The Principal of the Year Award, formerly known as the Distinguished Educational Leadership Awards, was established in 1987 and seeks to honor the principal who goes beyond the daily responsibilities of their position to create an exceptional educational environment through dedicated leadership. The Post’s 2020 Principal of the Year is Jesse Kraft, principal of Fairfax County’s Lutie Lewis Coates Elementary School in Herndon, Virginia. During his first year as principal, Kraft invited parents and teachers to a series of “vision meetings,” asking what they wanted for students. He then used parent and teacher input to create the school’s vision of empowering students to become successful adults who make a difference. Kraft is committed to his students and to developing not only their academic skills, but also their life skills through exemplifying the Coates mission. Beginning his career as an elementary teacher, a position he held for ten years, Kraft now teaches Positivity Project lessons, conducts quarterly grade-level assemblies and, currently, he is teaching a series of public speaking lessons to upper grade students, which he designed and titled “Talk Like a Boss.” Kraft also created the Ready to Shine Lab where students tackle challenges that incorporates grit, teamwork, and bold thinking.
The honorees will receive a $7,500 monetary award, profile in The Washington Post, feature spot in a ½ page Washington Post ad and signature trophy.
Among the award winners are more than 35 principal and teacher finalists. The standout educators were chosen by their school systems for their exceptional work and unwavering commitment to students in the Washington area.
2020 Teacher of the Year Finalists
Ashley Sandoval (Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology, Alexandria City); Renee Randolph (Arlington Career Center, Arlington County); Lauren Lynn (Huntington Elementary School, Calvert County); Casey Cleary (Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, Charles County); Lakeisha Brown (Lafayette Elementary School, Washington, D.C.); Abner Soto (LAYC Career Academy, D.C. Charter Schools); Lisa Rode (Kings Glen Elementary School, Fairfax County); Layton McCann (Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Falls Church); Carrie Linebaugh (Liberty High School, Fauquier County); Lydia Kowalski (Tuscarora High School, Frederick County); Suzan Young (Homewood Center, Howard County); Mark Muldowney (Round Hill Elementary School, Loudoun County); Christopher Short (Baldwin Intermediate School, Manassas City); Christine Graf (Manassas Park High School, Manassas Park); Kearney Bandamer (Thomas S. Wootton High School, Montgomery County); Shanay Dudley (Bladensburg High School, Prince George’s County); Matthew Grimsley (Independence Nontraditional School, Prince William County); Diane Hansen (The Primary Day School, Private); Dr. Alma Shearin (Lexington Park Elementary School, St. Mary’s County); Kimberly Cannon (Stafford Middle School, Stafford County)
2020 Principal of the Year Finalists
PreeAnn Johnson (James K. Polk Elementary School, Alexandria City); Gina Davenport (Arundel High School, Anne Arundel County); Maureen Nesselrode (Campbell Elementary School, Arlington Country); Kelly Cleland (Windy Hill Elementary School, Calvert County); Orlena Whatley (Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School, Charles County); Rachel D. Crouch (Perry Street Preparatory Public Charter School, D.C. Charter Schools); Sam Cox (Liberty High School, Fauquier County); Michael Concepcion (FCPS Career and Technology Center, Frederick County); Nancy Thompson (Talbott Springs Elementary School, Howard County); Kirk Dolson (Park View High School, Loudon County); Kara Grasser (Jennie Dean Elementary School, Manassas City); Damon A Monteleone (Richard Montgomery High School, Montgomery County); Dr. Carlos Beato (International High School at Langley Park, Prince George’s County); Neil Beech (Osbourn Park High School, Prince William County); Dr. Jake Heibel (Great Mills High School, St. Mary’s County); Rebecca Wardlow (Winding Creek Elementary School, Stafford County)