One assistant principal from each of the state’s 12 districts is elected by peers for an annual honor from the Indiana Association of School Principals.
This year’s District 9 Assistant Principal of the Year is from Jackson County.
Loriann Wessel served in that role at Seymour Middle School and the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center until taking over as principal at the latter building this school year.
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She was contacted over the summer about winning the award and was invited to apply to be the Assistant Principal of the Year for the state.
The IASP is a not-for-profit professional association serving more than 3,100 building-level administrators in the state. District 9 includes Bartholomew, Brown, Jackson, Johnson, Lawrence, Monroe and Morgan counties.
“Initially, I was shocked that someone would have taken the time to nominate me for this honor,” Wessel, 35, said.
“As a young administrator and first-year building principal, I didn’t think that I had proven myself enough to deserve this honor,” she said. “However, I am greatly honored to have been chosen as the Ninth District representative and hope to use this honor to bring light to the amazing work that is being done at Seymour Community Schools.”
All of the honorees were recognized the evening of Nov. 22 at JW Marriott in Indianapolis. The event included dinner, a slideshow of each award recipient and an awards ceremony.
Joining Wessel at the banquet were her husband, John Wessel, mother, Sally Hurley, and sister, Fayeann Hurley, along with retired administrator Linda Luedeman and Assistant Superintendent Lisa Ferguson. She missed having her father, Rock Hurley, there due to COVID-19 concerns.
Wessel eventually learned Luedeman nominated her for the honor. Luedeman retired in the spring as principal of the Sixth Grade Center, and Wessel worked under her until being named her successor.
Due to COVID-19 safeguards, each honoree was seated with their guests only.
“There wasn’t much mingling among the honorees due to social distancing; however, just being in the room with the other honorees motivated me to maybe one day be nominated as Principal of the Year for the Ninth District and maybe even the state,” Wessel said.
As she looked around the banquet hall, Wessel said she kept thinking how inspired she was by the administrators, some who have led buildings for years and others who are beginners like her.
“School leadership is often a lonely position, especially when you have to make difficult decisions that may not be popular but are in the best interest of the school community,” she said. “Being able to hear about the successes of administrators across the state made this position not so lonely.”
While the honor means a lot to her, Wessel said she believes there are so many other members of the SCSC community who deserve to be recognized for their hard work, especially in these times.
“Our teachers and instructional assistants deserve much more recognition than me,” she said.
“As a representative of SCSC, I would hope that my success is a representation of the investment SCSC puts into the growth of teachers, administrators and support staff through yearly professional development and opportunities to learn about and implement teaching methods, behavior management programs, culturally responsive practices and trauma-informed practices in our work with students, parents and community stakeholders,” she said.
Being named Assistant Principal of the Year for District 9 motivates Wessel to live up to the expectations set forth to even be considered for the honor, she said.
“I am motivated to make the Sixth Grade Center an engaging, nurturing and safe place for students to learn, to support teachers in their hard work and efforts to educate all students and to continue to involve parents and community members in the responsibility of supporting students and providing them opportunities to become productive citizens,” Wessel said.
Although COVID-19 has changed school operations, student management and modes of instruction, Wessel said she is more inspired now than she ever has been as a teacher and administrator.
“I am inspired by the desire of our students to do what it takes to come to school. I am inspired by the trust and obligation that our health professionals, community partners and families have placed on our schools to help maintain some sort of normalcy,” she said.
More than anything, she said she is inspired by teachers’ willingness to show up every day, despite the challenges and concerns, and educate students, whether it be in person, with half students present and half at home or with all students at home.
“If anything, this year has taught me the extreme importance our public schools have to our community, whether it be providing an education, making food and resources available to families and protecting the social and emotional health of our students,” Wessel said. “Please take a moment to say thanks to a teacher, aide, bus driver, food service personnel or anyone who works in the school system.”
As the school year continues, Wessel said she looks forward to seeing her staff members continue to rise to the occasion and clear obstacles that are in their way.
“I love that I get to play a small role in supporting teachers in learning new technologies and ways of teaching in the virtual world,” she said. “I also look forward to leading students forward in what has probably been the most challenging school year for them. Now more than ever, it is important to encourage our students to keep pushing forward and making the best of our circumstances.”
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Name: Loriann Wessel
Education: Brownstown Central High School (2003); Indiana University (bachelor’s degree in secondary education, 2007); Ball State University (master’s degree in educational administration, 2012)
Occupation: New principal of the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center
Prior experience: Seven years as a social studies (government, economics and psychology) teacher at Salem High School in Washington County and five years as assistant principal at Seymour Middle School
Family: Husband, John; daughter, Carly; son, Henry