Bryant Elementary principal honored with statewide award

2010-02-02T00:00:00Z Bryant Elementary principal honored with statewide awardBy ALANA LISTOE, Independent Record Helena Independent Record
February 02, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Some of the younger students at Bryant Elementary made a few slips in recent days and told Principal Russ Van Hook that they knew something he didn’t.

But by all accounts, the school’s staff managed without a hitch to keep secret an assembly Monday afternoon to honor Van Hook for a statewide award.

Van Hook received the Adrian Langstaff Award at the recent 59th annual Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals conference in Missoula. The award is the highest honor MAEMSP can bestow on a member.

“This award is to identify those who give their all to education,” Helena School District Assistant Superintendent Keith Meyer said. “This couldn’t happen to a better individual.”

The entire student body sang a song of appreciation to Van Hook during the surprise assembly, and while he went around giving high-fives and fist-bumps to students, he couldn’t fight back the tears.

“Boy and girls,” he said with a crack in his voice, “I hope you know I love you. I do.”

Fifth-grader Nick McEachern said Van Hook makes a point of stepping into all the classrooms every day he’s at school.

“He comes in to see how we are doing,” he said. “He makes sure we are happy, and he knows when we are sad and comforts us.”

Pam Campbell, a social services coordinator, has worked with Van Hook during his entire career at Bryant and has witnessed the sincere care he brings to work every day.

“He knows the name of every student in the building and makes every student feel special,” she said.

Campbell says he gives students rides home when they need it, jumps batteries in parents’ cars, and even rode the bus with a student who was only able to ride with supervision.

“He’ll do anything for students,” she said. “He’s always willing help students and families and will step outside the box to do it.”

Prior to Van Hook arriving at Bryant 18 years ago, the school struggled to keep a consistent administrator. Under Van Hook’s leadership the school received two national awards: Distinguished Title 1 School in 2001 and Blue Ribbon in 2005, both acknowledgements of the successful efforts made to improve student learning and parental involvement.

 Fellow administrators and Bryant staff credit Van Hook for the successful implementation of programs that led to these awards.

“We were the first school to pilot new programs like all-day kindergarten, school-based mental health services, school backpack food program,” Campbell said. “We are often the school that pilots the new project the district is trying to look at, and that happens because Russ encourages teachers to try innovative things and he’s willing to stand by them.”

Van Hook extends his job outside of the school walls, too. He’s served on city and county boards to assist low-income families, coordinates a program in Helena to provide refurbished bikes to students, serves on the county’s Child Protective Team, and created a bookmobile to provide literature activities for the Bryan students in the summer.

The staff told a small fib to get him in the right spot at the right time on Monday.

Van Hook said his staff told him they were having trouble with a student and needed his help. When he walked into the gym, that’s not what he found. There was no student with troubles, but a student body ready to sing his praises.

HEF recognized for contribution

 The Helena Education Foundation received the Friends of Education Award at the 59th annual Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals conference held last week in Missoula.

“It was a great evening for Helena schools,” said Keith Meyer, the district’s assistant.

Broadwater School Principal Sue Johnson nominated HEF for the award.

“After moving to Helena last year I saw this group that raises all this money for our teachers and students, they were a perfect nominee,” Johnson said. “They go above and beyond, and what they do benefits the entire community.

Darrell Rud, executive director of School Administrators of Montana, said HEF is deserving of the award.

“They’ve done some amazing things in this community reaching out in various and unusual ways,” Rud said.

HEF Executive Director Lisa Cordingley said while she appreciates the recognition, she’s more excited about the statewide message that’s being projected.

“It was gratifying to win, but what pleases me most is it shows a statewide audience what possibilities exist for their own communities and that’s something the Helena Education Foundation values,” Cordingley said. “We do what we can for our community, but sharing this kind of vision outside of Helena was another way to get the message across.”

Reporter Alana Listoe:

447-4081 or

Copyright 2016 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. thoop
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    thoop - February 02, 2010 9:08 pm
    This award could not have gone to a more amazing principal. Caring enough about your students to know them all by name is by far above and beyond the duties of a principal. I feel blessed that my children can attend such a great school, with such a wonderful Principal and staff!!! Congrats Mr. Van Hook, it was a well deserving award.
  2. hunterday
    Report Abuse
    hunterday - February 02, 2010 1:51 pm
    It's great to see such an amazing man recieve such a prestigious award. Mr. Van Hook was my principal from 2nd to 5th grade. He has always been there for the kids. He has always very influental to all kids that step through the doors of his school.

    Conrats Mr. Van Hook!
  3. supersuz
    Report Abuse
    supersuz - February 02, 2010 12:39 pm
    Mr. VanHook is AMAZING!! During the years that our son attended Bryant, he was an an administrator who went above and beyond to help all the kids in his school, whether it be in the classroom or in after school activities like cub scouts or sports. Our son is now a senior and i truly think Mr. Van Hook had a helping hand in his success!! Well deserved honor!!
  4. tami88
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    tami88 - February 02, 2010 11:31 am
    Mr. Van Hook is SO deserving of this award!!! I was so happy to see him recognized in the paper today - it actually made me cry! My child attended Bryant from Kingergarten to 5th grade, he loved his teachers and he loved Mr. Van Hook! My son moved on to middle school this year and just mentioned to me recently how much he misses Mr. Van Hook... I can't wait to show him this article. Wish we could have been part of the crowd honoring him. He is a wonderful principal!
  5. Mommyof4NMT
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    Mommyof4NMT - February 02, 2010 10:44 am
    Very glad to see such an amazing person get this award, I have had 2 children in Bryant and I wouldnt change it for anything, the teachers are fabulous, and Mr. VanHook is fantastic... WTG Mr. VanHook!
  6. HaffyNuts
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    HaffyNuts - February 02, 2010 10:03 am
    WAY TO GO MR. VAN HOOK!!!!! You were a great teacher when I was at Rossiter Elementary so many years ago. You made an impression on me THEN - and you weren't even MY teacher! You have always went out of your way for the kids. Always loved and respected you for that.

    SO PLEASED to see you win this award - you so deserve it! If I had been at that assembly I would have been "leakin" right beside you. Fantastic accomplishment - so proud of you! Keep it up!
  7. marencolleen
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    marencolleen - February 02, 2010 9:12 am
    Nice choice! Mr. Van Hook rocks!

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