The fifth graders’ farewell song filled the gymnasium of Nehalem Elementary School moments before the school district surprised Kristi Woika, principal, as the Oregon Small Schools Association Administrator of the Year.
by Jordan Wolfe
“I’m blown away,” Woika said after the Nehalem Elementary Awards Assembly on June 15. “It is very overwhelming. I’m surprised and humbled. I have the best staff – they are such good people.”
Woika is the first administrator from Neah-Kah-Nie School District to receive the award, according to Paul Erlebach, superintendent.
“Criteria for this prestigious award includes integrity, leadership, commitment to community, scholarship, and student achievement,” he said, “Principal Woika shines in all of these areas.”
Erlebach said he wrote a letter to the OSSA board recommending Woika for the award.
His letter presented achievements and accomplishments Woika has earned during her tenure as principal, including the club SHE Warriors (Sharing Health through Exercise) she began, with other volunteer coaches, for fourth and fifth grade girls.
“This is not just a ‘running club,'” Erlebach’s letter reads, “SHE Warriors learn about nutrition, relationship building, volunteering, self-advocacy, empowerment, and goal setting, as well as running.
Erlebach mentions Nehalem Elementary School’s relationship with NCRD Woika has built, her instrumental role in supporting funding for a district-wide preschool program and mentoring aspiring principals.
One of her mentees is now a principal. Garibaldi Grade School’s principal, in fact.
Janmarie Nugent, Garibaldi Grade School’s new principal, said, “As my administrator mentor, Kristi taught me what a great leader looks like and what great leaders do.”
Erlebach said Woika accomplishes what other principals dream of accomplishing and proves her leadership as not just a building principal but a district principal.
“It is important to recognize her,” Erlebach said, “For me, she is administrator of the year, every year. The proof is in the pudding: she has lots of volunteers and she gets kids excited. See, I don’t have to say anything.”
As Erlebach finished his sentence numerous students from Nehalem Elementary flocked Woika.
Between the hugs, congratulations and well-wishes for the summer, Woika looked up and said, “This is the best place to be.”