School & District Management

Missouri School Leader Named Principal of the Year by Secondary School Principals’ Group

By Denisa R. Superville — October 06, 2021 2 min read
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Missouri middle school principal Beth Houf has been selected as this year’s 2022 National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The award, which was announced in a virtual ceremony on Tuesday, is conferred annually to a middle or secondary school principal who works to “advance their profession and provide top-quality learning opportunities for their students,” according to the Virginia-based organization.

Houf, the first principal from Missouri to win the NASSP’s award, leads Fulton Middle School, a 550-student school in the Fulton 58 district, about 24 miles north of Jefferson City, the state’s capital. She also served as principal of the district’s McIntire Elementary School, before moving to Fulton Middle School in 2015.

Houf is a published author—she co-authored the 2017 book Lead Like a Pirate: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff— and has a large Twitter following.

‘The best job ever’

Houf, who was cheered on by staff at the school at the surprise announcement, said principals had “the best job, ever,” and that she was honored by the recognition.

“I love what I do, and I love who I get to serve every day,” she said.

Beth Houf, principal of Fulton Middle School, Fulton, Mo.

Houf acknowledged the tough year that school leaders had amid the pandemic and took a moment to recognize principals and teachers who’ve soldiered on through the crisis and the changes in brought to K-12.

“For all those principals that are joining in, thank you for what you do,” she said. “For all the teachers that are joining in, too, thank you so much for what you do.”

When Houf started at Fulton Middle School, “the culture was toxic, and trust was low,” Ronn Nozoe, the NASSP’s CEO, said during the ceremony. The school was also not meeting students’ needs, he said.

Houf put an emphasis on building a collaborative culture and working with staff on professional learning communities to strengthen curriculum, assessments, and interventions.

To foster a culture of trust with students, staff, and the community, Houf developed an advisory period for students, with an emphasis on empathy and empowerment, and implemented training in restorative practices and trauma-informed teaching. Discipline referrals dropped by 40 percent as a result of those efforts, Nozoe said.

During the pandemic, Houf and her team also had check-ins with families and online surveys so that families could share their needs with the school.

The two other finalists for the NASSP’s 2022 Principal of the Year Award were Keith Ball, principal of Marietta High School in Marietta, Ga., and Ted McCarthy, principal of Sutton High School in Sutton, Mass.

Finalists are chosen from the principals of the year on the state level.

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