Pine Valley principal wins prestigious award

OBSERVER Photo by Damian Sebouhian Kelly Zimmerman, Pine Valley elementary school principal holds her Educational Leader of the Year award bestowed by Niagara University’s College of Education. Standing with Zimmerman are (from left to right) Chandra Foote, Dean of College Education at Niagara University; Scott Payne, Pine Valley superintendent of schools; and Dr. James Mills, supervisor of educational leadership at Niagara University.

PINE VALLEY — Elementary School Principal Kelly Zimmerman was presented with Niagara University’s Educational Leader of the Year award during last week’s school board meeting.

“For the last 30 years, Niagara University has been recognizing educational leaders, both in the United States and in Canada,” announced the Dean of College Education at NU, Chandra Foote, as she presented the award to a surprised and emotional Zimmerman. “We are very pleased to announce that our Educational Leader of the Year for the United States is Kelly M. Zimmerman.

“Business leader and educator Peter Drucker once said ‘management is doing this right. Leadership is doing the right things.’ Kelly M. Zimmerman, elementary school principal and director of special education for the Pine Valley Central School District has been doing the right things as a leader for quite some time.”

Zimmerman was hired by the Pine Valley district in August of 2015 after building a considerable resume with Amherst Central School District, where she served in several roles as school psychologist, intern assistant principal and assistant director for special education and pupil personnel services.

“(Zimmerman) worked proactively with the State Education Department, parents and teachers in order to rebuild the delivery model and effectiveness of special education to meet our students needs,” said Pine Valley Superintendent Scott Payne. “The results have been dramatic. Kelly easily develops rapport with the challenging students as well as with their families and knows just what to do in terms of making connections with them that lead to insightful plans to address difficulties.

“Relationships are a priority to her, which allows Kelly the ability to easily navigate administrative tasks, support teachers and maintain a high degree of confidence with parents and community members,” Payne added.

Director of Human Resources for the Amherst Central School District Michael Belle-Isle said that “Zimmerman was easily one of the most respected professionals in our district. She (has) a wealth of background experience and combines that with natural leadership skills that others gravitate towards.”

Foote concluded that (Zimmerman’s) dedication to the teachers, staff, students and families of western New York, especially students facing significant challenges, “is why she has been chosen for the honored title of Education Leader of the Year.”

Zimmerman told those in attendance that the award was “certainly unexpected. I sincerely mean it when I say that I could not have achieved anything here at Pine Valley without the support of our teachers and staff and our administration and our students. This was a surprise and quite an honor.”