VFES principal receives Indiana Assistant Principal of Year award for her work at SES

VFES principal receives Indiana Assistant Principal of Year award for her work at SES

In everything she does, Tiffany Barrett puts her heart into it.

When she started at Scottsburg Elementary School, Barrett looked around the halls and realized she wanted to make a positive difference there. She gathered community members, school officials, city organizers, students, staff, and parents and went to work. The group started by painting the walls in the halls and classrooms, which had not been changed for many years. They transformed it into a bright, cheery environment fit for an elementary school.

“School improvement is at the heart of any educator, however, only the best educators put heart into school improvement,” Barrett said. “I begin with this statement to stress the importance of my belief that students, parents, and staff will only follow a leader who is invested. This is at the forefront of every action, every decision, and every thought I make for my school, and my district, each day.”

Her efforts did not go unrecognized. Not only did it help shape Scottsburg Elementary School into its Indiana Department of Education grade “A” accountability status, her efforts also earned her the 2015 State Assistant Principal of the Year award. She also won the District 12 Assistant Principal of the Year; the district consists of 10 counties in southwest Indiana, including Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Jefferson, Crawford, Ohio, Orange, Scott, Switzerland, and Washington counties.

“When I received the award, I was completely surprised,” said Barrett, who is now the principal at Vienna-Finley Elementary School. “ I never dreamed that I would be chosen from all the candidates. They were all worthy and do so much for their students. The real value in the award is in the people who have supported me to get to this point.”

Ten years before she started in the administrator’s chair, she was in the classroom as an elementary school teacher. Barrett, a Scottsburg High School graduate, returned to Scott County School District 2 to do her student teaching, and she did so well that she was asked to fill a maternity leave in third-grade at VFES when her student teaching ended. When she finished the school year at VFES, Barrett was hired at Johnson Elementary School for a full-time Kindergarten position. She eventually switched to third grade and was a third-grade teacher for the next nine years.

“I think I was born wanting to be an educator. I played ‘school’ with my cousins and sister when they were younger. I don’t think there has ever been a time that I didn’t know that was what I wanted to be,” Barrett said.

It was not until later in her career that she found out she wanted to be a principal.

“That is not something I originally set out to do and it wasn’t initially in the plan at all. I think it was something that I simply grew into,” Barrett said. “I have had the privilege of working with so many amazing teachers and administrators. I’ve picked up so many ideas and strategies from each of them that all fit together so well in the leadership role. I always wanted to go to new trainings and learn new things to make myself and our school better.”

The more time she spent sharing what she learned at conferences, trainings, and other professional development sessions, she was naturally placed into a leadership role at JES.

“The last few years that I was teaching, I felt very drawn to administration, even though I had no desire to leave the classroom. It was a bittersweet decision because I really had no reason to leave teaching, other than my internal desire to become a principal,” Barrett said. “Although it was extremely scary and a little bit painful leaving what I was so happy doing, I feel like I didn’t really leave the classroom at all. I just have a much larger class now.”

After teaching at JES, Barrett was hired as the assistant principal at SES and elementary eLearning coordinator for the district.

“Once I became an administrator, my goal was to serve my school community as best I could and become as knowledgeable as possible in leadership skills,” Barrett said.

At SES, Barrett helped communicate with staff, parents, and students on all things technology-related and organize programs that led students and their families toward positive outcomes. She worked to improve student attendance, worked to celebrate the community through honoring veterans and bringing in community guest readers for Read Across America Day. She even scheduled a visit with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

“My belief that it all begins with a single positive thought will continue to push and motivate me to not only do my best but to encourage the best out of those around me,” Barrett said. “The two years that I’ve been an administrator have been nothing short of amazing.”

After spending two years at SES, Barrett was hired as the principal at VFES in August. She was excited to come full circle and return where it all started.

“My hope is that my presence in our building makes an impact on students. Everything I do is for our kids, and kids are always first in my book,” Barrett said. “My hope is that I can help teachers get through all of the discipline, bookkeeping, and paperwork that goes along with the job and do what they do best — teach kids. My goal is to be better tomorrow than I was today.”

Barrett’s heart for her school and her community is what has made the difference. At Scott County School District 2, Barrett’s story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.