Minnesota Principals of the Year

2021 High School Principal of the Year

Scott Gengler, Wayzata High School

Scott Gengler has been a school administrator for 20 years and served as Wayzata High School principal for the past seven years. Scott considers school culture to be his greatest responsibility and that culture is shaped by the school's purpose. Wayzata High School's focus is that every student graduate is prepared for post-secondary success, regardless of race, class, gender or ability. This purpose has become known as the "Wayzata Promise" over Scott's tenure. The promise is a commitment shared by all staff to ensure that each student is afforded an opportunity to learn and grow in a safe, secure, nurturing and supportive environment. "We are here for you" is part of the school's motto.

Scott has fostered innovation and creativity by creating the "WHS HUB". This user-friendly, student-focused web-based tool that helps staff communicate, innovate and collaborate. In 2019 the Wayzata HUB was awarded a Local Government Innovation Award by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Students share that the creation of the Honors Mentor Connection (HMC) greatly impacted their learning. "HMC" is a class that allows students to pursue research in a field that interests them and are instructed on how to reach out to principal investigators at local labs/colleges to seek a research position.

Staff share that Scott's core belief is that "each and every student deserves an opportunity to thrive, and staff are encouraged to develop learning opportunities that immerse students in hands-on and real-world learning. Mr. Gengler realizes our school's role in society's broader network for students, and he seeks opportunities for staff and students to plug into that network".

An initiative that has impacted many learners at Wayzata is that of Courageous Conversations. Scott sought ways to amplify student and staff voices on a variety of issues both in, and out of the school. These monthly meetings give students, teachers and staff an opportunity to see and hear each other in ways that break down communication barriers and the constraints of an academically packed, skills-driven class session. This initiative moved some teachers to tears and to action because of the honesty and insight of student voices.

2021 Middle Level Principal of the Year

Shawn Andress, Park Rapids Century Middle School

Shawn Andress has been a school administrator for nine years and principal of Park Rapids Century Middle School for the past five years. Shawn shares that culture and climate have been a main focus point at Century for several years. The creation of The Panther Pride Matrix around Respect, Responsibility and Relationships (3R's) has guided staff development in preparing our learners for tomorrows' challenges.

"Shawn is a very visible presence in our school", shares a staff member. " Students receive fist bumps and high fives everyday along with knowing nods and verbal encouragement like, have a great day". Shawn believes in "old school" communication and staff still send families CMS postcards three times a year (for refrigerator posting) reminding students of their strengths and staff support.

Staff share that students are put in roles of leadership often including daily announcements and pledge readers. One particularly innovative program includes Panther Ambassadors. These students greet new students and often meet with them in the summer months to ease fall transitions as well as being a familiar face at lunch once school starts.

Another impactful program includes Camps and Cabins where student-led teams help with leadership and peer development across grade levels. Students address peer interaction issues such as bullying and academic achievement. Students share that Ms. Andress always puts students first and "Is our best cheerleader!"

2020-2021 Assistant Principal of the Year

Angela Charboneau-Folch, Big Lake High School

Angela Charboneau-Folch, Assistant Principal at Big Lake High School, has been named this year’s recipient of the Minnesota Assistant Principal of the Year and is now eligible to be considered for the National Assistant Principal of the year honors. Angela has been an administrator for 15 years, the past 10 at Big Lake High School.

Angela shares that positive student relationships have been a key focus in her work. An example of which is the Reason I Come to Work video that was created by staff to build community and positively impact learners and the Being Your Own Champion initiative to open communication lines with families.

Students share that they feel safe and secure at Big Lake because of programs and leadership created by building leaders. “I feel strongly that I can speak for the entirety of the Student Board that every staff member knows us deeply whether in class or not”, added a student leader.  Staff members added that Angela’s leadership in training such as the Sting program and Discipline with Dignity have created an inclusive environment for all students and staff.

2020 High School Principal of the Year

Michael Lehan, Osseo Senior High School

Michael Lehan has been a school administrator for 10 years and served as Osseo Senior High School principal for the past 5 years. One primary focus of Michael’s leadership has centered on Equity Foundational Training where Osseo Senior High School has served as a model for both content and delivery.

Michael shares that he approaches professional learning and scholarly experiences at his building through this lens. Whether it is professional learning designed to expand educator consciousness, Learning Lunches with staff, or Lunch with Lehan reserved solely for scholars (students), He strives to ensure access and space for each human to be seen and heard.

Program development has been key focus over the past few years. VISION 2020 is based on the moral obligation educators carry as it relates to the World’s Best Workforce legislation. Osseo U & Concurrent Enrollment allows scholars to earn college credits upon successful completion of courses taught on-site by credentialed educators. Osseo Excel Academy scholars customize their learning experiences via unique, 100% on-line offerings.

Staff members share that Michael is extremely innovative and strategic in his planning and is very creative in leading Osseo to help students achieve success in our globally competitive society.

Students summed it up best saying that Mr. Lehan’s leadership has created many new programs that have given them an opportunity to grow and truly succeed including over 100 elective classes.

2019-2020 Assistant Principal of the Year

Jill Walter, Bemidji High School

Jill Walter, Assistant Principal at Bemidji 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. Jill has had a great impact on students and staff during her tenure. Students share that Ms. Walter cares deeply about them and is "a very good listener when they are having a bad day". Staff members appreciate Jill's work on building a strong school climate mentioning her leadership on their work toward full implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). Several staff shared Jill is very talented at identifying staff strengths and utilizing those strengths to benefit the entire learning community.

2020 Middle Level Principal of the Year

Karin Lopez, Woodbury Middle School

Karin Lopez has been a school administrator for 21 years and principal of Woodbury Middle School for the past 10 years. While leading Woodbury, school culture has always been a point of emphasis. “We focus on connecting with students, getting to know them and developing meaningful relationships,” Karin shared. In the past three years Woodbury has seen a 60% decrease in discipline referrals based on this common goal.

Several other innovative and research-based programs have been implemented that encourage inclusion and growth including the “Not At Our School” campaign, a College and Career Readiness Course and CARS (Content Area Reading Strategies). In addition, all students have a 4 C’s class (Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity) that focuses on life-skills that are needed for students long-term success.

Staff members share that Karin has been instrumental in creating and leading programs/classes that have impacted adults in the school as well. The Cultural Awareness committee has provided important insights for staff and trainings. The additions of PLCs, AVID and STEM have encouraged staff to grow in the ways they engage all learners.

Recent graduates perhaps summed up the school culture best in sharing “the opportunities at our school were countless because each student believed their voice mattered and everyone had an opportunity to show leadership in their own way”.

2019-2020 Assistant Principal of the Year

Jill Walter, Bemidji High School

Jill Walter, Assistant Principal at Bemidji 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. Jill has had a great impact on students and staff during her tenure. Students share that Ms. Walter cares deeply about them and is "a very good listener when they are having a bad day". Staff members appreciate Jill's work on building a strong school climate mentioning her leadership on their work toward full implementation of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). Several staff shared Jill is very talented at identifying staff strengths and utilizing those strengths to benefit the entire learning community.