During a two-day conference in Washington D.C., 58 winning principals of the 2016 National Distinguished Principals Award presented by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, stood up to say how “proud” they were to serve their school.
When it came time for Christ the King principal Kathy House to speak, her introduction was a little more faithful.
“I am the blessed principal at Christ the King Catholic School,” House told Arkansas Catholic. A public school principal from each state won the honor (including two in Ohio), in addition to five private schools (three Catholic, two Lutheran) and two international schools. The NAESP awarded elementary and middle school administrators based on their “superior contributions to their schools and communities,” according to naesp.org.
While many of the public schools were high achieving, House said leading a Catholic school sets the learning environment apart.
“What makes us different is all of that can be taught through the love of Jesus,” she said.
The Oct. 6-7 conference included speakers, a chance to tour the National Archives and an award ceremony at the Capital Hilton.
“The award is a bell; everyone rang it for the children of our country,” House said, adding there wasn’t a dry eye among the principals.
Each principal also brought items to share with others from their home state, which House said she will share her “two huge shopping bags” full with students who are studying states and capitols. To represent Arkansas, House brought rice crispy treats — as Arkansas leads the country in rice production — Arkansas Parks and Tourism pins and fake diamonds from Hobby Lobby.
House has been at the helm of Christ the King, preK4 through eighth grade, for 23 years and said she’s proud to be a part of landmark changes to the school, which include the assistance program for students with learning differences, adding foreign language instruction, rich music and arts programs and bringing technological advancements to students, including tablets or laptops for every grade level.
“Just really trying to meet the kids’ needs for this digital age they’re in; that’s how they learn and keeping up with that is really important,” she said.
House was nominated for the D.C. award by the National Catholic Educational Association after she earned its Lead Learn Proclaim award in March.
While the award is an important recognition for the school, networking with the different principals was “the highlight for me,” House said.
Some of the ideas other principals shared that House said she hopes to implement at Christ the King are mixing fine arts with curriculum and instituting clubs dedicated to involving more girls in the sciences, possibly partnering with Mount St. Mary Academy.
“They Skype with women scientists once a month,” she said of another school. “… I think it’d be pretty easy to do.”
House returned to school Oct. 10, after spending two days with her husband Buddy as tourists in D.C. She said she was surprised to find a local television station at the school, ready to interview her about the award while students lined up outside their classrooms giving her high-fives and cheering.
While Christ the King stands out in many ways academically, she said it’s the connection as “a family under the family of God” that makes a difference.
“I see these kids on Sundays at Mass. I attend their weddings, I have their children coming back to the school,” House said. “It’s very much a family connection and it’s personal because we know each other very well and love each other … To me it’s not a job, it’s a mission.”
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