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Noni Hoag, assistant principal at Lakenheath Middle School at RAF Feltwell, England, has been named the Assistant Principal of the Year for the Department of Defense Education Activity.
Noni Hoag, assistant principal at Lakenheath Middle School at RAF Feltwell, England, has been named the Assistant Principal of the Year for the Department of Defense Education Activity. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

RAF FELTWELL, England — Noni Hoag is the youngest of five children born to a cowboy father and schoolteacher mother in southern Colorado.

“My mother said to all of us, ‘don’t go into education,’ ” Hoag said.

But all of her siblings have dabbled in education at least briefly during their adult lives. And Hoag has been an educator for 24 years.

“Her model spoke louder than her words,” she said of her mother.

Had Hoag listened to her mother, she would not have been named the assistant principal of the year for the Department of Defense Education Activity.

The selection program is sponsored by McDonald’s and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. An assistant principal is chosen from every state, plus DODEA, for the honor. A national winner will be named at the NASSP convention February in San Diego.

Hoag is assistant principal at the Lakenheath Middle School at RAF Feltwell, England. Her varied experience has been building toward this honor. She has been a classroom teacher at every level and served as a curriculum liaison for the United Kingdom district.

She has been a member of professional committees and honored more than once by Phi Delta Kappa, the professional organization for educators.

In her third year as assistant principal at Lakenheath, Hoag’s experience is evident, said Jannett Klinke, the principal.

“She takes what she’s learned from all of her other jobs and uses it every day,” Klinke said. “We’re really a team. I see her as an equal educator. I have to rely on her judgment every day throughout the day.”

As a former classroom teacher, Hoag knows what classroom teachers need. But as a former liaison, she knows how decisions can have a widespread impact across many classrooms.

As an example, Klinke mentioned the school’s health fair. She and Hoag visited the hospital and talked to doctors and nurses in advance about the school’s health curriculum. They encouraged them to make their presentations fit that curriculum.

It seems fitting, too, that Hoag receives the honor while serving at a middle school. It is an age when children are undergoing great change and present great challenges.

“Kids change more from ages 11 to 14 than at any time in their lives except from birth to age two,” Hoag said.

Richard Nicholson, the middle school’s other assistant principal, said middle school students are often a handful for teachers. He said Hoag has a knack for enabling a teacher to deal with a tough situation by helping that teacher find within himself or herself the necessary skills rather than dictating a course of action.

“She is a true educational leader,” he said. “She brings integrity to the profession.”

Hoag said she has enjoyed all of her jobs as an educator, but added, “My personal best experiences are dealing with middle schoolers because I just like that age.”

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