Feb 23, 2024
The North Cook Region of the Illinois Principals Association formally recognized Anastasia Netzel and Crystal Jimenez as its Middle School and Elementary School Principals of the Year, respectively.
The Horace Mann/IPA Principal of the Year award recognizes excellence among middle and elementary-level principals. Netzel, principal at London Middle School, was nominated for leading the building in a positive and successful manner, particularly as the world re-emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was pretty surprised [by the honor],” Netzel said. “But I felt like it was a really big pat on the back for everything we have done over the past few years as a staff, as a district, as a community.”
Jimenez, principal at Field Elementary School, was nominated by both Field Assistant Principal Julie Brash and Annette McBride, principal at Kilmer Elementary School, for servant leadership and the ability to be an agent of change for the well-being of students and staff.
“She also just has such a good energy and she’s so positive,” McBride added. “She has a child-centered approach and will always advocate for her kids and do what’s best for them. She approaches every day with a positive mindset and finds things to celebrate in her building with her students, with her staff.”
Jimenez herself felt “blessed and humbled” to even receive a nomination.
“I never really saw myself as becoming a principal; there were just so many obstacles that I had to overcome,” she said. “So even getting to that level, let alone being named the principal of the year, is a privilege…something that could not have been accomplished without the support that the district, Field staff, students, and families have provided me.”
Christy Campbell, principal at Poe Elementary School, and Catherine Joy, principal at Frost Elementary School, were also nominated for the honor.
This marks the second consecutive year that Community Consolidated School District 21 was recognized by the IPA, as Dr. Alyssa Shapiro, principal at Twain Elementary School, received the regional honor in January 2023.
“Community Consolidated School District 21 is fortunate to have a team of school principals dedicated to the well-being, growth and success of all students,” said Dr. Michael Connolly, superintendent of schools. “To have Crystal and Anastasia recognized with this honor by their colleagues is a testament to their deep passion and professionalism. It is an honor that is greatly deserved, and we congratulate and celebrate them for their amazing work leading Field and London.”
For Jimenez, who started alongside both Netzel and Shapiro during the 2020-2021 school year, the significance is special.
“At that moment in time, we were also dealing with the pandemic,” she said. “Despite us being paused as we dealt with that, it didn’t stop us from still connecting with our staff and making changes, and really as a district, I think we were still moving initiatives forward and not letting the pandemic be a hindrance. We did that while showing grace, and I think it speaks highly of the district to be able to foster that in us.”
Netzel added her belief that this honor “speaks volumes” about the support from the district, the community and her families at London: “We made a lot of changes during COVID and pushed through, and while that was hard, we’re now reaping the benefits not only with recognition, but also with what our students are achieving, and we’re making gains at a pretty good pace.”
“I know that part of my recognition has to do with the efforts we’ve led with the community, with our families and with the district, and I wouldn’t have those opportunities if we didn’t continue to strive for success,” she added.
Jimenez and Netzel will be presented with their awards during the IPA’s annual student recognition breakfast on March 1 at Belvedere Events & Banquets in Elk Grove Village. They also become candidates for the Illinois IPA Principal of the Year award, which will be announced later this year.