2024 High School Principal of the Year
Rob Bach, Stillwater Area High School
Rob Bach, Principal of Stillwater Area High School has been named the 2024 Minnesota High School Principal of the Year. Rob has been the principal of his school for the past ten years and has been a school administrator for 17 years.
Rob has made quite an impact within his school community. He has created an environment where all feel welcome. As one student shares, “Mr. Bach's inviting nature and strong desire to develop meaningful bonds with all his students has created a positive environment at our school. He actively engages in student activities, making his face known to students from various backgrounds.” Furthermore, equity is a top priority for Rob, and he promotes it throughout the school community. A staff member states, “During the past 5 years, Rob's focus has turned to ensuring a safe and equitable environment for all of our students. In 2020, he helped advocate for a site-based cultural liaison who has helped foster a sense of community within the building.” Beyond students and staff, Rob understands the importance of developing his administrative team. One of his team members shares, “My growth as a school leader is directly connected to his intentionality in making sure we have the opportunity and environment in which to grow personally and professionally.” Congratulations Rob! Your school community is fortunate to have you lead their school.
2024 Middle Level Principal of the Year
Mindy Chevalier, Belle Plaine Junior/Senior High School
Mindy Chevalier, Principal of Belle Plaine Junior/Senior High School has been named the 2024 Minnesota Middle Level Principal of the Year. Mindy has been the principal of her school for the past 5 years and has been a school administrator for 21 years.
Mindy understands the importance of listening to, and partnering with her school community. As a leader, Mindy puts high value on student and staff voice in the decision-making process to create curricular decisions, meaningful events and activities unique to her school. As one student states, “Mrs. Chevalier pushes students to take advantage of opportunities to get into the field as presented in College-in-the-Schools’ courses. Examples include EMR and EMT classes that when completed, give students all the skills needed to gain a certification and pass a national skills exam. These classes give students a massive head start in the field of healthcare.” Continuing with the theme of listening, one staff member states, “Mindy actively seeks out the ideas and perspectives of others when making important decisions. By valuing the input of students, staff, and stakeholders, she ensures that a wide range of voices is considered, fostering an inclusive decision-making process that reflects the diversity of our school community.” Equity is also a top priority for Mindy, as stated from a parent’s perspective, “Ms. Chevalier has promoted equity for students and families in many ways. The school's curriculum is inclusive, in that it teaches how people of diverse backgrounds have shaped education and learning.” Mindy, thank you for your strong leadership at your school! Well done.
2023-2024 Assistant Principal of the Year
Lynn Jennissen, St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West
Lynn Jennissen, Assistant Principal at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West, has been named this year’s recipient of the Minnesota Assistant Principal of the Year Award. Lynn has been an assistant principal in his current school for the past 14 years; and, he has been a school administrator for 16 years.
Lynn understands the importance of fostering shared responsibility by delegating leadership and individual ownership of the school’s vision to faculty and students so that they can create an environment that is open and inclusive and all feel valued. This sentiment is reflected through the eyes of one staff member, “When I think of Lynn Jennissen, what comes to mind the most is his heart. He loves his staff, he loves his students, he loves his family, and he loves his community. In every situation, he sees the good. Students, staff, and families know he truly cares about them. He literally learns every student's name and makes the effort to get to know them.” Furthermore, an administrative colleague shared, “Lynn (LJ) utilizes a coaching model in his approach to growing teachers in their craft. He models accountability and is one of the most positive and genuine people in helping staff see their own growth and reflect on their areas where they need to grow.” Lynn’s caring heart is noticed beyond the walls of the school, as one parent states, “Mr. Jennissen approaches his career with a servant's heart. Our district is very lucky that he has chosen to pursue his lifelong dream of being an educator in our district. He plays a critical role when it comes to instilling the district's core values of safety, honesty, citizenship, and respect into students at a young age.
2023 High School Principal of the Year
Christina Hester, Roseville Area High School
Christina Hester, principal of Roseville Area High School has been named the 2023 Minnesota High School Principal of the Year. Christina has been the principal of her school for the past six years and has been a school administrator for 19 years.
Over the past six years as head principal, Christina has made a significant impact on her school community. She is a firm believer in recognizing and acknowledging all individuals that walk into her building. Christina’s dedication to her students has been illustrated in her equity-focused changes within the school systems, curriculum and grading practices. As one teacher states, “Ms. Hester centers all we do in the building around equity. Over the past six years I can confidently say that every meeting and professional development day and/or opportunity is rooted and centered around equitable ways of doing, being and knowing.” This sentiment is also reinforced by one building administrator who stated, “She is also a strong facilitator of adult learning with our staff. Simply put, our staff, students and families feel seen and heard by her leadership.” Lastly, and to sum up Christina’s strong, impactful leadership, this student shares, “Ms. Hester helped me to cultivate my voice and fueled my need for education that represents me and my roots.”
2023 Middle Level Principal of the Year
Tom Brenner, Cloquet Middle School
Tom Brenner has been named this year’s recipient of the Minnesota Middle Level Principal of the Year. Tom has been the principal in his building for the past 20 years.
Tom understands the importance of creating a strong relational-centered school, focusing on student safety and well-being. He states, “Our students and staff's social and emotional well-being has always been our highest priority at Cloquet Middle School (CMS).” As a Restorative Practice School, we continually work to improve our practice by implementing the five 'R's of restorative practice and the seven grandfather teachings of the Ojibwe culture (Humility - Dbaadendiziwin, Bravery - Aakwa'ode'ewin, Honesty - Gwekwaadziwin, Wisdom - Nbwaakaawin, Truth - Debwewin, Respect - Mnaadendimowin, Love - Zaagidwin).” Furthermore, Tom has made a concerted effort to lead through an equitable lens. One parent shared, “As a school leader, Mr. Brenner has done many things to promote equity for students and families at CMS. The signage on the different walls recognizes and acknowledges the native community. The range of school resources and staff available to support students and families reflects Mr. Brenner's understanding and efforts to address systemic inequities in his building.” Tom’s staff appreciates his willingness to challenge all learners within the building. One teacher shared, “Tom has been a fierce advocate for de-tracking. He worked alongside teacher teams to design equitable, heterogeneous classes where all kids can achieve rigorous grade-level expectations.”
2022-2023 Assistant Principal of the Year
Tyler Shepard, Wayzata High School
Tyler Shepard, associate principal at Wayzata High School, has been named this year’s recipient of the Minnesota Assistant Principal of the Year Award. Tyler has been an associate principal in his current school for the past six years; and, he has been a school administrator for seven years.
Tyler comes with high praise from his school community. A teacher in his building shares that Tyler is a positive and innovative problem-solver who looks at issues with a fresh perspective, stating, “His answer to new ideas is, “Let’s do it!” Where most people see roadblocks, he sees opportunities.” The teacher goes on to say that “Tyler’s willingness to think differently and make things happen inspires me to continually evolve and grow my own personal practice.” Scott Gengler, principal, shares Tyler's curious nature and invites shared leadership among staff. As a result, Tyler has been instrumental in supporting student-centered systems that empower our entire school community.” Tyler is truly making an impact with the school community at Wayzata High School. One parent stated it best, “Tyler engages with all students, all levels, all backgrounds and interests, and he does so to ensure that all students feel welcomed, challenged, respected and comfortable within the learning community.”
2022 High School Principal of the Year
Nathaniel “Natty” Messick, Fertile-Beltrami High School
Nathaniel “Natty” Messick, principal of Fertile-Beltrami Schools for being named the 2022 Minnesota High School Principal of the Year. Natty has been the principal of his school for the past eight years.
Over those years, Natty has instilled the value of the “Falcon Way” – focusing on a culture of responsibility, respectfulness and determination. As one student states, “Our school has an amazing sense of unity that doesn’t happen in other places. There is so much support for each and every student. Our teachers and administration always greet everyone with a smile and make sure that each student knows that they are cared for.” Furthermore, according to an administrator in the district, Natty creates a strong culture, “Mr. Messick is very approachable, people-person, student-oriented principal who works to establish one-on-one relationships with all participants in our school system. Students, staff and community members feel connected and supported by our principal – which, in turn, creates trust and a sense of belonging.”
2022 Middle Level Principal of the Year
Michael O’Neil, Pequot Lakes Middle School
Michael O’Neil has been named this year’s recipient of the Minnesota Middle Level Principal of the Year. Mike has been an administrator for eight years, the past seven years as the principal at Pequot Lakes Middle School.
Mike understands the importance of individualized and high-quality education offerings for his students. He states, “As a campus community, we have worked to stay the course in providing each child with their version of “what they need” to be successful. This includes a strategic PLC devoted to Social Emotional Learning and the support of some of our most challenging students on campus.” As stated from a teacher under Mike’s leadership, “Mike has been courageously steadfast in his messaging and in his decisions related to equity. His advocacy for equity is rooted in his desire to hear from people whose perspectives have been shaped by experiences different than his own. He is a humble learner in this regard, modeling curiosity and respect in his personal and professional equity work.
2021-2022 Assistant Principal of the Year
Nick Bakke, Mora High School
Nick Bakke, Assistant Principal at Mora High School, has been named this year’s recipient of the Minnesota Assistant Principal of the Year Award, and is now eligible to be considered for the National Assistant Principal of the Year honors. Nick has been an administrator for the past nine years at Mora High School.
Nick comes with high praise from staff and community members. A special education teacher shares that Nick comes with many strengths, including listening to the concerns of others as well as being able to soothe stressful situations. Both powerful tools when working with students and parents. Furthermore, Nick’s principal notes his dedication to continually improve the culture of Mora High School. Although he faces many challenges and difficult conversations with students, he never shies away. His ultimate goal when working with students is not to discipline, but to change behavior. One community member expressed that Nick treats all students, regardless of age, gender, race or GPA with respect. He is always thinking of ways to include kids in different levels of activities and training to ensure he finds ways for them to fit in. Congratulations Nick! Thank you for your strong leadership and dedication to your students, staff and community.