Union Elementary School principal Dr. Sara Stankus thought her students were focusing on the annual WESTEST Monday, so she could not fathom the reason she was being summoned to the gymnasium.
As she entered the room, she was amazed to see students and staff, faculty, family and friends packed into the place, all there to honor her for being named a National Distinguished Principal.
"I couldn't be any kind of great principal without great students and great staff," Stankus said, choking back the emotions as she addressed the crowd.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
Union Elementary School principal Dr. Sara Stankus, left, smiles Monday after learning she was chosen as the West Virginia honoree in the National Distinguished Principal’s program. Holding the banner which will hang in the school are third-graders Karris Stimson and Zachary Rowan, right.
Stankus has been the principal at the Upshur County school for the past six years, and Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lampinen said she was "very, very most deserving" of the honor.
"Dr. Stankus works very hard for her school and her students," Lampinen said. "Every single day she is doing something for the benefit of her students."
Stankus thanked all of those who worked behind the scenes to make the honor possible, from those who nominated her to those who served as references for her.
"I know there are other principals who deserve this honor," she said. "I am accepting this award in their honor."
A principal's job is to set the tone for the educational environment inside the school, she said, not just for the children, but also for those who educate them.
"A principal is so important to a school and to the students," Stankus said. "A principal can make the students really get excited about wanting to learn and the teachers really love to come to work."
The National Distinguished Principal Award is given to one school principal in each state. It can be given to a public, private, military or religious school leader. As part of the honor, Stankus will travel to Washington, D.C., in October, where she will attend a reception at the State Department and will also attend an awards dinner where the U.S. Secretary of Education will be the featured speaker.
To receive the award, a principal must be nominated by a colleague. The award is sponsored in part by the National Principals Association and Vilac.
Stankus will also received a specially cast school bell to commemorate the achievement.