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Denver Elementary School principal wins statewide honor

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DENVER | Denver Elementary School students gave Principal Kim Tierney high-fives as they filed into the gym for a Thursday morning pep rally.

As they waited for the assembly to start, the children stomped their feet on the bleachers and clapped their hands in unison.

But it wasn’t until later when Superintendent Brad Laures announced School Administrators of Iowa had named Tierney the 2014 Iowa Elementary Principal of the Year that their excitement really boiled over.

He lined up a group of students, each holding a piece of paper with a word on it, and read what they spelled out: “SAI principal of the year. Boys and girls, you are looking at the entire state of Iowa the principal of the year,” said Laures, as Tierney stood nearby.

Students and staff immediately stood and began clapping and cheering.

“I feel really happy today to be in front of you guys as I accept this award,” said Tierney after the applause died down. But she said it wasn’t only her effort that won the honor.

“I’ll tell you what probably made Denver stand out is we do so many things as a team,” she said. “Our team has done some incredible things.

“This isn’t about me being principal of the year, it’s about the hard work you’re putting in,” she continued, mentioning the school’s students, teachers, cooks, custodians and parents. “These teachers are the folks that just earned principal of the year, so let’s give a standing ovation to our teachers.” As students again rose and applauded, she named the school’s teachers.

“Kim is outstanding. There’s nobody that’s as passionate about education, about kids, as Kim,” said Laures, after the assembly. “The same energy that you saw here is the same energy she displays all the time.”

Clive-based School Administrators of Iowa accepts nominations from regional groupings of school districts each year for various principal and superintendent honors. Executive Director Dan Smith, a former Cedar Falls School District superintendent, said six or seven nominations were received for the elementary principal honor. Tierney was one of three finalists chosen and interviewed by a committee of elementary principals.

“I know Kim pretty well and was very pleased that she was selected,” Smith said in a phone interview. “She’s an outstanding young administrator. The very first quality that comes out with Kim is her positive, exuberant outlook.”

He noted that Tierney is very involved in Denver Community Schools’ Professional Learning Community effort. The district was recognized in 2012 as a national PLC model by Solution Tree, an educational strategies provider.

“The honors that we’ve received in this district are collaborative in nature,” Tierney said after the assembly, suggesting that “probably impressed the committee more than me individually.”

Tierney, who has been an educator for 10 years, earned a teaching degree at the University of Northern Iowa and a master’s degree at Iowa State University.

She’s been Denver Elementary’s principal for the past six years. In 2012, she was named one of The Courier’s 20 Under 40 winners. Tierney taught fourth and fifth grade in Waukee for four years prior to that and was the district high school’s head volleyball coach.

She still looks to her coaching experience as a principal.

“I really feel like that’s what being a principal is all about, is being a head coach and pushing people together,” said Tierney.

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Local News Editor

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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