Keeping good news a secret proved to be a challenge for Gwinnett County Public Schools officials. They had been alerted last week that Collins Hill High principal Kerensa Wing has been named 2020 National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The initial competition pool consisted of principals from middle and high schools representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity.
State and county officials as well as students, faculty, parents and Wing’s family set up a surprise announcement Monday at the school. The ceremony with about 500 attendees including the marching band, cheerleaders and school athletes was part of the 2019 celebration of National Principals Month.
Through her professional journey, Gwinnett Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said he knew Wing had leadership qualities.
“From teacher to assistant principal, I could always tell she was destined for another level,” he said. He added that the personal connections she makes with students, faculty and community have proven to be the winning formula for student success.
That’s a big part of why she received the national recognition, said Peter Kruszynski, president of the NASSP board of directors.
“It’s important for schools to have a strong leader. Research has shown that strong principal leadership moves schools forward,” he said.
With a shortage of good principals nationwide, NASSP works to show policymakers locally and nationally the importance of allowing school leaders to do their jobs effectively. Kruszynski credited Gwinnett’s Principal Pipeline Initiative with growing outstanding leaders. Wing was a 2008 graduate of that program as well as former Meadowcreek High Principal Tommy Welch, who was a 2018 finalist for NASSP’s National Principal of the Year.
Shelia Kahrs, former principal at Haymon-Morris Middle School in Barrow County and 2010 NASSP national middle school winner was a mentor to Wing.
“There was nothing I ever asked her to do that she didn’t complete on time,” she said. “She has a strong character and a very approachable style.”
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 time as principal at Collins Hill in 2014, a group of teachers came to Wing to ask about starting a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. Wing helped teachers with training and planning time to create a 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.
In accepting the award, Wing thanked her staff and students.
“All of this is possible from the support and training I’ve received,” she said. “It’s the work we do together that brings about success.”
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