Jennifer Nauman, principal of Cape Henlopen School District's Shields Elementary School in Lewes, was one of seven principals in the nation presented this week with the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership this year at the 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. She is the first Delaware principal to receive this award.
The Terrel H. Bell Award recognizes outstanding school leaders for the vital role they play in guiding students and schools to excellence, frequently under challenging circumstances. Principals selected for this award are school leaders committed to fostering successful teaching and learning at their schools and who do “whatever it takes” to help their students meet high standards. They are committed to education as a powerful and liberating force in people’s lives. Terrel H. Bell, nominated by President Reagan, was the second U. S. Secretary of Education.
“Great schools are always a reflection of great principals,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “High-quality examples of leadership can help shape a school's culture and create an environment where students are excited to learn. The Bell Award recognizes principals for the essential work they do every day to improve our nation’s schools.”
Principals selected as Bell Award recipients have transformed their schools. Their vision and collaborative leadership styles have produced outstanding results for all their students, regardless of race, language proficiency or socioeconomic status. They have shown that with effective leadership and teaching and a firm conviction, all students can learn.
As described by one district administrator, Nauman is a principal who leads with both her head and her heart. This process started three years ago when Nauman arrived. She set forth to create a clear, concise vision for the school.
Shields was already a good school, but Nauman intended to make it great. Her first step was to bring everyone on board. She asked questions - lots of them. She talked to the stakeholders who stopped by over the summer and surveyed parents and teachers to get an understanding of who they were and what they needed from her. Then she created a school improvement team to map what she learned onto her vision. The result was a shared vision that prioritized high standards that focused on continuous improvement.
Throughout the school year, Nauman continues to question stakeholders to ensure the school is meeting everyone's needs. She uses surveys, committee meetings and one-on-one conferencing to gain constant teacher feedback and input on school challenges and concerns. Teachers feel they have a say in what happens not only in their classroom, but in the school as a whole, and this two-way communication gives teachers a voice in school decisions. Nauman's goal is that, should she leave, Shields will have a sustainable culture of achievement.
Nauman believes in nurturing all aspects of a child's development. Through her leadership, she encourages a positive, caring school environment that welcomes all students and families. Family events and student celebrations are conducted including curriculum nights and technology nights. Visual and performing arts programs draw in community members as well as parents. The past three years, the second grade has put on a play including all 120 second graders. A school wellness committee helps make decisions to promote students' mental and physical well-being, and this year Nauman implemented a health committee.
By establishing a strong rapport with her staff, students, and families; creating a collaborative environment where all stakeholders want to excel; and setting high expectations, Nauman cultivated an environment of success at Shields Elementary School.
“We know effective leadership is essential for students’ continuous learning and growth,” Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said. “Jennifer has cultivated an environment in which all students can learn, and I am inspired by the hard work and passion that have driven her to seek the continuous improvement of her students, staff and herself.”
The Bell award is given by the U. S. Department of Education, together with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Middle Schools Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Principals are nominated by their school communities during the final stages of the National Blue Ribbon Schools application process.