Lebanon — Harney Elementary Principal Janet Yonts received a letter earlier this year that came as quite a surprise. She had been nominated for the principal of the year for district five — which includes Boone, Hamilton, Howard, Madison, Miami and Tipton counties —and the Indiana Association of School Principals had selected her to move on to the next round.
And last month she received another letter that perhaps was an even bigger surprise. She had been selected as the principal of the year for the district.
“It just kind of came out of the blue, and I was surprised,” she said. “I don’t think we really get into this career to be an award-winner, but I guess it does feel really, really good to be recognized.”
Yonts has been the principal at Harney for the last seven years. Before that, she served as an assistant principal at both Maplewood and Robey elementary schools in Wayne Township in Indianapolis for a total of seven years. She has also been an elementary teacher in Pike Township and Indianapolis Public Schools. But Harney has been a place of great growth and success for her.
After learning of the initial nomination, Yonts had to fill out some résumé-like forms and answer many detailed questions about her leadership and legacy at Harney. She credits the staff at Harney as a big part of her success. One of the questions asked about how she promotes creative or progressive leadership in the school building. A strength of hers is looking at where the school needs to go, but having a staff that takes ownership of her ideas is what makes it work.
“It’s not me; it’s our staff,” she said. “I tell you, it brings tears to my eyes. They’ve made it easy to be a principal. The work isn’t easy, but having a staff willing to try new things, to work through things together, to look at something out of the box ... I don’t think I would be half the principal I am without the great staff and support of the district. We make a good team.”