A Winning Principal

Ever been summoned to the principal's office? Whatever your memories of your school's top leader may be, West Field Elementary Principal, Dr. Joe Pierce, will be remembered this year for winning the title of Oklahoma Elementary School Principal of the Year.

"It's an honor and a chance for me to brag on my terrific staff and the great kids that we have here at Westfield," said Pierce.

Pierce was nominated by an anonymous colleague through the Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals. He was recognized along with each district winner at the OAESP mid-winter conference in January.

District winners were narrowed to three top contenders, all meeting various criteria and reviewed by a panel of former award winners. A site visit was conducted where panelists toured schools, interviewed nominees, teachers and parents. In April, Pierce was selected as the winner.

Education has always been a natural and important aspect of Pierce's life, as he comes from a family of educators. His mother worked for the Board of Education in his hometown of New Castle, Indiana.

His value for education compelled Pierce to enter the teaching field in 1983 where he taught in the Putnam City School District and eventually moved on to Edmond schools where he taught at Sequoyah Middle School in 1989. Two years later, Pierce was hired as the assistant principal of Washington Irving Elementary and in 1993 he became Central Middle School's assistant principal. Pierce moved up to principal in 1998 when he was hired at Orvis Risner Elementary.

Pierce's second tenure as principal came in January 2006 when he was named principal of West Field Elementary, the newest state-of-the art elementary school in Edmond. Pierce commented that it was rare that he was personally able to hire each staff member.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to do that," said Pierce.

Success became the top priority at West Field Elementary. This is evident in the school's mission statement: an acronym for the word WEST-Where Everyone Succeeds Together.

And the success at West Field Elementary is booming. According to Pierce, a teacher recently won a state level award and several students won local art and writing awards.

"I mentioned to the students the other day that we are a school of winners," said Pierce. "I want to build a legacy that we strive for excellence."

One of the goals for West Field is to serve as a Great Expectations School, where faculty members use methodology with an eclectic approach that encompasses the best of what is known about teaching today.

West Field also focuses on building professional learning communities through the staff as they work with grade level teams, giving them time during the day to collaborate on curriculum planning and assessment data so they learn from each other on best practices.

Technology is another priority. West Field classrooms have ceiling mounted LCD projectors equipping teachers with the latest advancements in teaching.

Pierce implemented many programs at Orvis Risner Elementary, some of which were incorporated into the plans for West Field-Watch D.O.G.S or Dads of Great Students, who are positive role models with an extra set of eyes and ears, Reading Renaissance, which stresses the importance of reading independently, and the Fine Arts Institute, which brings art instruction to fourth graders.

"To see everything come together on the first day, when our students arrived and went to their first classes, that was a really exciting day," said Pierce.

Aside from leading the new school, Pierce spends his free time with his family, keeping up with his ten-year-old son who plays a variety of sports and his one-year old daughter, recently adopted from China.

For many students at West Field, Pierce will be remembered as an active principal who cares deeply for his staff and students. Some may remember seeing him walking through the halls and cafeteria putting the "pal" in principal.
Because of his involvement and career achievements, Pierce is certainly good at what he does. The success of his new school is a prime example. No doubt, that's why he's the number one principal in Oklahoma.

This fall, Pierce will attend the National Association of Elementary School Principals two-day award ceremonies competition in Washington, DC.

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