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Monday, March 24, 2008

Associate principal was clear choice for award

By Kayla Bunge/The Janesville Gazette

For those who know her, the selection of Anne Heck as associate principal of the year was an obvious choice.

The assistant principal of Elkhorn Area Middle School recently was named 2008 Wisconsin associate principal of the year by the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators.

The program honors school administrators who make a significant impact on the success of their students and their school.

Heck was nominated by Shelley Joan Weiss, principal of Waunakee Community Middle School.

"When I was thinking who out there could deserve this recognition, I thought, 'Good Lord, this is so apparent.'" Weiss said.

She describes Heck as an inquisitive educator, who openly shares her ideas and seeks opportunities to improve her skills.

John Gendron, principal of Elkhorn Area Middle School and the one who broke the news to Heck, said she's not one for the limelight.

But humility aside, during her seven-year tenure in Elkhorn, Heck has built positive relationships with staff, students and families and changed the environment at the middle school, Gendron said.

She has worked with teachers on professional development, encouraging them to improve their skills and incorporate innovative techniques into their classrooms.

New teachers are required to complete professional development plans to renew their licenses, but Heck pushed to have all middle school teachers complete the plans.

"It's a big mindset change," she said. "For those of us who are used to our six credits every five years, we now have to put on paper how we want to significantly change our classrooms."

Heck said creating the professional development plans has teachers focusing more on student success than ever before.

"They're doing things they know are going to improve their classroom," she said.

Heck also has worked to combat bullying, a problem that troubled the overcrowded middle school when she arrived.

She was instrumental in putting guidance lessons, such as the violence prevention program Second Step, back in the classroom and encouraging peer mediation.

"We're able to resolve a lot of things before they turn into something big," Heck said.

Fights went down dramatically, she said, from dozens a year in the past to less than five last year. And attendance has increased.

Gendron said it's the fact that Heck sits down with the students, one-on-one, and helps them solve problems and learn from their mistakes.

"She is truly committed to the kids," he said.

As the 2008 Wisconsin associate principal of the year, Heck also was considered for the national associate principal of the year award, sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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