ASU education alums earn ‘Circle of Honor’ recognition

<p>Arizona State University’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL) is talking the talk and walking the walk, boosting its “Leadership in Making a Difference” reputation with a pair of state education honors recently awarded to college grads for their excellence in K-12 leadership.</p><separator></separator><p>Kris Vanica, principal at Dreaming Summit School in Litchfield Park, and Pam Sitton, who was principal at Black Mountain Elementary School in the Cave Creek School District before moving to the district level in Scottsdale in July, have been recognized as Circle of Honor recipients by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).</p><separator></separator><p>“Leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school,” says Rene Diaz, executive director of ADE’s Arizona Leadership Project. “It is difficult to have an effective school without an effective principal.</p><separator></separator><p>“Both these principals, Kris and Pam, have led their schools to sustained high scores under their leadership. They have provided exceptional service to their school communities. They know the importance of high expectations, accountability, follow-through, and compassion.”</p><separator></separator><p>The Circle of Honor program was started in 2006 by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and is designed to recognize the top one percent of principals in K-12 grade schools. In its first year, CTEL doctoral student Denise Donovan earned Circle of Honor recognition.</p><separator></separator><p>Suzanne Painter, associate professor and chair of CTEL graduate programs and professional development, chaired the initial Circle of Honor committee that was formed to assess what needed to be done to provide recognition for high-performing principals.</p><separator></separator><p style="margin: 6pt 0in; line-height: 150%" class="MsoNormal">“Kris and Pam are key educational leaders who have made a difference by leading their schools to excellence in student achievement,” says Painter. “There is a great deal of difference-making that goes on in schools, and it due to the exemplary leaders and teachers like Kris and Pam.</p><separator></separator><p>“These awards are the result of a rigorous selection progress.”</p><separator></separator><p>Vanica, who received her master’s in administration and supervision at the West campus college in 1996, got her start in the Litchfield in 2003 when she was named planning principal for the Dreaming Summit school that was still on an architect’s drawing board. The school opened in 2004 and she has been the principal of the 900-student, K-5 campus since. Over the past three years, the school has improved its “Performing Plus” standing to “Highly Performing” under ADE’s Elementary Achievement Profile.</p><separator></separator><p>“Being hired as the planning principal was an incredible opportunity,” remembers Vanica, who lists the appointment as a career high point. “Then, to put together a team that worked with the architects and builders, ordered all the furniture and equipment, and hired every teacher, staff member and support personnel – and to see all this come true – was something you just can’t imagine.</p><separator></separator><p>“Now I have a responsibility to bring the best out in those I serve and to make a lasting difference. This includes helping teachers and staff find their own leadership skills and styles in order to positively impact student achievement.”</p><separator></separator><p>She credits much of her success to lessons learned at ASU.</p><separator></separator><p>“I had so many incredible teachers at the West campus,” she says. “They challenged my intellect and made me examine myself. I explored topics that were directly aligned to my degree, and the classes not only supported my career choice, but gave me the tools that were absolutely necessary for my becoming the very best leader for students, staff and the community.”</p><separator></separator><p>Sitton, meanwhile, joined the Scottsdale Unified School District on July 1 and is the executive director of elementary schools and excelling teaching and learning, overseeing the progress of 17 schools and their principals. She was the principal at Black Mountain Elementary School, a K-5 campus with 600 students, for seven years. Under Sitton’s leadership, during the past three years the school has improved it Elementary Achievement Profile from “Performing” to “Highly Performing” to “Excelling.”</p><separator></separator><p>“This recognition is really all about the school, the teachers in the classrooms, the parents, and our students,” Sitton, who received her education master’s at the West campus in 1998 and earned her doctorate from Capella University in 2006. “This is a collaboration, and that is what it has to be in order to realize continuing success. You must work with others to move ahead; I’ve had a wonderful team behind me with a dedication and the ability to positively impact many young lives.”</p><separator></separator><p>Sitton says she is “absolutely prepared” for her new assignment with the Scottsdale district, and she considers it a logical next step.</p><separator></separator><p>“I gained a lot of practical knowledge about what it takes to be a principal,” she says of her years at ASU. “There are facilities considerations, budget considerations and more that take place outside the classroom, as well as the learning focus, that demand your attention as a principal.</p><separator></separator><p>“After I graduated from the West campus, I was immediately hired as an assistant principal in the Madison School District. I served for one year in that capacity and two years as the principal, and I felt like I had been well-prepared for the responsibility that came with the positions.”</p><separator></separator><p>Vanica and Sitton were presented their Circle of Honor awards at a ceremony in Tucson.</p><separator></separator><p>The College of Teacher Education and Leadership, through collaboration with educational and civic communities, prepares and inspires innovative educators to be leaders who apply evidence-based knowledge that positively impacts students, families, and the community. Visit <a href=""></a>.</p&gt;