2021 Assistant Principal of the Year-

Ryan Welch

Ryan Welch– District 2

Assistant Principal of the Year 

Ryan Welch earned his Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Ball State University in 2012 and his Master of Education degree in school administration from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2016. After teaching fourth grade at Wes-Del Elementary School (2012-2013), Ryan taught fifth grade at Riverside Intermediate School in Plymouth (2013-2016), where he has worked as assistant principal since 2016. At his school, he initiated a monthly trip to a local assisted living complex to improve students’ social awareness. The students would talk to residents for about half an hour, learning from their elders’ experience and giving those elders a positive experience with young people. Highly motivated to help his students succeed, Ryan received this commendation from two of his students: “Mr. Welch’s positive attitude, his respect, his morals, his understanding [are] what make him Mr. Welch. He will hold us to the same standards as he would anyone else, but he also understands that us humans can make mistakes and mess up. He understands that sometimes we can struggle, and he’ll help us push through.”

2021 Elementary School Principal of the Year-

Bonnie Stephens

Bonnie Stephens– District 1

Elementary Principal of the Year

Bonnie Stephens earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in math education from Valparaiso in 1997, starting her teaching career later that year at Hobart Middle School. After earning her Master of Education degree in educational leadership and foundations from Indiana State University in 2004,Bonnie took on the role of K-12 curriculum coordinator for the East Porter County School Corporation in 2005. Then, after earning her Doctor of Philosophy degree in educational leadership and foundations, also from ISU, in 2008, she was named principal of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School (Valparaiso Community Schools). In 2012, she became principal of Hayes Leonard Elementary School (Valparaiso). Then, in 2017, Bonnie became principal of Heavilin Elementary School (Valparaiso), fulfilling her dream of opening a new school, where she directed the future-focused design, hired an experienced and focused faculty, involved parents in articulating the vision of the new school, and brought together a new mix of students to feel ownership in their new environment.

2021 Middle School Principal of the Year-

Karrianne Polk Meek

Karrianne Polk Meek– District 6

Middle School Principal of the Year

A graduate of Ball State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education in 1990, Karrianne Polk Meek went on to earn her Master of Education degree in 2007 from Earlham College. She taught at Richmond High School from 2000 to 2013, serving as an instructional coach there from 2012 to 2014. She acquired her administrative licensing in 2014 and her applied educational neuroscience certification in 2020, both through Ball State. Principal of Test Intermediate School (Richmond), Karrianne counts among her proudest accomplishment “Adulting 101,” a program that took ten eighth graders through basic carpentry and plumbing training and – in recognition of completion – awarded each student with basic home tools, including power tools. Reflecting her passion for improving children’ lives, she partnered with United Way of Wayne County to create a series of lessons to address social and emotional well-being of students. In partnership with a local youth pastor and his wife, she created a series of videos that highlight, challenge, and celebrate the middle level student. From 2016 to 2018, she has also worked with the Townsend Community Center to bring free childcare to families, a service that included meals provided by a local hospital. A grateful parent writes of Karianne, “She listens. She hears. She suggests. She executes.”

2021 High School Principal of the Year-

Michael Cox

Michael Cox– District 4

High School Principal of the Year

In 1994, Michael Cox received his Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education and his K-12computer education certificate from Indiana University. Starting his career at Hamilton Height Middle School, he taught computer classes from 1995 to 1998, also serving as athletic director from 1995 to 2004and as dean of students from 1998 to 2004. Moving to Northridge Middle School in 2004, Michael taught social studies until becoming assistant principal at North Montgomery High School in 2007. He earned his Master of Arts in administration and supervision from Ball State University in 2008 and took on the job of principal at North Montgomery in 2014. In 2018, Michael obtained a Certificate of Applied Educational Neuroscience from Butler University. Though North Montgomery has a consistent graduation rate in the 96-98% range, has expanded career and technical education, dual credit offerings,and its AP programs, and maintained a state “A” rating, Michael regards these achievements as “simply doing our job.” He is most proud of the introduction of the cum laude recognition system and the implementation of applied educational neuroscience because both address specific needs of students and staff. His superintendent commends Michael’s expertise in educational neuroscience, his candor,and his sense of humor.

For more information about the selection process or to nominate someone for this prestigious award, please click here.

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