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Willmar Middle School Assistant Principal Beckie Simenson, left, talks Friday with eighth-graders Jordyn Swoboda, center, and Maddie Thaden. Simenson has been honored as Minnesota Secondary Level Assistant Principal of the Year. The two students wrote a nomination at the beginning of the process nearly a year ago. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

Willmar Middle School Principal Simenson wins statewide recognition

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WILLMAR — Beckie Simenson, assistant principal at Willmar Middle School, has been named the top assistant principal in the state.

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The Minnesota Association of Secondary Principals selected Simenson for the honor, which was announced this week. The title of the award is Minnesota Secondary Level Assistant Principal of the Year.

“We are all so very proud of her at Willmar Middle School and are fortunate to work with Beckie each and every day and see the passion and energy she shares with students and staff,” Principal Mark Miley wrote in an email announcing the honor to the school staff.

She will travel to Washington, D.C., next spring, when the national award winner will be named.

On Friday afternoon, Simenson was trying to go about her usual business in between receiving flowers and hugs while listening to some gentle ribbing from her colleagues.

Last spring, she was named the top assistant principal in the state’s central division on the strength of nominations from Middle School Principal Mark Miley, teachers Chelsea Brown and Alison Maier, counselor Jeff Winter and some students.

The eight division winners wrote essays about changes they had worked on that dramatically changed their schools and submitted more letters of recommendation.

Simenson wrote about the ICU, a program of requiring high-quality work and tracking late student assignments with a database. Simenson said she included information about the school’s demographics and showed how academic achievement went up and disciplinary incidents went down under the system.

Simenson said the honor also brings positive attention to the school.

Simenson said she has been a teacher, a dean of students and an elementary principal, but she feels she has found the right fit at the Middle School. “It is the best job in the world.”

Maddie Thaden, 13, and Jordyn Swoboda, 13, wrote a nomination at the beginning of the process nearly a year ago. The eighth-graders said they have appreciated the way Simenson encourages students and is always willing to help them.

They were involved with her in a sixth-grade project called Girls in Action, which made crafts and sold them during lunch periods to raise money for the school.

“She may have some strict rules, but she’s still a fun principal,” Jordyn said. “Some kids just hate the rules she has,” added Maddie.

The rules are mostly about proper dress, Simenson said. The rules are about tight or revealing clothes, and they ban short shorts, exposed bra straps and spaghetti straps.

“We just want to maintain our dignity, right ladies,” Simenson said as she smiled at the two girls.

 “We can all tell she likes her job,” Jordyn said.

“I think a lot of her good energy rubs off on everybody, and that’s why we are such a good school,” Maddie added.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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