MAESP 2022

Poplar Bluff administrators honored regionally for leadership
Posted on 03/08/2022
Jennifer Taylor

Two Poplar Bluff school administrators whose career paths are entwined were chosen by their peers to receive regional recognition this past weekend.

Eugene Field Principal Jennifer Taylor was named a 2022 Missouri Distinguished Principal Honoree among an elite group of 11, and Middle School Assistant Principal Angie Rideout was named Missouri Outstanding Assistant Principal during the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals leadership conference that began Saturday, March 5, at Osage Beach.

“By promoting excellent leadership, quality education and professional growth, this award celebrates the profession and exemplifies your outstanding achievements as a school principal,” Dr. Michael Schooley wrote to Taylor. In Rideout’s award letter, the MAESP executive director continued: “This honor recognizes you as an assistant principal in Missouri making a name for yourself… and recognizes the critical leadership assistant principals provide to support teaching and learning in Missouri schools.”

During Taylor’s tenure, eight educators under her tutelage have transitioned to administrative positions across the region. She has additionally mentored three principals within the district, including Rideout, who spent three years as an eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) teacher at Eugene Field, when Taylor first took the helm in 2009.

Student achievement at Eugene Field has reached an all-time high in recent years, as the school has consistently scored well above state averages in both English language arts and math. In October, Eugene Field was listed at No. 8 in U.S. News & World Report’s ‘Best Elementary Schools’ out of over 1,000 ranked statewide based on Missouri Assessment Program scores in the context of socioeconomic demographics. Last year, the elementary was one of only two in the state, both in Poplar Bluff, to be named National ESEA Distinguished Schools out of 1,300 Missouri Title 1 educational institutions for closing the achievement gap among student groups.

“It is humbling to be a part of a profession that presents so many opportunities to bring out the best in others every single day,” Taylor wrote in her biography. “I have always been drawn to serving under-resourced students… Restoring pride and changing our school’s reputation became a catalyst to create purposeful systems to achieve greatness. This sense of urgency still drives me [so many] years later.”

Eugene Field became Missouri’s 13th Lighthouse School under The Leader in Me program based on Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and has successfully led three recertifications since, and hosted eight Leadership Day events drawing educators from 10 districts throughout Southeast Missouri. “Little did I know that this initiative would benefit the adults in our building as much as it would benefit our students,” Taylor continued in her nomination packet.

In a reference letter, R-I Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Patty Robertson credited Taylor, who previously served as a reading recovery teacher, for adopting a balanced literacy approach to teaching reading and helping to align curriculum across grades K-6. “Our end of the year achievement scores in reading at the elementary level are among the highest in the state,” Robertson shared of the progress made as a result of Taylor’s professional development.

Robertson noted that a “disproportionate number of parents” once submitted transfer requests from Eugene Field, and now “families living outside their residential boundary request their children be allowed to attend there.” One such parent was Rideout, whose youngest child finished his elementary schooling at Eugene Field last year.

After serving as principal for three years at O’Neal Elementary, Rideout assumed her current post at the Middle School in 2016, the year fourth grade was added to the configuration. Being able to draw from her teaching experience at all of the elementaries beside Lake Road, Rideout filled the role of helping to ease the transition for young students.

Rideout also helped initiate the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system under which Middle School is in tier two, targeting students at-risk. “One thing this school desperately needed, considering the size we were, was a common language throughout the building,” Rideout said in an interview, noting that Capturing Kids’ Hearts training also helped unify expectations. “We are finally at a place where we are just making small tweaks, not revamping the whole thing.”

Before becoming a building leader around the midway point of her career, Rideout facilitated credit recovery at the former Graduation Center. During that time, she wrote in her MAESP biography, she helped a student who experienced unthinkable loss catch up with her high school class after setting a goal to graduate on time. Upon earning her diploma, the student personally visited Rideout to say she could not have done it without her, which the assistant principal cited as one of her proudest moments.

“Once I observed the leadership style of Jennifer, the focus of my directive really became helping teachers to understand how to reach at-risk students,” Rideout reflected on her time instructing under Taylor. “I still wanted the kids side [of education], but knew I could continue to reach students while helping to show teachers how to push kids in the right direction.”

Rideout’s previous supervisor, Dr. Brad Owings, was the last Poplar Bluff educator to be named MAESP Distinguished Principal during his last year here, before Dr. Josh Teeter succeeded him as Middle School principal in 2020. The recognition program was established in 1984 for principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character and climate.

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Cutline: Eugene Field Principal Jennifer Taylor was named a 2022 Missouri Distinguished Principal Honoree during the MAESP leadership conference held Saturday, March 5, at Osage Beach.

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