To understand Jennifer Kelly's dedication to her students, one only has to look at the "event" she made for her WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) students' annual party.
To kill some time between stops on an evening full of activity, she invited more than two dozen eighth-graders to her home, and survived.
But the proof is also in her numbers at St. Michael-Albertville Middle School East. More than 85 percent of students here are involved in some sort of activitiy. Every actitity offered has 100 percent participation. More than 87 percent of all students are proficient or exceeding proficiency on state standardized exams. And the school's trimester honor roll is often a mile long.
For all of those reasons, and more, Kelly was recently named Minnesota Middle Level Principal of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, and is now in the running for 2014 National Middle Level Principal of the Year, sponsored by MetLife and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Kelly, who joined the St. Michael-Albertville School District in 1994 as a sixth grade teacher, has been principal at East in 2005. For two years, she battled crowded halls and helped push for a transition to two middle schools, which happened once the new high school opened in 2010.
St. Michael resident Brent Bjorlin, who nominated Kelly for the honor, said his two sons were benefactors of the principal's approach to caring for every kid. Particulary after Bjorlin's wife, Cheryl, was diagnosed with cancer.
"Jennie personally called to offer her support, and pledged that the [middle school] staff would keep my boys on track, and keep a watchful eye on their wellbeing," Bjorlin wrote in his nomination.
Teacher Patrick Mueller, who works at East, said his boss "demonstrates excellence," and that Kelly's leadership style "fosters the kind of envrionment that every middle school should have.
Finally, Dr. James Behle, who has been Kelly's leader the past two school years, said Kelley one of the most skilled administrators he has worked with in his 30 years as a school administrator.
"I often rely on her for honest feedback and viewpoints, trusting that she has analyzed issues thorhoughly," Behle said. "You only have to step in the door of Middle School East to immediatlely experience the synergetic, positive and enthusiastic environment" she's created, Behle said.
Kelly will compete against other administrators from the United States for national teacher of the year this fall.