FARMINGTON — Tracy Williams has a lot of fun in her job as principal of W.G. Mallett School. She enjoys the challenge each school day brings, students learning and growing, and she embraces teachers’ enthusiasm for the classroom.

Williams, principal since 2005, was named Maine’s National Distinguished Principal of the Year for 2015 during a school assembly Tuesday.

Honored by the recognition, she sought to include everyone at the school in her success.

This is the best feeling anyone can have, Williams said about the award. Even though she was honored for being recognized, she said she felt a little guilty because there are so many people who never receive recognition, including cooks and bus drivers.

“It takes all of those people to make a school what it is,” said Williams, who has been an educator for more than 30 years. She thanked the staff “greatly” for everything they have done.

“Williams received the award based on her accomplishments as a strong elementary educational leader, as a role model in the development of positive school culture, building student-centered programs, and has been instrumental in creating high-quality professional development for the staff in her school and district,” according to a Maine Principals’ Association release announcing the award.

Students in prekindergarten through second grade sat on the gymnasium floor with teachers and fellow staff nearby at the start of the assembly.

Williams greeted the audience, and turned the assembly over to Tom “Dr. Tom” Ward, superintendent of Regional School Unit 9.

This is a very special day, Ward said. There are very important people here to present an award to a special person, and to celebrate the success of the school as well as you, he told Williams.

Richard Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, told the children he was impressed by how well they conducted themselves when they came into the room. He said the MPA recognizes the best principal from an elementary school each year, as well as one from a middle school and a high school. An assistant principal is also recognized each year, he said.

The 49 other states are going through the same process and all 50 elementary school principals will be sent to Washington, D.C., to celebrate their achievements, Durost said.

He announced Williams as the Maine Principals’ Association’s choice for the 2015 Elementary School Principal of the Year, an announcement met by applause.

Williams, who lives in Farmington, told the children she felt very nervous. She has been to many assemblies, she said, but never one to honor her.

“This is all for us — not just for me,” she said. “It is about working together.”

Williams had invited her mother, Audrey Guay of Rumford, to the assembly, but her mother didn’t know why, Williams said.

Now she does.

When Williams was 12, she entered a speech contest. She practiced hard and ended up winning the grand prize, she said. But she never told her parents about the contest or the event.

When she won, they read about it in the newspaper and learned about it from their friends, Williams said.

This time, her mother was there for the grand announcement.

RSU 9 Assistant Superintendent Leanne Condon presented Williams with a “star” sticker.

Whenever you see Williams wearing the star sticker, Condon told the students, remember that she is the best principal in the state.

“It is very special to have this star sticker on me,” Williams said. “I’m going to keep it forever.”

Williams became interested in education when she was in high school. She volunteered to help students with special needs and was drawn to support struggling learners, she said.

“After being a speech therapist for a while and traveling long distances to do so, I wanted to try teaching, so I started in grade three,” Williams said. “When I encountered students in grade three who were still struggling to read, I went to (graduate) school to learn more, and eventually trained in (Reading Recovery) as a teacher.”

She then worked from the University of Maine in Orono as a graduate instructor of literacy coursework and Reading Recovery. Based in Jay for over nine years, she worked all over the state, managing teachers in about 40 different schools.

She left Jay when she was asked to start a Reading Recovery site in Belfast. She did that for one year before she became principal of the Mallett School.

Along her career path, Williams taught at Phillips Elementary School, worked as a speech therapist in SAD 58 and as a speech clinician in the Litchfield and Sabattus schools.

“What I love about this job is the chess-like nature of figuring out instructional challenges, for one, (and) translating research to classroom practice,” she said.

“After 33 years, it’s clear that many students have increasingly complex needs,” she said. “I love working with educators who are learners themselves and are up for doing whatever it takes to improve the educational experience.”

There’s also a lot of fun in this job, Williams said.

“Every day, there’s something to laugh or feel good about, if you’re on the lookout,” she said.

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