One of Tooele County’s elementary school principals has been selected to receive a state honor from his peers.
Shanz Leonelli, principal at East Elementary in Tooele, will be recognized next month as the 2012 top “Instructional Leader of the Year” by the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals. He’ll receive the award during the association’s mid-winter conference in St. George on Feb. 15.
“It is an absolute pleasure to receive this honor on behalf of the district and East Elementary,” said Leonelli. “Superintendent Linares and Assistant Superintendent Luke have allowed me an opportunity to lead one of their schools, and work at what I am passionate about.”
Leon Jones, principal of Rose Spring Elementary, nominated Leonelli for the award.
“As a fellow principal in the district, I have noticed a remarkable transformation of East Elementary going from a dilapidated building with a dismal level of achievement and school spirit,” said Jones.
For example, East Elementary has reportedly grown 10 percent annually in reading skills. The school has also moved from 11th to third place in the district on core tests results, and is only one of five schools in the district to achieve 80 percent of students reading on grade level.
Leonelli credits the staff for the improvements and high test scores.
“My recognition is due to the wonderful effort and progress we have made together,” he said. “I love my job, and the day-to-day interaction with the staff, students, and parents. Together, we have focused our mission on providing high quality learning, establishing clear learning objectives, and providing quality teaching.”
The staff at East Elementary lauds Leonelli’s leadership.
“Mr. Leonelli visits classrooms regularly, assesses teaching strengths and weaknesses, and offers quality feedback and advice,” said Amy Bernard, a fourth-grade teacher. “He is incredibly supportive, understanding, and professional. His endless efforts to continually strive to improve the quality of education his students receive are a demonstration of his infinite dedication.”
“Mr. Leonelli has high expectations mixed with kindness and an extremely positive attitude,” said Kindergarten Teacher Lisa Schaeffer. “He praises us for anything positive that we do while offering suggestions on how we might stretch it a little further to reach a few more students. He also thinks deep about how we should deliver things, checking research to see what has the highest effective rate for student growth. This allows us to focus on the most effective delivery methods rather than wasting time on fads that come and go.”
Instructional leader of the year is one of seven awards the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals gives annually, according to Jones.
“The association pushes hard for instructional improvement, so this award is very significant,” he said. “This award is very competitive. Shanz was selected from a field of about nine nominees.”
Leonelli has spent his entire education career in Tooele, starting in 2001 as a teacher at Tooele High School. There he taught journalism and English for six years before pursuing a career in administration.
After completing an administrative internship, Leonelli was appointed interim principal at Harris Elementary in the spring of 2008. That fall he was appointed principal at Tooele South High School. In July 2009 he was appointed principal at East Elementary.