Reflections—A Principal’s Lasting Impression

As a principal, we know you’re a game changer. It is your hard work that ensures your students’ succeed academically and prepares them to leave your building to make a positive impact in your community.

As National Principals Month concludes, we at National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) want to say thank you for your leadership, diligence, and dedication to student achievement.

Each of us has experienced the impact of having a great principal and have memories from our years in school. So to celebrate our close to National Principals Month, we want to share our experience:

JoAnn Bartoletti, Executive Director, NASSP

The first principal with whom I worked as a new teacher was George Abel. He began each faculty meeting by reading to us, not necessarily poetry, but something to make us better teachers. George read from, “The Geranium On The Windowsill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On,” a book of poetry written from the “neglected” student point of view. He also read from “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” poems found in holocaust concentration camps written by children put to death. Decades later, I remember George Abel, his kindness and his passionate desire to mold me into becoming a great teacher and leader. I went on to become a principal hoping to live up to his expectations. George Abel never saw the NASSP vision statement, “a great principal in every school dedicated to the needs of each student,” but he lived it.

Gail Connelly, Executive Director, NAESP

Reflecting back on my own years in elementary school, the exemplary attributes exhibited by my principal Mr. Branch all those years ago still ring true for principals today. I remember he welcomed all 350 students by name every morning with a smile and truly believed that my classmates and I could learn and grow to our fullest potential. I also have memories of Mr. Branch visiting my classroom regularly and was genuinely interested in my progress. I now know that he belonged to his state and national professional associations so that he could keep up-to-date with trends and issues. He was always mentoring students throughout the lunchroom, playground, and loading/unloading at the buses each day.

Looking back, I know that he cared about me—socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively—and he made sure that my learning opportunities were well-rounded and whole. Mr. Branch has long since passed, but I imagine his exemplary leadership inspired me to serve our nation’s preK—8 principals. Principals make a real difference for all children and they are most deserving of recognition and gratitude during this special month in their honor.

Diann Woodard, President, AFSA

When I was in high school in the mid 1960s, I thought you only saw the principal when you were in trouble. It wasn’t until my dad made an appointment with the principal about my course schedule, that I even realized principals did more than discipline students. My dad was concerned that my schedule was all college prep classes and didn’t contain any business courses. To tell the truth, I was angry at my dad for taking me in to see the principal. I can recall how I cowered in fear when the principal opened his office door and asked us to come in. He was very pleasant and he knew my name. Wow, I thought, He knows my name! And soon I was swelling with pride as the principal complimented my dad for having the courage and foresight to want more for his daughter. He understood that my family might not be able to send me to college, and he understood the importance of my dad wanting me to be career ready after high school. He then spoke to me and told me that I was going to be a success because I had such good parents. With just a few words, my principal changed my life. I was no longer angry. I was encouraged to be great because my principal said I would be.

Written by JoAnn Bartoletti, NASSP Executive Director in collaboration with Gail Connelly, NAESP Executive Director; and Diann Woodard, AFSA President.

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