2022 National Principal of the Year

Beth Houf

Fulton Middle School

Fulton, MO

Grades: 6-8
Students: 550
Region: Suburban

Beth Houf has been principal of Fulton Middle School since 2015. As the co-author of Lead Like a Pirate: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff, Houf has focused on collaboration in her leadership. In 2015, the school was not meeting student needs, the culture was toxic, and trust was low. So Houf and her team began intensive training in professional learning communities to ensure that best practices, a viable curriculum, quality assessments, and educational interventions were all founded on a collaborative culture. 

Houf saw early on the need to implement an advisory period for all students, focusing on empathy and empowerment. To rebuild the school’s culture and build trust between students, staff, and families, Houf and her team turned to training in restorative practices and invited local experts to train educators in trauma-informed teaching. This schoolwide commitment led to a 40 percent reduction in discipline referrals.

When the pandemic hit, Houf realized that old ways would not solve new challenges. The school immediately began check-ins with families via online surveys, encouraging families to ask for whatever supports they needed. Ultimately, the school’s Return to Learn Plan, which was instrumental in planning and implementation for the 2020–21 school year, showed just how much Fulton’s learning community depends on collaborative leadership.