Dawson Countys schools continue to shine as Kristi Gerrells, assistant principal of Riverview Middle School (RMS), was named the Georgia Assistant Principal of the Year by the Georgia Association of Secondary Principals (GASSP).
Designated as a state winner, Gerrells is now eligible to be considered the 2013 NASSP/VIRCO National Assistant Principal of the Year.
When she received a phone call to notify her of being selected as one of the four finalists in the state, Gerrells said she was unaware of how extensive the process would be. The pool of state finalists included two assistant principals and two principals in Georgia.
She traveled to Savannah to interview with a panel of judges.
The director told me to not expect it to be easy, said Gerrells. I was interviewed for 45 minutes covering the whole spectrum of education, everything from my background to my philosophy, she explained. And when I came out, I had no idea how I did.
Gerrells was named the Georgia Assistant Principal if the Year on Monday, Nov. 6, during a lunch for attendees of the conference. After the announcement was made, Gerrells said that she spoke with the director of the GASSP, Milton Callahan, who opened her eyes to the national competition.
I had no idea that it went further than state, she exclaimed. In addition to being selected as the state winner, Gerrells was also notified by Callahan that she is the first assistant principal in Georgia to head to nationals.
Now, Gerrells is in the running to be one of three national finalists eligible for the 2013 NASSP/VIRCO National Assistant Principal of the Year. The three national finalists will be named in January 2013. Each of the National finalists will receive a grant of $1,500 and the National winner receives a $5,000 grant.
Excited about the opportunity to be a national finalist, Gerrells said she is just as happy with what she has received.
Its just an honor to represent the school and an honor to be able to share with them and talk with them about the things we are doing at Riverview.
Gerrells will travel to Washington D.C. in April 2013 to be recognized as a state winner. The three-day event will feature a national speaker, visits with legislators on Capitol Hill, and meeting and networking with some of the best assistant principals in the country.
She said the recognition is due to the closeness and communication within Dawson County Schools.
I have grown from being a teacher, to a teacher-leader, to a school leader, she said. Mr. Porter is really good to empower you to grow. He has that open communication that allows us to do the things we need to do to make it better. He sees the big picture helping me to help the kids just makes everything here better.
A growing process School Superintendent Keith Porter embraces.
Mrs. Gerrells is extremely innovative and creative in her approach to her duties and solving problems for her students, said Porter. She is a fantastic educator who truly cares about the students, and we are confident that she will do well in the national selection process as well, he added.
Gerrells is a fifth generation educator, following behind both of her grandmothers, Louise Walls and Rebekah Wilson, and her mother Elaine Wilson. Her sister, Keri Whitmire, is a kindergarten teacher at Blacks Mill Elementary.
Gerrells attended Dawson County schools, kindergarten through the 12th grade and has taught middle school for the system through her 21-year teaching career.
RMS Principal, Bill Zadernak has worked with Gerrells for the past 10 years. Shes been with me as a teacher and for the past four years, as an administrator and she really does a good job, he said.
This is great, he added. I am really, really happy and she is very deserving.