Taranko is Michigan’s ‘Outstanding Principal.’

December 16, 2016
Hart's Spitler Elementary Principal Amy Taranko, displays her "Outstanding Principal" award with a class fo third grade students.

Hart’s Spitler Elementary Principal Amy Taranko, displays her “Outstanding Principal” award with a class of third grade students.

Taranko is Michigan’s ‘Outstanding Principal.’

#OceanaCountyNews #HartPublicSchools

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

HART — The “dynamic” Amy Taranko, who is the Spitler Elementary School principal for Hart Public Schools, was recently awarded as the “2016 Outstanding Practicing Principal” by the Michigan Elementary and Middle Schools Principals Association.

“We nominated her because we always thought she was the best,” said Hart Superintendent Mark Platt. “Now everyone knows.”

“I think (the award) validates all the hard work my staff has put into making Spitler better,” Taranko said. “You don’t do the work to get recognized, but it’s nice when someone notices.”

“Amy is a rock,” said Platt who also describes the principal as a “dynamic go-getter.”

As the Michigan recipient, she is in the running for the national outstanding principal award, which will be announced next fall, Platt said.

He said the award goes to principals not only with dynamic personalities, but also those who are constantly seeking ways to improve their school. Taranko definitely fits the bill. Not only is she loved and admired by her students, she has made many improvements to help the kids gain academic success, such as “Treasure Time.” The principal has also managed to create a very “cohesive” staff that includes teachers who merged from other buildings.

“Amy’s professional growth is a model for her staff and fellow colleagues,” Platt said. “She has never been satisfied with what she knows, but has continued to seek out collaboration with others to help foster learning.”

Taranko received the award during the state MEMSPA conference, Dec. 9, in Traverse City. Her parents, Alfred and Gayle DeOtte of Kalkaska, attended the banquet and got to watch their daughter receive the prestigious award. Both retired principals, Taranko has learned a lot from her parents. “They’re great role models, and they offer a huge amount of support. They have a lot of integrity and wisdom.”

The principal was nominated by Title I teacher Michelle Hansen and fourth grade teacher Sara Nordlund.

In her 24th year of education, Taranko earned her teaching degree from the University of Michigan and her master’s degree in school principalship from Central Michigan University. She taught at Hart Middle School from 1993-2009. In the 2009-10 school year, she was the principal at Hart Upper Elementary. This school year is her seventh year as Spitler’s principal.

The focus of the award is “instructional leadership, student relations, staff relations, parent relations and professional growth,” according to a MEMSPA press release. Three of Amy’s teachers, Tracey Laakesonen, Amanda Balkema, and Ann Herrygers wrote this about their leader: “We didn’t realize when Amy Taranko first became the principal of Spitler Elementary that we would be embarking on a great journey. The Hart Pirate teachers were from different ships when the elementary buildings merged into one with a new ‘captain.'”

As a leader of instruction, Taranko started student data review meetings at Spitler. She fosters relationships with students by developing and supporting many traditions such as “Lil Pirate” of the month lunches. As a promoter of shared leadership, the principal encourages small and large staff achievements. Her school is thriving due to her commitment to school culture. To increase and improve communication with parents, Taranko implemented the “Communication” folder program with parents.

“As a professional Amy is a role model,” states MEMSPA. “Amy shows by example how leaders stay current, informed and collaborative.”

“I don’t see it as an award just for me,” Taranko said. “A lot of people have contributed along the way. “I have a top-notch staff, and I would put my staff up against any other staff around. We are all here for the right reason, and those reasons are the kids.”

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