HARTINGTON — Hartington-Newcastle’s Elementary Principal was surprised with the Principal of the Year Award when she received it in the mail last month.
But the recognition came as no surprise to those that work with her every day, calling her an advocate very worthy of such an honor.
Sarah Edwards received the award from the Region III Northeast Nebraska Schools Principal Association. All principals in the region are eligible for and vote for the award winner.
“She is extremely passionate about students and truly believes that all students can and should learn. From the beginning of the day to the end of the day, that is her focus,” said AJ Johnson, superintendent of Hartington-Newcastle Public Schools. “She is kind, caring and really wants the best for our students.”
Johnson notes Edwards’ work on establishing a reading intervention program for struggling readers that has gotten notice from others in the region.
“Because of the work Mrs. Edwards and our teachers have done, our school has become a model in our area for this program,” he said.
The program falls under the schools’ Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) in which specific instructional strategies are developed to meet the needs of students - at all levels of mastery, Edwards said.
“I enjoy working side by side with teachers to problem solve what we can do to help students be successful no matter where they are academically,” she said, noting an increase of more than 40 percent in yearend benchmark assessments since they began their MTSS plan.
The largest challenge of Edwards’ Job goes beyond academics though with those situations that pop up outside of school - students with trauma, families that need help financially or emotionally.
“All of these pieces ... make a difference in how we can provide for children in school. We have to go past the academics and meet our children’s social and emotional needs as well to allow them to see they can and will succeed,” she said.
There are tough days to be sure, but Edwards cannot see herself doing any other kind of work.
Edwards has been the elementary principal at Hartington-Newcastle Schools for the past seven years where there are 216 students enrolled currently. She also bumps, sets, and spikes as the high school assistant volleyball coach.
She began her career as an elementary and physical education teacher after graduating from Mount Marty College, Yankton, S.D. She taught in Nebraska, Iowa and Virginia, teaching both third and fourth grades as well as working as a Kindergarten through eighth grade physical education teacher and volleyball coach.
Edwards landed at Howells-Dodge Public Schools as the Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade principal for one year before she returned to her home area. (She is a Wynot High School graduate.)
Edwards said she Joins the good company of other award winners. In fact, Corey Uldrich, Hartington-Newcastle’s 7-12 Principal is a past award recipient, receiving New Principal of the Year Just a few years ago.
Edwards will hang her plaque with pride.
“I work with many inspirational leaders in education,” she said. “To be chosen by my peers for this award is very humbling.”
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