Mike Mertens. AAESP assistant executive director, recognizes Patricia Athey, Hunt Elementary School assistant principal, with the 2022 Assistant Principal of the Year award on Dec. 5. 2022, at a surprise assembly at Hunt Elementary School.

The Arkansas Association of Elementary School Principals named Hunt Elementary School Assistant Principal Patricia Athey as the 2022 Assistant Principal of the Year on Dec. 5. 2022, at a surprise assembly.

Mike Mertens. AAESP assistant executive director, presented Athey with the award at the assembly, which was attended by the school’s approximately 580 K through fifth-grade students.

“This award is in appreciation of your exemplary leadership in providing outstanding educational opportunities to the children of Springdale School District and for your distinguished service as an educational leader in Arkansas,” Mertens told Athey at the assembly.

Athey expressed her appreciation of the recognition and for working with Springdale Schools.

“I’m very, very blessed to work in the Springdale School District with our leaders, and I’m even more blessed to be here at Hunt,” Athey said, acknowledging the contributions of the school’s and district’s support staff, teachers and leadership teams.

“We work together to find innovative ways to meet the needs of the kids you see in this room,” she said. “I'm honored to represent Hunt and Springdale School District in the state of Arkansas, and I hope we can make you guys proud.”

The Assistant Principal of the Year award is presented annually to an Arkansas elementary school assistant principal who has succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students and is acknowledged by peers for exemplary contributions to the profession, according to an AAESP press release.

Athey has served as Hunt’s assistant principal since 2017 and has worked to develop the school’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and to expand access to school-based therapy, according to the release.

Athey also invests her personal time and resources to support all students, regardless of what academic, emotional or physical needs may exist, said Dr. Jared Cleveland, Springdale Public Schools superintendent.

“Her focus on the whole child is a major factor in the success of Hunt Elementary,” Cleveland said. “Her demeanor, character and brilliance make her one of those rare educational unicorns. I find Mrs. Athey to be a constant learner, a focused leader and a builder of trust among all stakeholders”

Athey inspires teachers and staff daily and motivates teachers to do their best work, said Jenna Sullivan, Springdale Public Schools Special Education supervisor.

“She maintains an open-door policy and a constant listening ear. When a teacher needs assistance, she quickly takes action to provide needed resources,” Sullivan said. “Patti encourages students by knowing individual names, giving high fives and hosting pep rallies.

“When behaviorally difficult students present with problems, she works to keep them in school and finds alternative discipline methods,” she continued. “She recognizes and utilizes strengths of her students and staff to make her school culture a positive one.”

The Arkansas Association of Elementary School Principals is a Little Rock-based nonprofit comprised of a united alliance of diverse school leaders that serves as an effective force toward high-quality public education for all children, according to the organization’s website. Its mission is to ensure high standards of leadership by providing quality professional development, influencing education legislation and policy, stimulating and fostering support and building successful coalitions for its members.