extra help to improve their skills. This outcome is the most empowering of all because possessing a propensity for growth will allow students to develop the skills to persevere and productively achieve long after they have graduated from high school.


Tennessee

Amber Gailbreath

Walter J. Baird Middle School
Lebanon, TN

Grades: 6-8
Students: 591
Region: Suburban

Although many schools do an excellent job of preparing students academically for the next steps in life, soft skills and emotional intelligence are often neglected. At Walter J. Baird Middle School (WJB), we try to address these skills by quarterly incorporating Focus Friday sessions. Each year the students begin with a personality inventory to learn more about themselves emotionally, mentally, and intellectually, from their passions to their natural tendencies. Students are grouped with peers who have similar results. In doing so, they can explore clubs, community service projects, etc., all of which align with their personal strengths. We then include college/career/technical school options that align with their skills and interests. The final session centers on the soft skills of interviewing, body language, resume writing, professional dress, social media, etc. These have proven to be highly effective for our students and support both their self-awareness and their next steps for college and career.


Texas

Amber Grady

Elkins High School
Missouri City, TX

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,386
Region: Suburban

Prior to becoming an Assistant Principal at Elkins High School, the district was involved in an investigation surrounding overrepresentation of African American students in out of school disciplinary placements. Our campus had significantly high overrepresentation percentages. I was tasked with leading the PBIS committee to help ensure equity among student discipline, along with promoting a positive climate among students and staff. I created professional development surrounding positive discipline, building relationships with students, and restorative practices. Utilizing campus data, we provided solutions and coaching to ensure that equal discipline was occurring campus wide. In one school year we saw the following: level-one discipline referrals for ALL students decreased by 10%, an entire fall semester with zero fights, and our disproportionate referrals for African American students were cut in half. By focusing on building a staff climate focused on positivity, the mindset shifted to providing kids with an understanding of appropriate behavior first, instead of always seeking a consequence.


Utah

Michael Felix

Lake Mountain Middle School
Saratoga, UT

Grades: 7-9
Students: 1,367
Region: Suburban

A few years ago, my language arts team was struggling. Of the 12 schools in our district, we were second to last on state testing. I worked with my team to engage deeper in the PLC process by analyzing data and making improvements to our curriculum based on the data. After doing so that first year we saw a 2% increase in our scores. We then analyzed the data further, and I invited the top language arts team in the district to help them with areas where we were struggling. That next year saw a 5% improvement in our scores. Our language arts team continued to adjust their curriculum and practices and gain confidence in their ability, and we continued to see improvement. Over the course of a few years their proficiency score improved by 11%, moving us to fourth place on state testing.


Virginia

Charlee Breeden

Tomahawk Creek Middle School
Midlothian, VA

Grades: 6-8
Students: 1,636
Region: Suburban

At Tomahawk Creek we try and focus on creating a family atmosphere and a culture of trust. Although it has been difficult over the past few years, we strive to celebrate our teachers as much as possible and boost our morale in a year that has proven to be very difficult for our staff. I have collaborated with our administrative team to have monthly coffee carts for staff, fun spirit weeks, and jeans days. I also helped to create an administrative duty rotation in the mornings so that teachers would not have to cover other classes and could have the mornings to themselves. With the difficult years of COVID, we have seen teacher morale significantly decrease. It has been our mission this year to “Build Back the Pack” and return to the family atmosphere that makes us Tomahawk Creek.


Washington

Megan Mauro

LaVenture Middle School
Mount Vernon, WA

Grades: 6-8
Students: 730
Region: Suburban

I am most proud of the work that LaVenture Middle School (LVMS) staff has engaged in over the last several years to create and sustain a positive and inclusive school culture. Drawing from South African poet June Jordan’s words, “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” my daily goal as a leader is to always empower our staff to lean into our opportunities for growth together, and to draw on our collective creativity and strength to make positive changes for our students. Working alongside our teams, student leaders, and stakeholders, I support schoolwide PBIS and help lead professional learning to continuously align our beliefs about equity with our practices. Our staff continuously embraces our inherent capacity to build strong relationships with all learners and their families. Our students are known by our staff, supported through challenges, and celebrated for their strengths.


Wisconsin

Matthew Raduechel

John Muir Middle School
Wausau, WI

Grades: 6-8
Students: 1,022
Region: Urban

I accepted the position of Associate Principal in December of 2017, three days prior to the holiday break amid a tumultuous time of challenging student behaviors. Over the course of that spring semester and after engaging with the International Institute of Restorative Practices, our leadership team was looking for answers. During the summer of 2018 we set out to develop a new layer of student support that our school did not previously have. We created a space called the BRIDGE room, which soon came to be called the BRIDGE program. The mission of this program was to provide students with the coping skills needed to refocus their behaviors in a non-punitive environment so that they can be successful in the classroom. Today, the program has a dedicated coordinator, serving students throughout the day and is a valuable piece of our pupil service portfolio.


Wyoming

Walter Reggie Miller

Riverton High School
Riverton, WY

Grades: 9–12
Students: 737
Region: Rural

Since becoming a school leader at Riverton High School, I have worked hard to collaboratively increase the pedagogical efficacy within our teachers. Working with teachers on professional development opportunities, listening to their beliefs and what will make them better teachers has enabled them to own their craft with direction from me. Teachers are asked to focus on one aspect of their teaching practice that they feel needs improvement to ensure the content is delivered at the level our district expects. Measuring the effectiveness of their practices is done through data analysis and through discussion with students, staff, and myself. This process has allowed teachers the opportunity to reflect on their practice and research materials they feel will benefit them, their students, their departments, and their school community. The reflective conversations with the teachers have increased my own knowledge and helped them develop more of a growth mindset.