Indiana State University Newsroom

Bayh College alumni recognized for outstanding commitment to education

January 6, 2012

Two of Indiana State University's former education students received statewide recognition for their exceptional leadership by receiving the 2011 "Principal of the Year" awards.

Mary Beth Harris and Lezlie Winter were honored as Elementary School Principal of the Year and High School Principal of the Year, respectively. The Indiana Association of School Principals presents the awards annually to recognize principals, superintendents and other leaders for their commitment to educational excellence.

"It's been very humbling. I think I have been blessed with my job and opportunities as principal. I've learned from many leaders," said Harris, principal at Blanche E. Fuqua Elementary School in Terre Haute.

In presenting the award to Harris, the associated noted that she benefited Fuqua by creating community partnerships with Wendy's and Terre Haute Regional Hospital. She also initiated monthly unity meetings, which include individuals representing teachers, secretaries, custodians and other staff.

Harris, who is from West Terre Haute, completed both bachelor's and master's degrees in elementary education. She chose Indiana State for its location close to home and because of the education program's positive reputation. She described her learning experiences at ISU as "valid."

"I was trained to handle situations and was able to see other leaders at work and pull from their positive qualities," she said. "It trained me to be what I am."

Winter is principal at Mississinewa High School in her hometown of Gas City.

"I just think it's a positive reflection of the quality of people who work with you and surround you. That's the most meaningful part for me," Winter said.

The principal should be the instructional leader for the school and be familiar with expectations in terms of assessment, state reporting and best instructional practices, she said.

Mississinewa developed a Project Leadership Mentoring program, which provides the school's 21st Century Scholars a community mentor to make them aware of opportunities outside of school. In 2010, Mississinewa was one of 12 high schools to earn a performance incentive from the Indiana Department of Education for its 95 percent graduation rate.

Winter described her experience in ISU's educational specialist degree program as "wonderful."

"Most of my classes were with Dr. Bob Boyd and Dr. Terry McDaniel, who are extraordinary instructors, and I learned a lot from both," she said. "I also had a strong cohort group of fellow administrators. The networking that went on and the atmosphere that was created for pursuing higher level education opportunities and being able to work together was outstanding."

Learning from prior achievements and mistakes provide direction for the future, she said.

"Each and every year, you have to adjust and reflect on successes and failures and be able to admit them to yourself. I've also realized that you have to be willing to be a risk-taker, be willing to lead and make tough decisions for the school and students," Winter said.

McDaniel, assistant professor in ISU's department of educational leadership, thinks that producing successful education leaders requires a team effort.

"There is no magical secret to a good program that prepares the leaders of our schools," he said. "It takes dedicated students and instructors, as well as a focus not only on the latest research and scholarship, but also an emphasis on how to put the research to work in a practical manner."

Indiana State will continue to develop educational leaders, McDaniel said.

"We are always honored when our alumni win awards. It showcases our students and our programs," he said. "As far as our reputation in the Indiana educational world, I truly believe we expect to see our students be award winners. We already have a reputation as being one of the best, if not the best, leadership preparation program for school administrators."

Other ISU education alumni earned district awards:

• Elementary School Principals of the Year: Jane Rogers, Milan, and Judy Stegemann, Stout Field Elementary (Indianapolis)

• Middle School Principals of the Year: Tim Vislosky, West Vigo, and Michael Sowers, Southmont

• High School Principals of the Year: Greg Briles, Oregon-Davis; Destin Haas, Benton Central; Derek Marshall, Scottsburg; and Roger Benson, Wood Memorial

• Assistant Principals of the Year: Andrew Hartley, Plymouth High School; Brian Emmert, East Noble Middle School; W. Tom Russell, Mount Vernon High School; and Greg Walker, Brownstown Central Middle School

• Superintendents of the Year (given at the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents conference): Jerrill Vandeventer, Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools; Steve Disney, Oregon-Davis School Corp.; and Peggy Hinckley, Metropolitan School District of Warren Township

• Dell Technology Director of the Year: Andrew Markel, Crothersville Community Schools

Contact: Terry McDaniel, assistant professor of educational leadership, department of educational leadership, Indiana State University, at 812-237-3862 or

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, at 812-237-3773