WilmU alumna and Richard A. Shields Elementary School Principal Jenny Nauman prides herself on knowing every detail about her school.
Every detail, that is, other than the one her students, faculty, district administrators and family kept from her, which was that she was named the 2016 National Distinguished Principal of Delaware. They spilled the beans on May 24, when students chanted her name and celebrated her win during a surprise assembly.
Nauman, who earned a bachelor’s in Elementary Education from the University of Delaware and a master’s in School Administration from WilmU, was humbled — and a little surprised by the hoopla. She jokes that it must’ve been hard to keep the secret.
“My assistant principal didn’t alert my husband until a day before because she feared he’d slip up,” she says.
She’s no stranger to accolades. In 2013, Nauman was the first Delaware professional to receive the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership from the U.S. Department of Education. But the Distinguished Principal honor, she feels, is a reflection of a collaborative effort among staff, teachers and parents who support a student-centered approach to education.
“Shields works because we’ve all built a great relationship that’s based on trust,” says Nauman. “I have an open-door policy where parents know they can stop by, email or call me with anything big or small.”
It’s a joy for her to be recognized in tiny Lewes, Del., the community in which she works and lives with her two daughters, Anna, 11, and Elle, 13, and her husband, John. She runs into students and parents at the grocery store or on her way to the gym, and that connection is akin to the type of community feel that Nauman nurtures at Shields. She knows the names of all 700 students.
Each year the National Association of Elementary Principals awards administrators from 50 states for setting high standards for instruction, student achievement, character and environment for students, families and staff. Receiving the honor inspires Nauman to stay ahead of the curve, though she has already championed a technological communication tool. She piloted the use of a new school app that communicates with parents through push notifications that go straight to their phones. This school year, the Cape Henlopen School District is following her lead by using the app district-wide. WU