Bridgewater Elementary School Principal Nancy Antoine is one of three finalists for Minnesota National Distinguished Principal.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA), which has Antoine as president-elect, announced the three finalists Monday. The emerging National Distinguished Principal will be selected in May.

“Being in the top three is rather incredible and humbling to me,” Antoine said. “This is recognition for what’s happening with our district − it tells me we’re on track.”

Antoine was nominated last year, but didn’t have time to complete the application process with preparing her then-high school senior for college.

Byron Elementary School Principal Abe Rodemeyer nominated Antoine and, in his letter of of recommendation, wrote, “As a colleague, I’ve always respected Nancy’s ability to lead thoughtfully, energetically, and most importantly with a student centered mindset.

“[Antoine] has a passion for educational equity and has been an ambassador for that cause throughout our organization,” Rodemeyer continued. “She is a woman of integrity and, in my opinion, has the character qualities that would represent the state of Minnesota and the entire NAESP organization.”

Antoine, who has been a principal 15 years, has mentored other principals, both current and up-and-coming and will be MESPA president starting July.

“I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve done a small part in helping three other principals be ready to take on an elementary principal job,” Antoine said.

Antoine said she’s learned a lot over the years about the development of children and how to program curriculum for them using data to inform decisions. In addition, she’s learned to utilize relationships with parents, who have “a wealth of knowledge” about their own children.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how best to partner with parents,” Antoine said. “We’re all working toward the same goal.”

Antoine added that social and emotional learning is a huge piece of being an educator and some just need a hug, affirmation from staff or opportunities to ask questions.

“We juggle more than just the academic needs of students,” Antoine said. “You don’t know the backgrounds of every single child.”

The other two finalists are Woodland Elementary Principal Lisa Carlson, in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public School District, and Woodson Kindergarten Center Principal Jessica Cabeen in Austin Public Schools, according to the associations.

“We’re so proud of Principal Antoine,” Northfield Superintendent Matt Hillmann said. “We believe she’s representing Northfield in the best way possible.”

Reach Reporter Ida Mojadad at 507-333-3135 or follow her on Twitter @APGidamojadad.

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