School: Stanley Hupfeld Academy At Western Village
School District: Oklahoma City Public Schools
City, State: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
About the Nominee: Ruthie Rayner is an inspiration to her staff! She is a selfless leader from the bottom of her feet to the top of her head. Ms. Rayner is a "roll-your-sleeves-up" kind of principal who works in the trenches, side-by-side with all staff, whether it is the custodian, kitchen staff, paraprofessionals or teachers. She does not expect her staff to do anything she wouldn’t do. She is both a kid’s principal and a teacher’s principal.
Prior to her current role, she was an assistant principal at a school in an affluent suburban district. She chose to take on the role of principal in a challenging, urban, Title I school because she considers Stanley Hupfeld Academy her calling and her home. Many of the school's students do not come equipped with everything they need to be successful. Students often come to school without their most basic needs being met, and the demands of this school are high. Ms. Rayner tackles these challenges head-on.
First, she recognizes that the students' basic needs are a high priority and must be met before learning can take place. She provides her staff with professional development that supports the issues they run into daily, such as hunger, learning differentiation, healthy diets and giving students hope for the future. Then, she recognizes that everyone has something important to contribute and taps into her best resource – her staff. Ms. Rayner recognizes her staff's talents, supports their needs and encourages their growth. She creates an environment that makes both staff and students want to go above and beyond because that is the behavior and attitude she displays. Her excitement is contagious! She organizes, operates and acquires donations for an "incentive store" where students can buy prizes from behavior tickets they earn from the Positive Behavior Intervention Model (PBIS) program. What an inspiration! It was contagious when she implemented “Watch D.O.G.S – Dads of Great Students,” and the Parents as Partners volunteer program. It’s infectious when the school has family events and Ms. Rayner personally sets up the chairs at the beginning of the night and takes them down after the event. This tells her community that she is there for them the long run.
When a teacher at Stanley Hupfeld has concerns with students, Ms. Rayner is always there to support and promote what is best for the student. She holds and attends weekly Professional Learning Community meetings to foster collaboration among the staff. She helps them look at interventions and progress data from students that have been identified to be at-risk with reading or math difficulties. When she meets with staff, she doesn’t simply ask questions about their data. She listens to them and brainstorms with them to come up with solutions that best fit the needs of each child. She knows classroom and pedagogical techniques across all grade levels. Ms. Rayner continues to maintain her own National Board Teaching credential, even when she doesn’t benefit from the financial incentive. Most importantly, the genuine connection she maintains with “teaching” instead of “management” lets her staff know that she values their work and knows their struggles.
Ms. Rayner has been seen picking up trash on the school grounds, planting and harvesting vegetables in the raised garden beds with students from a “Growing Up Green” grant she wrote, meeting with parents, teaching a science lesson, covering recess duty and running car pool duty, all in the course of a couple of hours! She is never in her office and is always out and about. If that isn’t enough hats for her to wear, Ms. Rayner also works tirelessly at promoting the school’s mentoring program, as well as being a public representative to support many initiatives that give students extracurricular opportunities, including the Ballroom Dancing program, Eagle Entertainers and various sports teams. The list of things she does for her school is endless. She is always teaching, learning, and promoting Stanley Hupfeld's mission!