Celebrating Principals This October

It always seems like people are celebrating some sort of wacky holiday these days. I’ve seen some pretty funny days like National Kale Day or Dance like a Chicken Day or even whole months dedicated to bizarre celebrations like National Canned Food Month. But, sprinkled in with all of these silly observances are some pretty important causes. This month happens to be National Principals Month.

At National Life, we get pretty excited about October. It gives us another reason to celebrate the work and passion of our country’s school leaders. Many of whom we get to see firsthand through our school employee recognition program, LifeChanger of the Year.

October is the perfect opportunity for us to spotlight some of these principal nominees who are in the running for the $10,000 grand prize. Sharing their stories, and the innovative things they are doing in their schools can only help to inspire more of the same.

Speaking of inspiration, Ruthie Rayner, a Principal at Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village in Oklahoma City is just that to her staff. She’s known as the “roll your sleeves up” kind of principal who works in the trenches, side-by-side with all staff, whether it is the custodian, kitchen staff, paraprofessionals or teachers. She does not expect her staff to do anything she wouldn’t do. She is both a kid’s principal and a teacher’s principal.

Ruthie is big on offering opportunities for professional development for her faculty. She recognizes the value in creating a culture where employees and students feel appreciated and empowered to be the best that they can be. She organizes, operates and acquires donations for an “incentive store” where students can buy prizes from behavior tickets they earn from the Positive Behavior Intervention Model (PBIS) program. On a daily basis she can be seen picking up trash on the school grounds, planting and harvesting vegetables in the raised garden beds with students from a “Growing Up Green” grant she wrote and won, meeting with parents, teaching a science lesson, covering recess duty and running car pool duty.

When it comes to great leadership skills, engagement and transparency are often at the top of the list, and that’s exactly what Jamie Kinnarney at Williamstown Elementary School in Vermont is known for. In his tenure of four year and counting,Jamie has been able to foster an environment in the community where parents are given the opportunity to be fully engaged in the school’s culture. Jamie believes in transparency and through his candid approach has regularly reported out test scores, monthly updates and is working hand in hand with the PTA to offer monthly community nights for parents and a Community Resource Fair at the first open house of the school year annually.

Oh, and he’s got energy, too. We love his monthly cafeteria Throw Down competitions where he competes with former School Chef, Anne Finegan. The students get to try a dish and vote on whose they like better. These competitions have been featured on the local news stations, and the winner receives the “Golden Spoon” for the month.

The Williamstown Elementary School cafeteria isn’t the only lunchroom where you’ll see this kind of energy. Principal Daniel Evans at Moores Mill Intermediate School in New Market, Alabama, can actually be found walking on the cafeteria tables cheering on the students and getting them excited about school.

There’s no argument that students, parents and staff all appreciate a principal who is approachable. And Daniel is just that. Plus, he’s doing some exceptional things for his school community as a whole. Outside of his professional career, he volunteers every weekend at the House of the Harvest, which is a local food pantry created by Madison County teachers to feed their students on the weekends. Mr. Evans created a small “Greater Goods” pantry in his building to feed students who have an immediate need. He filled the pantry with kid-friendly snacks and lets the students pick out what they want when they come to school hungry.

We know there are lots of other principals doing amazing things across the country. Do you know one who deserves to be honored this October? We want to hear, share and celebrate their story. You can nominate someone here.