The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Nieskens named national finalist


A Whitehall administrator is one of three finalists for the 2019 National Principal of the Year.

Whitehall 6-12 Principal Hannah Nieskens was announced as a finalist Monday by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. She is joined by finalists Lucas Clamp of Lexington, S.C., and Paul Kelly of Elk Grove Village, IL.

"I was shocked when I found out I was one of three finalists for the national award," she said.

Nieskens was also told this was the first time Montana has had a finalist for the national principal of the year award.

"I feel it is very infrequent that administrators from rural schools get recognized nationally for their contributions to the profession...It is a great honor to have been selected. I view this as an opportunity to represent Montana and all of the excellent school administrators we have statewide who work hard to provide a high quality education to their students. Montana is producing graduates who can easily compete with those from around the nation. I am just one of many school administrators in our state who are working diligently to make their schools better and provide their students with more opportunities," she said.

Whitehall Superintendent John Sullivan said being named a national finalist is a tremendous both personally and professionally for Nieskens, as well as great exposure for the school systems and what they are trying to accomplish.

"She does an outstanding job," he said.

Nieskens will be traveling to National Association of High School Principals Institute September 23 to 26 in Washington, D.C. The winner of the National Principal of the Year will be announced in October.

Earlier this year, she received the 2018 Montana High School Principal of the Year Award from the Montana Association of Secondary School Principals

Shortly after winning the state award, she credited students and staff in Whitehall.

"Building a culture of achievement in the school has been one of my goals, and I think this is happening with the buy in of the students and staff. You don't get an award like this without a great staff and students that are working hard every day," she said.

During her three years at the school, Nieskens said some of the things they have really worked hard on are dual credit courses with colleges, adding new career and vocational courses, AP Courses, a multi-tiered systems support grant from OPS to help students struggling in school and staff adjustments.

She also discussed Whitehall High School moving from 99th in the state in ACT testing to sixth among all schools in Montana.


When she took the job, Nieskens told the staff she doesn't think they have subpar students or a subpar staff, and asked why the students are scoring below the state average in ACT testing. She said they worked hard to exceed the state average and have gone from 99th to 25th to sixth in three years, with the goal from the 2018 testing to be in first place.

Prior to joining the administration in Whitehall, Nieskens was the Principal at the Northside School in Wolf Point. She has also worked as an Educational Computing Strategist for Clark County School District in Nevada, and was a teacher in the Billings Public School System.

Earlier this year, she was named an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow.


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