DoD Middle School Principal Receives National Honor
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2006 – The principal of a Defense Department middle school in Germany, selected as the National Association of Secondary School Principals 2007 middle school principal of the year, met here today with DoD leaders, who congratulated her on the achievement.
(PressZoom) - Ellen Minette, principal of the Heidelberg Middle School in Heidelberg, Germany, is the first principal in the DoD Education Activity to receive this national honor.
“Really, this is a historic moment, because, for the first time, a (DoD Education Activity) principal has been chosen for the national honor of middle school principal of the year,” Leslye Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said during a meeting today with Minette. “It’s a real pleasure for me to be able to meet Dr. Minette and to congratulate her and to appreciate her for what she does for our children.”
Minette, a 32-year veteran of the DoD school system, said she was shocked and honored to receive the award. “I immediately told all the kids in the school and the teachers, and they were excited,” she said. “They went home and told their parents they just got the best school in Europe.”
A large percentage of the parents in the Heidelberg school deploy frequently, and Minette has set up programs to help children cope.
When Minette started at Heidelberg Middle School, she changed the schedule and moved teachers around to create small communities within the school. These communities helped the students as their parents started to deploy, because they had advisory programs in place, she said.
The school also teaches children about the region their parents are deployed to, using maps of Iraq and Afghanistan and hosting recently returned soldiers to talk to the children, Minette said. Leaders at the school also recognize the children are afraid for their parents, so they set up small counseling groups for children and a communication system with deployed parents, she said. This system also allows teachers to be in contact with the parents, informing them of their children’s progress, she noted.
“All Department of Defense schools are affected by deployments in some way, shape or form,” she said. “But we’re all about education; that’s primary.”
One-third of the children at Heidelberg Middle School rotate out of the school each year with their parents’ moves, Minette said, so it’s important for leaders to create a caring environment that’s welcoming to new students. Children need to walk into an environment that makes them feel comfortable, she said.
“You create that, and you foster that kind of climate in your school, and kids do well,” she said. “I have a mantra that I say all the time, and I say it to the kids: ‘What you’re doing, what you’re learning is important, you can do it, and we will never give up on you.’ When kids believe and know that you care about them to that extent, they perform for you.”
Minette’s father was an Air Force pilot, so she understands the military life – having had a parent absent for long periods of time and moving frequently. This helps her to develop programs at her school catered specifically to military children and parents, she said.
“I think I’m very respectful of what these families go through,” she said. “I’ve been through some of it myself, and I’m always sensitive to what’s going on in the communities, with the families, and in the school.”
Minette started her career in 1972 as a dormitory counselor at Allied Forces Central Europe American High School in the Netherlands and has been a school counselor, physical education teacher and school administrator in DoD schools throughout Germany. Minette has worked at all levels of schools -- elementary, high school and middle school -- and at each level has concentrated her efforts on curriculum, instruction and assessment.
Deputy U.S. Education Secretary Raymond Simonsaid today that principals are key to school’s success, because they motivate and enable teachers. He noted that teachers and administrators in DoD schools have a special relationship with their children, because of the unique circumstances of their parents.
“I’ve had an opportunity to visit some DoD schools in Germany, and I was just overcome with the degree of support that’s given to the school by the local community, and the support the school gives to the parents and the children in difficult times,” Simon said. “It’s just what school should really be about.”
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA American Forces Press Service
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