These best practices create effective assistant principals

Nearly 30 assistant principals share the initiatives they keep close to their hearts that have earned them national recognition.

What makes an effective building leader in 2024? Is it communication? Creating student-centered initiatives? Truthfully, there’s no right answer, but there are a number of things that can help you elevate your leadership style. Thankfully, nearly 30 assistant principals share their best practices that have earned them national recognition.

If you recall, the National Association of Elementary School Principals recently named 2024’s recipients of the “Outstanding Assistant Principals” award. These innovative leaders were recognized for demonstrating exceptional leadership traits and contributing greatly to their school communities.

In addition to this celebration, the NAESP asked each leader to share the best practices that helped them achieve such success.

As this school year nears its end, District Administration wants to help you begin thinking about how you can make next year even more successful. Here are a couple of the most common ways assistant principals are setting students up for success through best practice:

Student leadership

Student leadership is a common priority among these assistant principals, including Nicole Vibert of West Woods Upper Elementary School in Farmington, Connecticut. In her testimonial, she writes that it’s her responsibility to lift her students’ voices to ensure continuous improvement and promote a positive school culture.

For instance, she’s helped develop what’s called The Wildcat Pack: a student leadership team that’s “learning-focused and action-oriented.”

“Upon selection, their first experience is participation in the CAS Leadership Conference,” she writes. “They then continue to study the habits and dispositions of leaders as fifth graders, before putting that into action as sixth graders, through peer mediation, grant writing, instructional rounds and a number of other opportunities that showcase their voices as positive peer role models.”

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Chantel Black of Ptarmigan Elementary School in Anchorage, Alaska, shares this student-centered approach. She writes that they’ve recently implemented a student council, which requires its members to serve as ambassadors to new students. Black found this to be a necessary initiative after seeing the results of their school climate survey, which found that students perceived low levels of care from their peers and staff.

“Our student council holds meetings twice a week,” she writes. “Many of their topics involve upcoming events, celebrations or assemblies, school spirit ideas, fundraising, recycling and problem-solving concerns that come from their peers. Students that have had behavior issues in past years now serve on this team. Their sense of confidence, sense of worth and even their increase on test scores has been very rewarding to witness.”

Teacher and staff development

At Cantwell’s Bridge Middle School, Assistant Principal Kelyn Marmolejo writes she values having a dedicated and dynamic staff. Knowing your staff wants to learn and grow through effective feedback is reassuring.

At the end of the 2023 school year, Marmolejo said 83% of her staff was leading in some form or fashion, whether it be PLC lead, advisor, coach, etc.

“This shows our staff’s passion and commitment to the work,” she writes.

To achieve this, they’ve planned out professional development at both the district and school levels. They set high expectations but provide the support necessary for teachers to gain the skills relevant to their lessons.

For instance, if they want to prioritize student discourse, they might provide PD on collaborative structure strategies to promote discussion among students.

“Then, administrators would visit classrooms and provide feedback on the strategies staff implement within their lessons,” she writes. “With this intentional planning, coupled with teacher and staff input, we have received positive feedback on the professional development offered.”

These examples merely scratched the surface, though. Click here if you want to view the complete list of best practices shared by the NAESP’s 2024 “Outstanding Assistant Principals” award recipients.

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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