Awarding the principal power behind education

  Photos courtesy of The Arizona Republic

Paley poses with a compass, “because it reminds me to go in the right direction. If you move two or three degrees off, then in three or four years you’re off direction,” he said.

Pierce wears a hardhat in her photo because, “My job is to build knowledge with students and teachers. Having very specific professional development that supports our students’ needs will then build teachers’ content knowledge, which they take back to the classroom,” she said.

Two graduates of Northern Arizona University’s College of Education received an honor recognizing them as exceptional leaders in Arizona’s high-needs schools.

Both Howard Paley and Barbara Pierce received a 2008 Exemplary Principals award by the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona. Winners each will receive $5,000 in savings bonds and will mentor three principals over a two-year period.

Paley, principal of Edison Elementary in Mesa for five years, earned his master’s in special education from NAU.

Pierce, principal of Madison Camelview Elementary in Phoenix for six years, graduated from NAU with a bachelor’s and master’s in elementary education.

Before becoming leaders of their schools, both Paley and Pierce taught for years and continue to credit students for fueling their desire to make a difference in young lives.

Pierce told The Arizona Republic that when feeling challenged, “I just go into a classroom where kids want to share their progress or what they are working on. That makes me smile.”

Paley concurs. “I know it’s corny,” he told the newspaper, “but I think about what is in the best interest of the kids. They continually motivate me.”

The Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona, in partnership with Social Venture Partners Arizona, recently launched the Rodel Exemplary Principal Initiative to reward outstanding principals in high-needs schools and train the next generation of principals.

Daniel Kain, dean of NAU’s College of Education, said Pierce and Paley are great examples of NAU’s vision to develop and prepare effective school leaders.

“Their success represents much hard work on their part, and the committed faculty members who participated in their preparation are gratified to be a part of this important work,” Kain said.

Debbie Hudson, principal of Lela Alston Elementary school, and Jeff Sprout, principal of Montebello School in the Alhambra School District, also received the 2008 Exemplary Principals award.

Information about the Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona is online.