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Assistant principal grateful for ‘overwhelming’ statewide honor

Stepped in for NRMS principal who contracted COVID

Rockford — After a busy morning of what he thought were several important administrative tasks, Al Reickard walked into the North Rockford Middle School library to a standing ovation and discovered it was all a ruse.

Reickard has been named Michigan’s 2022 Assistant Principal of the Year by the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals and the Michigan Association of Student Councils and Honor Societies. Teachers and administrators from NRMS and the district central office surprised Reickard with the news in a special celebration on Wednesday. 

Al Reickard

“I thought I was walking into a staff meeting about student assessment data — I 100% had no clue,” the assistant principal said. “I definitely did not expect this. It’s amazing, and overwhelming, really, to have this honor.” 

The award is given annually to an assistant principal who demonstrates a sense of collaborative leadership; involvement in curriculum, instruction and assessment; and a personal positive involvement with district staff, students and families. Nominees must have served in an AP role at the 6-12 grade level for at least three years. 

In nominating Reickard for this award, Principal Lissa Weidenfeller described him as someone who “coaches students to be the best they can be … (he) takes time to work with students and partner with their families to implement restorative practices and promote social-emotional learning.”

Weidenfeller also expressed gratitude for the ways Reickard stepped up to serve NRMS this year in particular. She developed a “long-haul” form of the COVID-19 virus last December and was out for several months, leaving Reickard to serve as both AP and principal in the interim. During that time, he led the school’s transition into a hybrid cohort instructional model in January, and then the shift back to in-person learning this fall. 

“Al rose to the challenge and has done an extraordinary job supporting our students, families and staff during this difficult situation,” Weidenfeller said. “He has been the best administrative partner that I could have asked for.”

Handling a Challenge with Grace and Wit 

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Korie Wilson-Crawford echoed Weidenfeller’s sentiments at Wednesday’s celebration. Wilson-Crawford had a chance to work more closely with Reickard last year due to the unique circumstances and said she has been “really impressed” with the work ethic and positive attitude he consistently displays. 

“Last year was really challenging, and you stepped up on every front and we are so grateful and proud of you for that,” Wilson-Crawford said. “I can see what (NRMS staff) have probably seen for years, which is Al’s ability to handle situations with grace and also with a certain amount of wit — wit … really makes things go better.”

As part of this honor, Reickard will represent Michigan as the state’s nominee for the National Association of Secondary School Principals Assistant Principal of the Year competition in July. It’s a role that the notoriously attention-shy Reickard says he’s willing to do because of the support he has from the NRMS staff. “I’m not one to be out in the front for anything,” said Reickard, who is in his 10th year as assistant principal. “I’m very thankful and grateful for an amazing staff that has helped me do the best that I can in this work. People pick each other up when they need help and we make decisions together that are best for the kids and the community. … It’s not super typical to have an assistant principal in that position for this long, but I love this building and we make a great team.”

A surprise standing ovation from the staff at North Rockford Middle welcomes Assistant Principal Al Reickard as he is named Michigan’s 2022 Assistant Principal of the Year
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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is a reporter and copy editor, covering Rockford, Lowell, Grandville and Cedar Springs. She is an award-winning journalist who got her start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate, she later returned to her alma mater to help manage its national writing festival and edit and write for enrollment communications. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press, Fox 17 and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio

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