Bonner School Administrator to Represent Montana as National Distinguished Principal

BONNER — Each year, the National Distinguished Principal Program selects a principal from each state to set educational standards and build on the foundations of learning.

Principal Shelley Andres of the Bonner School District represents the state of Montana.

According to students and staff at Bonner School, a lesson in leadership can be seen in the daily actions of their principal.

“I think a good leader is someone who sets an example, someone we can feel comfortable talking to,” second-grade teacher Tricia Burgess said.

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A ceremony on February 1, 2022, in honor of Shelley Andres, Principal of Bonner School

“They will stand up and do the right thing,” fifth-grader Finley Hiller-Claridge said.

Literacy coach Jenae Bagby says a leader is someone you can relate to.

Meanwhile, second-grader Remy Messer told MTN News that it’s simple, leaders have courage.

The students and staff of the Bonner School District know what leadership is because they see it every day in their principal.

Shelley Andres

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Bonner School District Principal Shelley Andres

Now the rest of the nation’s educators will see Andres’ leadership as she represents Montana in the National Distinguished Principal Program.

Walking into a surprise call and a gymnasium full of students and colleagues eager to celebrate his achievement, Andres couldn’t believe the support that followed his announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

“It was amazing, just uplifting and overwhelming and humbling and kind and exciting all at the same time,” Andres said.

Alongside principals from across the United States, Andres will discuss funding, sit on panels, advocate for educators, and mentor others in her field. She will even meet the President of the United States.

Bonner Main Prize

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The National Distinguished Principal Program selects a principal from each state each year.

Becoming a leader of this caliber is not a sum of all accolades, but perhaps a sum of all small moments.

“She comes to the dining room and says ‘hi’ to us,” Remy explained.

“She always has a smile on her face when she walks down the halls,” Finley said.

It’s an example she sets from day one and upholds throughout the year.

Bonner School

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“Every year on the first day of school, she gives an apple and a handwritten note to every person in the building,” Bagby said.

This leadership proved essential when Bonner’s morale was low.

“She was a cheerleader when we were working from home, you know, and organized ways to keep us all afloat,” Burgess told MTN News.

According to Andres, doing all the little things is easy when she puts herself in the shoes of those she leads.

Shelley Andres

MTN News

Shelley Andres, Principal of Bonner School

“I would never ask anyone to do anything I’m not ready to do,” Andres explained, “whether it’s shoveling the driveway, helping out in the cafeteria, or doing recess.”

When she takes her place on the National Distinguished Directors Platform, Andres will share more than ideas about education, she will bring a Montana mindset to the national front.

“Connections matter, relationships matter, and you can do anything if you have that connection, and you can get staff, children and parents to do anything for you if they know you care about it,” Andres said.

Martha K. Merrill