January 31, 2022
Tina Miller is the 2021 Wisconsin Elementary Principal of the Year. She has served as principal of Howe Elementary School in Wisconsin Rapids for five years.
Humbled, thankful, inspired, motivated.
In March of 2021, my superintendent called me and congratulated me on being selected as one of Wisconsin’s Kohl Leadership Recipients. I remember opening up the Kohl email and reading it a few times to be sure I read it correctly. My superintendent had a few more surprises up his sleeve. Little did I know, when he told me to bring my whole student body to a local field house (keep in mind this is COVID), that the most incredible and most humbling experience was about to happen.
My students, staff and family were all present on that chilly day in March. I remember looking around the field house and seeing all of those faces who impact me and keep me inspired and motivated to bring excellence every day. Some days that means the font of eternal positivity, some days that means having the tough conversations with parents or staff, and some days it means being grateful you are wearing a mask to cover your face as your jaw drops open at the next new thing that has never happened before.
As my superintendent announced the Kohl Honor, he then said the best words I’ve heard in 2021, “I have a surprise. There is only one principal in the state who is selected for the principal of the year. … It’s Mrs. Miller!” Through my tears, I saw my parents glowing; I saw a kindergartener come up to me asking me if I needed a hug and telling me not to be sad; I heard the cheers of colleagues and a large group of people cheering … for me? That is hard to acknowledge when our primary job is to be the cheerleader for others.
I still shake my head at the honor and the impact it has had on my career. I increased my network of outstanding educators by meeting many inspiring Principal of the Year leaders in Washington, D.C., and throughout the Midwest. I am inspired and motivated to keep being my best in the midst of a highly challenging year, where our youngest learners missed out on interactions with peers and in-person learning in their earliest years of schooling. I am constantly collaborating and learning tenaciously about trauma-informed care and academic best practices because that is what our children need.
The staff at Howe Elementary and my colleagues in Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools help me to stay inspired and motivated as they put relationships first – and are a group of talented educators who put children first. I am also grateful for organizations that celebrate education and educational leaders, such as AWSA, The Meemic Foundation and the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. I am humbled and will continue to strive to be the best I can be every day.
One School.One Voice. Howe Family. We are a family, and there is no more fantastic sound than my whole school saying it in unison and feeling it in their hearts.