Last month, one of the administrators we work with and admire was named the 2020 National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Her name is Kerensa Wing. She has served as principal of Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett County for the last five years but has worked as an educator in Gwinnett County since 1994.
Kerensa Wing is a leader of leaders.
As our team has witnessed Kerensa lead her school, we’ve seen her embody the priorities of Gwinnett County Public Schools on her campus of over 3,000 students. Minority enrollment is 72%. Her student body is very diverse, speaking 36 languages, and almost half of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. But Kerensa is low on complaints and high on believing in people. I thought you’d benefit from a summary of how she manages the challenges of such a large and complicated school.
How does a Principal of the Year prioritize her agenda in such diversity and complexity?
Three Priorities of a Principal of the Year
1. Leadership Development for Staff and Students
Ms. Wing has decided that the best way to ensure care for everyone is to focus on building leaders who will help her care for the campus. So, she is big on staff and faculty development, equipping them to perform well, connect with others, and meet the changing demands on campus. Collins Hill High School prioritizes student development as well. I just got a personal note from a student leader who told me how upperclassmen are mentoring younger students. Ms. Wing created a professional learning community structure that uses common planning periods for development; the school participates in the Teacher as Leaders program and the Gwinnett Student Leadership Team as well. Wing believes if you invest in people (staff and students), they’ll invest in the school. This campus has created ongoing development events and systems for anyone who wants to grow.
2. Equity and Passion for Everyone on the Campus
Kerensa also works to ensure everyone on campus has equal opportunities for growth, participation, and encouragement. And she does so with passion. She’s been known to dawn a life-sized eagle costume at a pep rally, to sing carpool karaoke with students, and to engage students daily in the hallway with laughter and warmth. The students I have met from the campus love her. Kerensa reformed the school’s advisement period to ensure students are receiving a dedicated 27 minutes with a teacher who connects with them and advocates for them. “I’m a teacher at heart,” she told reporter Taylor Denham. “That’s just how I do my job.” And she’s been doing that job with passion since 1994. She’s a fan of everyone on campus.
3. Student Voice That Shapes the Culture
As students become teens, they long for a voice on the campus. They want to put their fingerprints on the school culture, not just follow the dictates of teachers and administrators. Ms. Wing practices this belief. Collins Hill High School students have told me, “I know when we meet with her, she will actually listen to us and talk over our ideas.” Students feel believed in and actually come up with some of the new policies and programs taking place at Collins Hill. Engagement and ownership happen because students support what they help create. This is part of what makes Kerensa Wing a life-giving leader.
Congratulations Kerensa Wing. May your tribe increase. NASSP board member Peter Kruszynski put it best when he said, “We would love to clone Mrs. Wing and put her in every school on earth.”