Kelly M. Zimmerman, elementary school principal and director of special education for the Pine Valley Central School District, received the U.S. Educational Leader of the Year Award from Niagara University’s College of Education on Jan. 4.
The award was presented as a surprise to Zimmerman by Dr. Chandra Foote, dean of the College of Education, and Dr. James Mills, coordinator of the university’s educational leadership program, during a meeting of the Pine Valley Board of Education, with members of Zimmerman’s family also present.
Zimmerman joined the Pine Valley Central School District in August 2015 after serving in several roles for the Amherst Central School District, beginning in 2005, including school psychologist, interim assistant principal and assistant director of special education and pupil personnel services.
“Kelly arrived three years ago in a building that had substantial growth opportunities,” said Scott E. Payne, superintendent of the Pine Valley Central School District. “Kelly worked proactively with the State Education Department, parents and teachers in order to rebuild the delivery model and effectiveness of special education to meet our students’ needs. The results have been dramatic.
“Kelly easily develops rapport with challenging students, as well as with their families, and knows what to do in terms of making connections with them that lead to insightful plans to address difficulties. Relationships are a priority to her, which allows Kelly the ability to easily navigate administrative tasks, support teachers and maintain a high degree of confidence with parents and community members.”
“Mrs. Zimmerman was easily one of the most respected professionals in our district,” said Mike Belle-Isle, director of human resources for Amherst Central Schools. “She presents with a wealth of background experience and combines that with natural leadership skills that others gravitate toward. She was at the forefront of significant initiatives within our district.”
Zimmerman, who served as an adjunct professor of education at NU during the fall 2015 semester, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo, and master’s degrees from RIT and Niagara University.
To learn more about Niagara University’s College of Education, please visit www.niagara.edu/education.