Oaklawn Elementary School Principal Jennifer Lingenfelter was recently named District 4 Elementary Principal of the Year by the Indiana Association of School Principals (IASP).
District 4 is located in west central Indiana and is made up of Benton, Carroll,
Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Warren and White Counties.
Lingenfelter will be honored during the a recognition ceremony Nov. 20. The recognition ceremony is a part of the 2022 Principals of the Year Recognition Celebration, a part of IASP’s annual Fall Professional Conference. The award will be presented at a dinner at the Indianapolis JW Marriott Hotel at 6 p.m. with the IASP State President, Matt Shockley, presiding along with Dr. Todd Bess, Executive Director.
District Elementary Principals of the Year are elected by their peers. One principal is honored from each of the 12 districts. From these 12 District Elementary Principal winners, one is chosen as the 2022 State Elementary Principal of the Year. The state winner will be announced at the award celebration.
The Indiana Association of School Principals is a not-for-profit, professional association serving over 3,300 building-level administrators in the state of Indiana.
The Herald Journal recently spoke with Lingenfelter about being honored and her career in education.
“It was very humbling and definitely unexpected,” Lingenfelter said about being honored. “And much appreciated.”
Lingenfelter earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University and her master’s degree and her administrative certification from Indiana University.
Lingenfelter is in her 29th year in education and her 16th year at Oaklawn Elementary.
Lingenfelter started her teaching career in New Albany in 1993 and began her career as an administrator in 2005 at Roosevelt Middle School as the assistant principal and moved onto Oaklawn in 2006.
Lingenfelter credits her parents as her biggest inspiration to become a teacher.
“My parents were probably my biggest influence as my first teachers at home,” she said. “And then I had a lot of very dedicated and caring teachers throughout my time in elementary, middle and high school. That kind of just fostered that love for learning and I knew that someday I wanted to be able to pass that along to other children that I would be able to work with.”
As for her move into the administrative side of education, Lingenfelter said she was exploring going back to school to get her master’s degree and discussed the idea with Urbie Keithley, a principal she was working with at the time.
Keithley had trusted Lingenfelter with some leadership roles in the school and recommended she looking into becoming a principal.
Once she got started down that avenue of education, Lingenfelter said she knew she had made the right choice.
“Once I got started with the course work and started working towards my internship and got involved with some things there, I just knew that was the next direction I wanted to take,” she said.
Asked what were a few of the most important lessons she’s learned over the course of her career in education, Lingenfelter spoke of the importance of building relationships.
“First and foremost is that you have to build relationships with the people you work with,” she said. “Whether you’re working with children or adults, people have to understand that you care so that you can lead.”
Another of the important takeaways Lingenfelter said she’s learned from principals she’s had the privilege of working with during her career was to never forget what it is like to be a teacher in the classroom.
Lingenfelter was also asked how she feels the field of education has changed during her career.
“Kids are still kids,” she said. “They look to adults for guidance and direction at whatever level you work. But I do think that definitely over the years the standards have become much more rigorous with more testing involved.”
Lingenfelter said the need to support families as a whole has also become more important over the years.
“I think that we have to support families as a whole,” she said. “That’s always been the case, but I see it even more now with so many challenges that people face with the ever-changing world.”
Lingenfelter spoke of the some of the aspects of her work that she’s enjoyed the most over the years.
“One of the best things is to be able to see how much kids have grown even after they leave Oaklawn,” she said. “I’ve had the privilege now to work with the children of some of my former students so that’s kind of exciting to watch those young people grow and now becoming parents on their own and reaching their dreams. That’s been very exciting for me over the years.”
Lingenfelter also expressed her appreciation for all of the people she’s been able to work with over the years.
“All the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with, whether it’s staff at school, families or students,” she said. “Since I’ve been in this profession for so many years, I’ve been able to work with some pretty amazing people over that time.”