Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Sydney Yalshevec

Hanks named Principal of the Year


Out of the five regions in which Nebraska has been divided by the NSAPPA, out of all the middle schools and high schools within the state, and out of all those principals Kimball’s own Eugene “Mo” Hanks, has been declared Principal of the Year in the state of Nebraska.

“I was nominated over a year ago. I hadn’t upgraded my resume or anything, it wasn’t even on my radar,” Hanks said.

He found out about the award on his way back from the boys’ state basketball game. He received a message to call another principal, a member of the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals (NSASSP), who had been selected to deliver the news. As Hanks mentioned he had forgotten all about the application he had filled out almost two years prior to winning.

The principals must apply for the award and then they often must be in a waiting pool for close to two years. There are a lot of applications to go through and each principal lists things such as school demographics, programs to improve the overall learning experience, and other programs implemented to improve the school.

Hanks has definitely developed quite the resume when it comes to bettering his school. He was heavily involved with spearheading the Team Mates mentoring program. He also worked with the World Strides program as a sponsor this year and accompanied students to Washington D.C. He is focused on making sure all the children are engaged and learning. He also uses the positive reinforcement method in which students are praised for good behavior.

“One of the big things is positive behavior supports. We’ve been doing it for a while now it’ll be two years here pretty quick. It’s basically teaching the students, and I guess rewarding the students for doing things the right way,” Hanks said.

The goal areas in which to teach the positive behavior are: respect, responsibility, safety, and effort. Hanks explained that by rewarding the students who are always on time and always in class they don’t let these good things get taken for granted.

Hanks also tries to work with the teachers and keep them thinking of ways to improve and do what is best for the students’ learning.

“I started professional learning communities which are designed for bigger schools, people in the same subject area get together and get a chance to talk about things in a professional manner. Well, here we’re too small to do that so I grouped them by grade level. So the teachers get a chance to meet, and I give them an agenda and it gives them a chance to talk about things and I think that’s a positive way to figure out what needs to get done,” Hanks said.

Hanks is also very diligent when it comes to getting the students’ test scores up. He makes sure that the teachers are providing plenty of practice and hopefully getting the students comfortable with testing.

Hanks’ efforts to improve the school and the way the children are taught has not gone unnoticed by local administration. School superintendent Marshall Lewis shared what he really thinks makes Hanks a successful asset to the Kimball Junior Senior High School.

“He really looks at the whole picture of education. Even though our main focus is the academics and being a contributing member in the work force, there is also the part about being a good person. I think Mr. Hanks is really good at incorporating those kinds of values in our kids as well as the academic aspects,” Lewis said.

Lewis has also expressed a sense of pride in Hanks’ award. Lewis claimed that this isn’t just an award that is recognizing Hanks as outstanding, but it’s also giving some needed attention to Kimball.

“It is amazing that out of the state of Nebraska he was recognized and he’s the one that was chosen. It’s rather outstanding, and I think it brings a certain focus to Kimball. Every once in a while, when people are looking at that, some people might want to to check into where he’s from, and they’ll realize we’re here,” Lewis said.

Hanks has been an asset to Kimball since he started as principal seven years ago. He comes from a family of educators, so he knows the craft well.

“My dad was a superintendent for 30 years, and my mom was in the classroom for 26 years. Then my little brother has been a teacher in northern California for about 20 years now. I was one of the last ones in my family to get into education,” Hanks said.

In his second year as principal in Kimball, he was nominated for Outstanding New Principal, although never awarded. Hanks has a humble attitude and is mainly focused on making sure the students of Kimball are given a good education. He also explained how he views this award as something that reflects the efforts of the entire school.

“I’m the person who meets with administration, teachers, parents and students and I am here to make sure things go smoothly and hopefully we graduate some good kids. I look at the award as an honor for the students and staff in the building, because it reflects on the good things that we’re trying to do here,” Hanks said.

As the winner of the Principal of the Year for the state of Nebraska, Hanks will be headed to Washington D.C. in September. That is where the national winner will be declared.

“In September, all the nominees go to D.C. for a three day conference, and you get recognized while you’re there. They select five finalists for the national principal and those finalists all get money to take back to be spent on their school. The principal of the year gets a little more than the other four. Something like $3,000,” Hanks said.

Before he can progress to D.C., however, he must update his resume with the NSASSP. This requires the gathering of data concerning school test scores and demographics.

Lewis expressed his complete support of Hanks and has proven himself elated at the state award alone.

“Mr. Hanks is just outstanding to have been selected out of all of Nebraska. It would be cool if he won on a national scale, but, even at the state level, it’s an outstanding thing,” Lewis said.


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