Chris Alber – District 2
Chris Alber completed his Bachelor of Science in education at Indiana University and went on to earn a Master of Education degree at Indiana Wesleyan – Marion, and completed the principal’s licensure program at Wesleyan seven years later. Having finished the program as an Educational Specialist in Public Education at Indiana State University, he is now pursuing an educational administration doctorate at Indiana State University as well. Beginning his career teaching social studies at the Michigan City Alternative High School, he also taught at Holmes High School in San Antonio, Texas, and then returned to Indiana to teach at Green Intermediate Center in South Bend. After his thirteen years in the classroom, Chris took on the role of assistant principal at La Porte High School and now serves as principal at Riley Elementary in La Porte. A member of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission since 2018, he is also a member of the Exchange Club of La Porte County. His focus on the welfare of students is evidenced by his school’s RAMP award, by the Guiding All Kids Initiative/Second Steps Curriculum providing social emotional learning in the K-8 curriculum district-wide, and by his development of a mentoring program that pairs an adult with a Riley student. One of the teachers at Riley writes, “From the first day of the school year, when Mr. Alber greets the kids on a red carpet in a tuxedo . . . Mr. Alber is always willing to do what it takes to make Riley an exciting place to work and learn.”
Kim Clark – District 3
Kim Clark earned her undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and principal licensure through Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. After thirteen years in the classroom, she became principal of Butler Elementary School (DeKalb County Eastern Community School District), a school of just over 400 students. Kim looks to the school’s diligent attention to data which drives instruction and student goal setting. Weekly, teachers have time scheduled for collaborative work which involves general education teachers, special education teachers, and administrators. In her own words, Kim says she is “fortunate to have a career that I love and to have the opportunity to work with amazing students and staff.”
Eric Schill – District 5
Eric Schill took his Bachelor of Science degree at Ball State University and his Master’s Degree in Supervision and Administration at Anderson University. After starting his teaching career in Carmel Clay Schools, he moved to South Madison Community Schools where he taught for four years before assuming the role of assistant principal at Pendleton Elementary in 2011 and going on to become principal in 2014. He counts as his proudest achievements as a principal the work of growing a culture of respect in his school, his efforts at building community relationships and partnerships, his development of his staff professionally, and his helping students with disabilities to have better access. In particular, with help from the community, he expanded the potential for inclusiveness of the school’s playground for children with physical challenges. Eric’s superintendents says, “He sets high standards while providing support to meet those standards.”
Jacob White – District 6
A graduate of Franklin College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education, Jacob White took his Master of Arts in educational leadership at Ball State University. After teaching eighth grade U.S. history at New Castle Middle School for seven years, Jacob served as Data Coach at Eastwood Elementary in New Castle and has been the principal there since 2014. He has energized parent involvement through Donuts with Dads and Muffins with Moms over the past two years and has seen a nearly 80% increase in parent participation in teacher conferences. By promoting the WISH program (work hard, improve daily, show respect, help others), he has further encouraged parents to participate in helping their children grow academically and socially while building student social and emotional growth through a PBIS program, now in its second year. Though no school teams participated in local competitions five years ago, Jacob has promoted burgeoning robotics, M.A.T.H., and Spell Bowl teams. His superintendent credits him with bringing Eastwood from a “D” to a “B’ rating. A fellow principal in the district says of Jacob, “Mr. White’s leadership does not come from a formal position of authority, but it has been developed through the way he leads his own life – with intentionality and working to encourage the greatness in others.”
Brooke Wessel-Burke – District 7
A graduate of Anderson University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education, Brook Wessel-Burke earned her Master of Science degree in educational leadership and administration at Redlands University in California. She began her career in education teaching in San Bernardino, California, moving to Perry Township schools in 2003. Her administrative career began as assistant principal in both Southport and Homecroft Elementary Schools which lead to her serving as principal at both Bunker Hill Elementary and – currently – Acton Elementary School, both in Franklin Township (Marion County). She implemented PBIS programs at both Bunker Hill and Acton, set up a PBIS lunch to reward students with consistently outstanding behavior at Acton, and promoted a student athlete reading and mentor program. Her contributions to promoting social development cover a number of social and emotional learning programs, including the introduction of a school support dog. She has also promoted staff well-being through a number of diverse and innovative programs.
Jennifer Nickel – District 8
Having earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from Indiana State University, Jennifer Nickel pursued a Master of Education degree and her administrative certificate from Indiana Wesleyan University. She is the principal at Hoosier Prairie Elementary School in Terre Haute. With passions for making schools better for students and for promoting professional development for teachers, Jennifer includes her community in her efforts as coordinator of the mayor’s Character Education Awards presented monthly in Terre Haute. From “Wear It Wednesday” when students and staff all wear “Be the Kind Kid” T-shirts to the “Starbooks” Café where students are rewarded for good behavior by having hot chocolate and a tasty treat for half an hour while reading, playing board games, or chatting with friends, Jennifer promotes the values of respect and kindness. Her latest proposal is to outfit an old school bus with books, games and educational activities and travel to impoverished areas within the community to encourage those hard to reach students and parents to encourage them to become more involved.
Krista Nelson – District 9
Krista Nelson earned her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education with a science endorsement from Indiana University and her Master of Science degree in education with a concentration in mathematics education from Indiana Wesleyan University. Subsequently, she graduated from the Teacher Leadership Academy (CIESC), earned her administrative license through the Indiana University Principal Academy, and was designated an education specialist after attending the Indiana Principal Leadership Institute at Indiana State University. Commencing her career as a third and fourth grade teacher at Forest Glen International Elementary School (MSD of Lawrence Township in Marion County), she became first assistant principal and, two years later, principal of Templeton Elementary School (Mooresville Consolidated Schools). She currently serves as principal of Center Grove Elementary School. During her career in administration, she has applied for and received over $50,000 in grant funding to help students and staff meet academic, social, physical, and emotional needs, formed an advocacy group to counter bullying, and implemented a Fresh Fruits and Veggies program that allows students to have a healthy snack once a week. In her current position, she has worked with teachers and administrators to develope district curriculum assessments and has facilitated understanding of how to use Indian College and Career Standards in classrooms. Her superintendent says, “The high expectations she places on her staff and herself have created a stronger team where everyone is working toward a common goal of student achievement.”
Amy Linkel – District 10
Earning her Bachelor of Science degree in education at Indiana University, Amy Linkel went on to earn both her Master of Education degree and her administrative degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. Following a six-year career as a teacher at South Ripley Elementary School, she became assistant principal and now principal at that same school in the South Ripley Community school district. Last year she successfully initiated eLearning days, and this year implemented a special STEM class for students in pre-K through sixth grade to attend once a week. She is the recipient of numerous grants to improve student learning. Amy is especially proud of her school’s Sixth Grade achieving first place among the ISTEP+ scores for 2014. Amy’s superintendent writes, “One of Amy’s strengths is her ability to create a culture of collaboration in her building.”
Ashley Bruggenschmidt – District 11
Ashley Bruggenschmidt completed her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education at the University of Southern Indiana and earned her Master of Education degree in school administration from Indiana State University. After two years as assistant principal, she became principal of Sharon Elementary School (Warrick County School Corporation), According to her superintendent, Ashley transformed Sharon Elementary from a school performing at the Academic Watch level and reporting a Free and Reduced Lunch population of 38% to one that has earned an Exemplary or A grade for nine of the past ten years. By working to improve her staff and school climate and by building relationships with churches and businesses, she has created a community-wide culture of support for students and their families. Academic challenges, however, are not the only obstacles she has overcome. After her oldest child, Kate, was killed in an ATV accident, Ashley worked tirelessly for the passage of HEA1200/Kate’s law, requiring children under eighteen to wear a helmet on or in any off-road vehicle. Her efforts did not stop there. She went on to create the Indiana ATV Safety Coalition, to patent an ATV safety robot, and to fund an all-inclusive playground at the Boonville Youth Softball Complex as well as ten scholarships for graduating seniors through the Play for Kate Foundation she founded.
Mindy Dablow – District 12
Not long after graduating from Hanover College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education, Mindy Dablow went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Indianapolis. In 2005, she completed work on her building level administrator’s license in the Prospective Principals Cohort Group at Indiana University. After ten years in the MSD of Perry Township (Marion County) serving as a first grade teacher and Reading Recovery teacher leader, she moved on to Clark County Schools to take on the role of principal at Jonathan Jennings Elementary School. From 2012 to 2013 she worked as an educational consultant in Brooklyn, New York. In 2015, she became principal of Clarksville Elementary School. One of her first actions was to work with the school leadership team to develop formative assessments for ELA, math, and writing for each grade level, to implement a Positive Behavior Intervention Support Plan, and to create the Fourth Grade leadership Academy. The results include a culture of data-driven instruction and achievement of an A rating for a school with over 70% of students receiving free or reduced lunch. These academic achievements have come in tandem with an overall improvement in school climate, supplemented by growing community partnerships.