Each year, the NASSP National Principal of the Year program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have made amazing contributions to their profession and to students’ learning. Kerensa Wing, principal of Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, GA, is the 2020 national winner.
Wing knows that the way to ensure continued success and well-being is by being a present, involved figure in the lives of her staff and students. “I regularly discuss with my staff the importance of connecting with students on a personal level, so they know that we care,” she said. This commitment to relationship development sets the tone for her entire principalship.
From the beginning, Wing took it upon herself to cultivate human capital management and equity—two leadership dimensions in NASSP’s Building Ranks™ framework—to ensure that she not only hired and retained quality teachers as part of her team, but that those teachers were reflective of the student population. She doubled the number of Hispanic and African-American teachers in the school as well as hosted cultural competency training with her staff. According to Wing, she sees this as the most direct path toward equity for her students, and the teachers are able to build strong connections to foster improved well-being.
“It is always nice to be able to talk with my teachers and for them to remember my name and my personality,” said an 11th-grade student at Collins Hill. “For instance, my sophomore year chemistry teacher, Mrs. Porter, still says ‘Hi Ellen,’ anytime we see each other … Ms. Wing is responsible for the feeling of comfort at Collins Hill. She encourages her staff to develop meaningful connections to motivate students to become more involved with the school and enjoy their high school experience.”
“We are proud to honor Kerensa Wing as the NASSP 2020 Principal of the Year, who has served as a model for compassionate school leadership,” stated JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of NASSP. “Kerensa has made a profound and deliberate impact on her students, teachers, and administrators by creating an environment responsive to her school and community’s specific needs, while also allowing for innovation and entrepreneurship to ensure academic success and well-being.”
Wing has also reformed the Collins Hill High “advisement” period of the school day, where students get a dedicated 27 minutes with a teacher who is responsible for connecting with and advocating for every student in their group. Instead of focusing on making scheduling the top priority, she worked with staff to make sure advisement periods provided a safe, connected environment for students and teachers alike.
“After listening to concerns regarding advisement, Ms. Wing supported a total overhaul,” said a Collins Hill High administrator. “Our former structure was easier for scheduling, but did not fit the philosophy of advisement as a place where each student has daily support from a caring adult who does not assign a grade. Our specialized advisements for at-risk students who need interventions include the support of carefully selected, trained student mentors. On-track students chose an advisement section based on individual interest.”
But Wing’s effect on her school community isn’t limited to personal connection; she also focuses on advancing curriculum offerings as the educational landscape evolves. Near the start of her principalship at Collins Hill High in 2014, a group of teachers came to Wing to ask about starting a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. Without missing a beat, Wing harnessed the Building Ranks leadership dimension of innovation and assisted teachers with training and planning time to create an academically integrated program that incorporates project-based learning. In developing the program, the teachers and students worked together to establish a vision and mission, and Wing provided resources and structures to encourage their innovation and creativity.
As an exemplary principal who serves as a model for compassionate school leadership, NASSP is honored to recognize Principal Kerensa Wing for this prestigious award.
Please join us in celebrating her achievement.
To learn more about the NASSP Principal of the Year award, visit www.nassp.org/poy.