STMA’s Jennie Kelly named state Middle Level Principal of Year

STMA Middle School East Principal Jennie Kelly has been selected as Minnesota  Middle Level Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary Principals. She is seen here with, left to right, Middle School East Assistant Principal Ben Bakeberg, Middle School West Principal Andy Merfeld, and Middle School West Assistant Principal Lynn Jennissen.

STMA Middle School East Principal Jennie Kelly has been selected as Minnesota Middle Level Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary Principals. She is seen here with, left to right, Middle School East Assistant Principal Ben Bakeberg, Middle School West Principal Andy Merfeld, and Middle School West Assistant Principal Lynn Jennissen.

St. Michael-Albertville Middle School East Principal Jennie Kelly has been selected as Minnesota  Middle Level Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP).

Kelly was first hired as a sixth grade teacher in 1994. She later became Assistant Middle School Principal and then Middle School Principal in 2002.

“It is an astounding honor for me to have been selected as the Central Division Middle Level Principal of the Year this past Spring,” Kelly said in her essay response to winning the award. “It is both humbling and inspiring to have received this recognition from such esteemed colleagues.”

The MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Program began in 1993 as a means to recognize outstanding middle level and high school principals. Each state selects one middle level and one high school principal to represent their state. NASSP annually recognizes secondary principals from across the country for their leadership and for making positive, significant differences in our schools and communities.

In nominating Kelly for the award, Supt. Jim Behle said Kelly exhibits outstanding leadership qualities that result in a high quality learning environment that reflects high expectations for students and staff.

“Ms. Kelly is one of the most skilled administrators I have worked with in my 30-year career as a school administrator,” Behle said. “She seamlessly brings together and develops skillful teachers committed to a rigorous curriculum. Her leadership is not only demonstrated through her commitment to serving on district wide committees but informally when her peers look to her for advice and guidance.”

Also writing letters of recommendation were Middle School East Assistant Principal Ben Bakeberg, Middle School East seventh grade math teacher Patrick Mueller, and Middle School East parent Brent Bjorlin.

In his nomination, Bjorlin cited how supportive Kelly was in helping the Bjorlin family as mother Cheryl Bjorlin was battling breast cancer, a fight she would eventually lose. The Bjorlin’s twin sons, Marshall and Tucker, were eighth-graders at the school last year

“In early 2012 my wife went into hospice care and died May 26, just days before the boys finished eighth grade.” Bjorlin said in his nomination. “One of the first visits we received was from Jennie Kelly and the school social worker. Our family commented on how amazing it was that the principal and social worker would stop by the house, but that’s Jennie Kelly.”

He said that after his wife died, on the next school day the only place his sons wanted to be was at school “surrounded by friends, Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) leaders, teachers and staff. I think that’s the biggest testament to Jennie Kelly’s skills as a principal and why she deserves your consideration for principal of the year.”

The award recipients are honored as the best across the state, each who provides a high-quality learning environment that supports teaching and learning. MetLife and NASSP will honor all State Principals of the Year at the Principal’s Institute and Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C. in September.

At the recent STMA School Board meeting, chairperson Doug Birk presented Principal Kelly with a letter from the board expressing its congratulations on her award, and thanking her for her outstanding work and contributions to the district.

Kelly said in her essay that choosing a profession within the educational arena was “incredibly personal and empowering.”

She said, “As I began to share reflections regarding my leadership, John Quincy Adams’ words resonate, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’  These inspiring words serve as a grounding foundation to me in the work that I am blessed with doing in such an amazing community!”

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