Dzantiki Heeni Middle School principal Molly Yerkes was named Region 5 Principal of the Year by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals for 2020. (Courtesy photo | Molly Yerkes)

Dzantiki Heeni Middle School principal Molly Yerkes was named Region 5 Principal of the Year by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals for 2020. (Courtesy photo | Molly Yerkes)

Look who was named region’s principal of the year

She’s been at the middle school for 16 years now.

A Juneau middle school principal was named principal of the year for this region by a professional organization.

Molly Yerkes, 10-year principal of Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, was named Region 5 Principal of the Year for 2020 by the Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals on Friday.

“I’m incredibly flattered,” Yerkes said in a phone interview. “There’s a vote of all the principals in the region. I knew I was one of the finalists.”

Yerkes will be recognized at the 54th Alaska Principals’ Conference in October, but right now, colleagues and Juneau School District staff recognize her for her accomplishments.

“We are excited for one of our principals to be honored in our region,” said JSD Superintendent Bridget Weiss in an email “Molly is a highly experienced principal, and we are grateful for her work this spring to support students and staff in new and different ways.”

Yerkes spent six years as assistant principal at DHMS before moving up and spending the last decade as principal.

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“Ms. Yerkes is in classrooms much more than she is ever in her office,” said Kristy Germain, former DHMS assistant principal and interim principal for Floyd Dryden Middle School, in the press release. “She knows students’ needs because she has observed the students in the classroom, hallways, and lunchroom and has gotten to know them at more than a superficial level.”

Yerkes credits the recognition to her team at DHMS.

“I work with an incredible staff at Dzantik’i Heeni. It’s a dynamite crew,” Yerkes said. “Honestly. It’s such an amazing place to work and be, I love it.”

They’re currently navigating the uncertain waters of teaching in a time of enforced distancing and shuttered schoolyards.

“We’re really just trying to navigate the current situation. It’s hard to plan but we’re making sure we have solid plans if we’re back in the building,” Yerkes said. “Our teachers did a really excellent job. For some families it was an easier transition than others but the teachers did an amazing job of calling and reaching out. It was difficult for us to know how much work to give students but they tried to get a lot of feedback from families. We didn’t want to create unreasonable expectations but wanted to continue the students’ education. It was about striking a balance.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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