DOVER -- Two local principals will be honored this August.
Dover School Principal Bill Anton and Wardsboro Elementary School Principal Rosemary FitzSimons will be attending the Vermont Principals' Association annual banquet at Killington's Grand Hotel, where principals nominated by their peers will be given awards.
Anton was notified by the association during a meeting in early April that he would be a recipient. As a member of the executive committee, which collects all the nominations, he was told to leave the room in order to recuse himself.
When he returned to a room at the Riverside Middle School in Springfield, he said he was surprised that he was being awarded.
"It was shocking and unexpected," said Anton. "It felt kind of like an out-of-body experience."
Twin Valley Middle School Principal Keith Lyman had nominated Anton for the award, which is known as the National Distinguished Principal Award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
Anton told the Reformer that his colleagues were unbelievably kind and generous in sharing their happiness with him.
"An award like this is really a reflection of the Dover community at large, the colleagues that I get to work with, the parents I partner with, the kids that do all the work, the School Board that provides all the conditions for success and the community that provides all the resources," he said.
For five years, Anton has served as the principal at Dover School. He says he is lucky to work with a talented group that includes teachers and specialists, who make the job enjoyable and easy.
He compared his experience to that of Phil Jackson and the coaching of the Chicago Bulls.
"You need to tap into so many things because you are working with such a professional group," Anton said. "My job is to make sure we're improving resources, support and coaching to allow them to do what they do well."
In the last three years, Anton has served as a mentor in a program that assists new principals. The program has given him a new perspective on that role.
"It's really allowed me to really reflect on what it is I do here," he said. "It's allowed me to become a better listener and better observer, really focusing on creating conditions for others to be successful."
Through the years, Anton said he has learned that each environment is unique and educators need to play to the strength of their local community. He said there isn't one way or path to define success.
"You need to read the local situation and listen. It's a lot of listening," he concluded.
This is FitzSimons' seventh year as principal of Wardsboro Elementary School. She previously held similar positions in schools in upstate New York.
In August, FitzSimons will be given the association's Henry Glaguque Vermont Elementary School Principal of the Year award.
She believes her students' New England Common Assessment Program scores were a barometer of their learning. Since becoming principal, FitzSimons has seen reading scores go from 53 percent proficient to 98 percent this year. In 2007, students failed to make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, in math. This year, 90 percent of the students were proficient or above in their math scores.
FitzSimons told the Reformer that the key to Wardsboro Elementary School's success was its creation of a vision for the school community that focused on developing the best it could offer its students and developing a pathway to achieve this.
The award can be linked back to 2007, when the teachers and FitzSimons sat down to create an action plan that would look at how to improve learning and increase successful strategies.
"I don't see it as a principal's award. In the modern world, the principal is a part of the team. Without the collective work of everyone here, we wouldn't have made the gains we've made here nor would I have received the award," she said. "It's about knowing we're doing the best for our kids and their being successful that shaped the academic success."
Another way that the school has honed in on improvements was by adopting the Positive Behavior Intervention Support, a program supported by the state. FitzSimons was clear that its implementation was not about correcting bad behavior or instilling discipline.
"This allowed us to focus on what are the student behaviors that make kids successful in a positive way," she said.
If FitzSimons could offer advice to future educators and principles, it would be that learning is about the students and figuring out what is best for them.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.