Educator Tamara Jagodzinski is not likely to forget May 8. What started off as a normal Wednesday for “Mrs. J” – as she’s known to students – was made memorable when a school-wide assembly surprised her with the Maricopa County Exemplary Principal Award.
Along with Hopi Elementary students and faculty, Mrs. J was enveloped in applause from her family, community members, fellow Scottsdale Unified principals and Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson, who presented her with a crystal statue.
“Winning this award is pretty incredible. I absolutely love my job and the work that I do. Not everyone has the opportunity to be recognized like this and I feel very honored,” Jagodzinski said.
Speeches were given by Watson, as well as SUSD Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Dr. Ibi Haghighat, Assistant Principal Amanda Rand, third grade teacher Whitney Keeler and two students.
“Some of her strengths include her ability to be resourceful as well as she appreciates and respects the wisdom from individuals with more experience. She is responsive to the needs of students, parents, community and staff,” Haghighat said.
The students also sang a few songs for Mrs. J, including the Hopi Hawks song, For She’s a Jolly Good Principal and You Are My Sunshine.
“I am really impressed. I know it’s really hard to get and Mrs. J is so deserving,” said fifth grader Gavin Knaub.
“It was pretty overwhelming. To have everyone gathered to participate in this with me was pretty amazing…It was an incredible moment, one I will never forget,” Jagodzinski said.
The Office of the Maricopa County School Superintendent begins the process of selecting Exemplary Principals by identifying leaders at schools with high student achievement and growth data.
Other criteria include “exemplifying practices and leadership (during the prior three school years) that contribute to high expectations and exceptional student learning, staff, parent and community engagement, utilizes data to guide instruction and decisions regarding staff development, has a history of high teacher retention and demonstrates the ability to successfully develop and inspire others.”
Each principal’s superintendent is asked for a statement of support plus the principal’s retention data.
Leaders from among Maricopa County’s 1,100 principals are recognized annually. Candidates are chosen from a certain criteria. Fifty were selected this year, based on high student achievement, student growth and teacher retention data. After more deliberation, 31 principals were invited to apply for the recognition program. From the 31 invitees, 11 educators were named Exemplary Principals.
“I am so happy and excited for her. She deserves it because she is a great principal,” said fourth grader Kinzie Brown.
“It is an honor to recognize Tamara as an Exemplary Principal,” Watson said. “In searching for great principals across Maricopa County, Tamara stood out as a positive force in education and has created a strong school culture that has students and teachers excited to come to school every day.”