School & District Management

5 Stories of Inspiring Principals

By Lesly Moore — November 29, 2022 2 min read
Mike Huss, principal of Ione Elementary School in Ione, California, stands next to Jake, a former student who moved to North Carolina mid year.
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For a dose of inspiration, look no further than these principals. Below are five school leaders who are real-life heroes, role models, and sources of motivation at a time when teacher morale is at a low point.

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Principal as superhero

Robert Quintana is principal at PS 28, the Pre-K to 3 Thomas Emanuel Early Childhood Center in New York.

When an agitated intruder barged through an open door at P.S. 28 in New York City back in September, school staff—including the principal—jumped into action. The New York Post reports that the intruder fought with a school safety aide and then ran to an elevator leading to classrooms. Principal Robert Quintana, who is trained in jiu jitsu, joined the fray. The principal and a staffer pinned the intruder to the ground and held him there until police arrived.

A principal whose roots run deep

Mike Huss, principal at Ione Elementary School poses with Levi, a first grade student, on the first day of school.

Mike Huss is a first-year principal at Ione Elementary School in Ione, Calif. He made the leap to administration after 19 years as a 5th grade teacher at Ione. And after a decade as its janitor. And after growing up in the school himself as a student.

His advice to aspiring principals: “Make sure you take the time each day to be around your students. They will energize you. They will help you refocus. More importantly, they will give you an honest assessment of how you are doing.”

Leader gets a hero’s welcome

Drew Wagner, principal of Fort Calhoun Elementary School in Nebraska, high fives students after he returns from a 6-month deployment.

Drew Wagner, principal of Fort Calhoun Elementary School in Nebraska, has two jobs, USA Today reports. His other gig is with the Iowa Air National Guard, which sent him to the United Arab Emirates for a six-month deployment. Watch his students’ reactions upon his return in August. It’ll make your day.

Sharing a moment of peace

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The pandemic years have been rough on educators. Occasionally, though, there are tiny reminders that working in education is joyful. Teachers and principals across the country recently shared such moments, among them Walt Sutterlin. When he was principal of Washington Woods Middle School in Holt, Mich., Sutterlin would walk through his school when no one was there and snap photos to send teachers.

“I know this place seems so hectic during the day,” he texted them, “but look at your classroom: It’s a place of peace and magic.”

Nacho average principal

Her social media handle says it all. Michigan secondary school principal Ashley Markham leverages her TikTok to speak directly to her teachers and to support them, whether it’s getting them supplies from her wish list or sharing words of encouragement.

She says she, “prides herself on uplifting and supporting teachers so they can best support their students,” according to her Amazon page.

Meet more principals of TikTok →