The role of the assistant principal has changed dramatically in recent years—today’s assistant principals are involved in all aspects of education, including curriculum development, research, personalization, and school-community relationships. The National Assistant Principal of the Year award winners stand out in their ability to excel in this ever-demanding role.

Since 2002, NASSP has recognized a National Assistant Principal of the Year.

2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014

2024 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Courtney Walker

Carrollton High School
Carrollton, Georgia

Grades: 9–12
Students: 1,824
Region: Suburban

Courtney Walker serves as the assistant principal of teaching and learning at Carrollton High School in Carrollton, GA. She oversees master scheduling, remedial and gifted programs, student awards and recognitions, school improvement initiatives, and professional development. The implementation of Professional Learning Pathways and Common Course Teams reflect her commitment to empowering teachers as leaders and improving student outcomes using data-driven instruction and shared leadership. She also supports school counselors in developing personalized academic plans tailored to student interest and ability to ensure students not only graduate enrolled, enlisted, or employed but also engaged as leaders in their communities.

2023 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Misa Sato

Reagan High School
Milwaukee, WI

Grades: 9-12
Students: 130
Region: Urban

As Assistant Principal of Reagan High School, Misa Sato is committed to creating a school culture grounded in respect and high expectations. Through her leadership, she prioritizes the well-being of students and staff, with students feeling valued and empowered in their contributions. Under her direction, Reagan has achieved significant gains in student achievement, receiving the Wisconsin RtI Center Gold Award in Reading, Behavior, and Math in both 2021 and 2022, with students surpassing state benchmarks on critical metrics. Additionally, the school’s International Baccalaureate Career Program has grown exponentially, with pathways in Health Science, Technology, and Education, serving 155 students, up from just seven before Misa’s tenure. As an IB Organization educator, Misa provides professional development to schools and supports program implementation. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Policy and Leadership from Marquette University and an MBA in Educational Leadership from Milwaukee School of Engineering.

2022 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Ashland Middle School
Ashland, OR

Grades: 6-8
Students: 467
Region: Rural

Katherine Holden moved Ashland Middle from traditional letter grades to a proficiency-based feedback system that helped students grow through precise and timely feedback. Holden guided her teachers through creating rubrics that are clear, explicit, and accessible to students, and engineering a schoolwide system which included development of new software to create a responsive gradebook. The data shows her work is leveling the playing field regardless of students’ race, gender, first language, socioeconomic status or support at home.

2021 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Chelsea Jennings

Lakeside Junior High School
Springdale, AR

Grades: 8–9
Students: 685
Region: Suburban

Arkansas has the highest rate of adverse childhood experiences in the nation at 60%. 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.

2020 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Debra Paradowski

Arrowhead Union High School
Hartland, WI

Grades: 9–12
Students: 2,139
Region: Rural

Three years ago, I started a student-centered group called Students Leaving a Mark (SLAM) to improve our school culture. By giving students a voice in our school’s routines, they were empowered, engaged, and became confident learners. Opportunities were created for students to demonstrate leadership skills and guide our school in the right direction. Students made decisions about topics they wanted to address and outlined their action steps. In a short time, the SLAM students had a direct impact on our school’s culture by adding murals in the hallways and positive messages on the stairwells. They painted the walls in study hall, renovated the staff lunchroom, and created meaningful ways to recognize student and staff excellence. Overall, we have observed an increase in positive behavior, attendance, academic accomplishments, and pride in our school.

2019 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Meghan Redmond

Assistant Principal, Chief Ivan Blunka School
New Stuyahok, AK

Meghan Redmond has been a school administrator for a total of eight years, serving the last three as the assistant principal of Chief Ivan Blunka School in Alaska. Throughout her time at Chief Ivan, Redmond has worked tirelessly to build global-mindedness, equity, and positive school culture among her students and staff. By utilizing the local language and traditional values of the Yup’ik Eskimo Alaska Native population—which makes up nearly 100 percent of her community—Redmond helps inform instruction and decision-making to provide a culturally relevant education. As an administrator in a rural school district, she also recognizes the value in exposing her students to as many college and career opportunities as possible to ensure each student has equal access to the future of their choice, regardless of where they are from.

2018 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Erica Page

Pelion High School
Pelion, SC

I love leading at a school that prepares tomorrow’s leaders by creating a culture of collaboration, distributed accountability, and increasing expectations and opportunities for our students. My goal is to personalize the high school experience for all students, from at-risk to AP, by providing equitable learning opportunities that lead each graduate to college acceptance and career readiness. By working with higher educational institutions and bringing college to our campus through dual-enrollment courses, we have narrowed the opportunity gap for students who would not have attended college. By sharing leadership responsibilities, I foster growth, unity, and commitment to our mission. This ownership of our shared goals creates a dynamic collaboration that ensures student success.

2017 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Brad Currie

Black River Middle School
Chester, NJ

Described as a “connector” by fellow faculty at his school, Brad Currie has a reputation for linking teachers with educators across the globe and getting students tapped into the world via technology. He has accomplished this by co-founding and co-moderating #Satchat, a weekly Twitter discussion for current and emerging school leaders. Students at his school are engaged in an atmosphere with current and exciting STEM coursework, which is available because of Mr. Currie’s influence. Furthermore, administrators, teachers, and students alike have noted how much Mr. Currie has done to “promote a safe, supported, and well-supervised place for all children to work and grow.”

“Brad Currie’s commitment to making meaningful connections among faculty, students, and the community are part of what makes him a powerful multiplier of effective practice at his school and to other school leaders across the country.” NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti remarked. “We are honored to recognize Brad and to hold him as a model of effective and visionary leadership.”

2016 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Holly Ripley

West Fargo High School
West Fargo, ND

Ripley has helped lead the 1,400-student school through the challenges of frequent principal turnover and sudden growth due to North Dakota’s booming oil economy. She is known among students as someone who will challenge them now so they are skilled to succeed both during and after high school. Ripley provides that challenge by maintaining a laser-like focus on performance data, and she led the creation of a customized Multi-Tiered System of Supports model to catch struggling students early and assist them appropriately. Yet, Ripley’s intervention goes well beyond the academic. Deeply pained by the death of five students in a single school year—two to suicide—Ripley became certified as a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) trainer and teachers highly value the guidance she provides.

“Mrs. Ripley is passionate about each of her students and works directly with teachers and families to provide support and resources whenever possible,” said West Fargo Principal Jennifer Fremstad. “Her relationships with students are professional, encouraging, and respectful. They trust that they can count on Mrs. Ripley to provide support, to provide expectations, and to help them meet their goals while in school in addition to their post-secondary goals.”

2015 National Assistant Principal of the Year

Jessica Ainsworth

Lithia Springs High School
Lithia Springs, GA

Facing some of the lowest student achievement scores and graduation rates in the state of Georgia, Jessica Ainsworth was charged with implementing a federal School Improvement Grant to turn around a struggling culture and climate at Lithia Springs High School. She did this by instituting The MANE Thing, a six-pronged initiative that reflects a clear purpose and vision for academic success. Ainsworth involved all stakeholders in the emphasis on classroom instruction, intervention programs, assessment and performance data analysis, attendance, behavior and supervision, and parent engagement.

Her efforts have led to consistent increases in reading scores across all subgroups, most notably a tripling of the reading proficiency rate among students with disabilities from 27 percent to 83 percent. Success is also evident in increases in the graduation rate, job placements, and college acceptances. Despite a focus on achievement data, Ainsworth values the students behind the numbers and maintains strong relationships with stakeholders. Students describe Ainsworth as approachable and teachers value the professional development opportunities she regularly creates for them.

2014 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year

Courtney Voshell

Dover High School
Dover, DE

Courtney Voshell has been described by her school’s principal, staff, and parents as a tireless, determined, and supportive leader and “if given the opportunity, she would do it all.” In 2010, during Voshell’s first year as assistant principal, Dover High School was labeled a failing school. As a new administrator, Voshell drew on her years of teaching experience at the school to provide insight from a teacher’s perspective and share ideas on how she thought the school could improve. She led the implementation of professional learning communities at the school to help teachers collaborate and share best practices and organize data to make data-driven decisions.

As part of her strong belief in the power of personalization in schools, Voshell makes sure to connect with teachers and students by completing weekly walkthroughs, where she provides instructional feedback to teachers and interacts and works with students on their classroom activities.

In the two full school years since Dover High School was labeled a failing school, Voshell has helped the school get back on track and meet all student targets on both state assessment and graduation cohort.

“The assistant principal has many critical roles to play as a school leader,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP executive director. “Courtney is a model of an excellent school leader who goes beyond the traditional roles of handling discipline and data and has become an expert in curriculum and instruction. NASSP is delighted to honor Courtney for the significant positive impact she has had on the students of Dover High School.”

“Virco is proud to recognize Courtney for her remarkable success as an assistant principal,” said Brian True, Virco’s director of sales. “We’re honored to sponsor the NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year Program and contribute to assistant principals’ professional development.”

2013 NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year

Matthew Willis

William C. Hinkley High School
Aurora, CO

In the short time since Matthew Willis has been at William C. Hinkley High School, the diverse, high-poverty school of nearly 2,000 students has experienced a dramatic shift in culture. When he started in 2009, gang activity was prevalent and the student population—90 percent of which are minority—frequently clashed. Willis immediately increased staff presence in the hallways and implemented academic and behavioral interventions. To address the school’s chronic absenteeism, he developed and applied a stricter attendance policy and enlisted a truancy expert to take students to court when necessary.

However, unwilling to contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline, he turned to restorative justice to keep students in school and empower them to take ownership of their success. Willis trained staff in restorative practices and helped secure funding from the Denver Foundation for ongoing professional development. Within the first year, the school conducted 263 restorative sessions and reduced minor offense referrals by 18 percent.

“Under Matthew’s leadership, we have trained over 30 teachers in the practice of RJ [restorative justice], and this focus on restoring adult-to-student relationships when discipline issues arise is drastically changing our schoolwide culture,” said Jinger Haberer, principal of Hinkley.

A former social studies teacher, Willis also increased common planning time and professional development for teachers, strengthened professional learning teams, overhauled the master schedule, and helped create a freshman academy. He raised student participation in a dual-credit program and steered counselors toward a unified focus on college readiness, doubling college acceptance rates.

“Matthew is passionate about instilling a college-bound vision for every student…and tenacious about achieving high academic results,” Haberer added.

“Research shows that principals and assistant principals create the conditions for schools to be successful and for students to achieve,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP executive director. “Matthew is a model of the quality school leader who focuses on what really matters in student success and makes no excuses in working to realize it. He has been an instrumental force in Hinkley’s turnaround.”

“Virco is proud to recognize Matthew for his remarkable success as an assistant principal,” said Brian True, Virco’s director of sales. “We’re honored to sponsor the NASSP/Virco National Assistant Principal of the Year Program and contribute to assistant principals’ professional development.”