Hamilton High School Principal Dan Kimzey, Montana’s principal of the year, joined the top principals from 49 other states, plus Puerto Rico, in Washington, D.C., this week for the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ award and recognition event.
The NASSP Principal of the Year Institute included professional development training and networking for school leaders and an opportunity to advocate for students and schools with each state’s Congressional delegation.
“The awards banquet was in the Willard Hotel, which is supposedly the hotel in which Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and has been frequented by U.S. presidents since the 1850s,” Kimzey said. “It was a humbling and amazing experience for my wife and me to be in such a storied place, in the company of 50 great principals and leaders and to be honored in such a way.”
The NASSP National Principal of the Year program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have provided quality learning opportunities for students and made great contributions to education.
Kimzey said he enjoyed getting to know outstanding principals dedicated to improving their schools.
He said he was amazed to learn that schools of all sizes have similar “struggles, constraints and challenges.”
“What’s more amazing is that there are great leaders throughout the country who fully commit their time, passion, and heart to working within those constraints to maximize the potential in each of their students.”
Kimzey said he saw great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student.
“Learning from and with them was an experience I’ll never forget,” he said.
Kimzey met privately with Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Danies and Rep. Ryan Zinke. Kimzey said they listened to him and he felt supported in his belief that public education plays a critical role in sustaining American democracy.
“With Senators Tester and Daines, we Montanans are really blessed with leaders who have national credibility and a deep-seated care for the success of our state,” Kimzey said. “I truly enjoyed visiting with each of them and am very thankful for the senators and their legislative aides for facilitating the meetings.”
Kimzey said he could see Zinke’s increased responsibilities in the House of Representatives.
“We had a good conversation about leadership and the military – we served at the same time and place in the Middle East – but didn’t get around to talking too much about schools and students,” he said.
Kimzey was not selected as national principal of the year but said he is thankful for the opportunity to work with the students, staff, parents and community at Hamilton and for the honor and experience as Montana Principal of the Year.
“As I mentioned when accepting the principal of the year award in Helena last spring, if only my high school teachers at Beaverhead County High School in Dillon could see me now,” he said. “They’d be saying, ‘That high-spirited kid grew up, went into the world of work and received principal of the year? Boy, I guess every kid has a chance.’ Yes indeed, every kid has a chance!”