PLTW High School Principal Receives National Honor as “Principal of the Year”

Amid an auditorium full of students, teachers, State Superintendent Randy Dorn, state legislators, and his family, Trevor Greene received one of the highest honors given to secondary educators—the 2013 MetLife/NASSP High School Principal of the Year. The Thursday morning award was a complete shock to Greene; Toppenish School District Superintendent John Cerna elected to schedule a surprise assembly to present the award after receiving notification from MetLife/NASSP three weeks ago. Greene will be honored at a black tie gala in Washington, D.C., on September 21 to kick off National Principals Month. 

Greene has been principal of Toppenish High School, a school nestled in rural Washington in the heart of the Yakima Nation, since 2009. Since taking the helm, he has transformed the school culture into one that expects success, expanding academic opportunities for his students, many of whom had never been expected to succeed, let alone graduate. He added rigorous courses, including 27 Project Lead The Way (PLTW) engineering and biomedical science classes, a Microsoft IT Academy class, and a robotics class. To give students an opportunity to pursue postsecondary education, he made it possible for them to earn 30 college credits by the time they graduate from high school. He also made parental and community involvement a priority, reaching out to the migrant families and the Yakima Nation on the very reservation where he grew up.

“We are defying the odds,” said Toppenish Superintendent John Cerna. “A migrant population, high minority (96%), high poverty (99%). We have all the reasons we shouldn’t be successful. Now we have kids who are going on to be engineers and going to universities.”

Cerna credits Toppenish High School’s PLTW program with this success. Since its beginning, participation in PLTW courses has skyrocketed, the school’s dropout rate decreased, and state science scores increased by 67% over a three-year period.

“Our STEM program is bar none, one of the best in the nation,” Cerna said. “And that is because of the way it was done. We started small, the year after Trevor became principal. He got behind it right away. He’s carried it out, moved it forward. That’s a huge feather in his cap. I truly believe that’s why he’s won this award. Our PLTW program is what sets us, and him, apart from other high schools.”

In a joint release from MetLife and NASSP, leaders applauded Greene for his dedication and success.

“Trevor Greene played a central role in helping Toppenish achieve significant and sustained improvement among students who are affected by poverty and its associated issues,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “Trevor’s relentless effort to increase rigor and provide opportunities for all students, regardless of socio-economic status, ensures a personalized learning environment where every student feels valued.”

Continued MetLife Vice President Derrick Kelson: “We applaud Trevor for his leadership in engaging the teachers, parents, and all stakeholders in the transformation of Toppenish High School. His efforts empower students to fulfill their potential and create a brighter future for the community.”

The national principal of the year search began in early 2012 as each state principals association selected its state principal of the year. From this pool of state award winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. Greene and Laurie Barron, the national middle level winner, were then selected. Greene and Barron will each receive a grant of $5,000, which must be used to improve school learning (e.g. a special school project or professional development). 

The MetLife/NASSP National Principal of the Year Program acknowledges outstanding school leadership and the crucial role of principals as leaders and individuals who go above and beyond to make their schools the best they can be for students, teachers, and communities. For more information about the program and winners, please visit www.nassp.org/poy.