Elementary principal Tim McMahon spends his noon hours during the week handing out school lunches — Wednesday it was tacos. He says it’s a good way see all the students every day. It’s a small investment of time since lunch is only about a half-hour but the payoff for McMahon is making personal connections.
McMahon was honored by the Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals at an annual conference last weekend for his efforts to create a sense of belonging.
Katy Noble, a local mom, was honored for her volunteer work at the Four Georgians Parent Teacher Organization. Noble was given the 2012 Friends of Education Award at the 61st annual MAEMSP conference held at Fairmont Hot Springs.
McMahon, principal at Warren Elementary, received the Adrian Langstaff Award, the highest recognition from the Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals. The award is named after a well-loved elementary principal known as a leader in his community, school and state.
McMahon seems to emulate just what the award is meant to recognize.
First-graders Kaitlyn Tabbert and Kade O’Brian say he’s smart, nice and kind.
“Sometimes he peeks in the classroom,” O’Brian said. “He’s looking to see how the class is doing and if the class is doing what the teacher says to do.”
O’Brian, a friendly blonde boy who had a tie and button-up shirt on Wednesday, said McMahon is a good principal because, “if someone does something wrong, he takes care of it.”
McMahon has been an educator for 23 years ranging in positions ranging from football coach to teacher and principal. At Warren, where he’s spent the last 10 years, he was instrumental in increasing student scores in reading and math.
The school received a grant in 2003 and has been able to improve reading scores from 59 percent proficient to 85 percent. Proficiency in math also increased, from 29 percent to 66 percent on the Montana Standardized Test.
McMahon was nominated by his staff who described him a man who instills a true sense of pride among students, staff, parents and the community. The nominations say that McMahon often goes above the call of duty and has helped families fix their cars, get into hotel rooms when they were without housing and drives children to school when necessary.
Second-grade teacher Teri Flemming has worked for Helena Schools for 38 years.
“He is in the trenches with us every day,” she said. “He knows what we are up against — he’s supportive; the go-to guy.”
Flemming says McMahon solves problems by getting to the core of the issue.
A humble McMahon said he was surprised by the recognition.
“It’s a really nice honor to know that the staff was the ones that nominated me,” he said.
Katy Fields is the secretary at Warren. She says McMahon is a phenomenally dedicated principal with a huge sense of humor. She says she’s seen him do everything from help a student with potty training to climb on the roof to retrieve misguided items.
“He does everything that most principals don’t do, and then some,” Fields said. “He does whatever it takes to help kids function in society in a healthy way.”
Superintendent Keith Meyer said he remembers when McMahon was assigned to Warren.
“The building was ready for leadership, someone who was young — ready to spend a lot of time and build community,” he said. “What he’s built there both in education and community has been absolutely outstanding and that shows in the scores.”
Nearly all the staff from Warren attended the conference; Meyer said adding that the award is a deserving tribute.
The same can be said for Noble, Meyer said.
“It’s so imperative to have folks like this in our buildings,” he said. “People like Katy are so important to the day-to-day work of what we do.”
Four Georgians Principal Melina Thompson said Noble is one of the finest, most dedicated volunteers she’s met in her 27 years in education.
“She makes it look so easy,” Meyer said.
Noble has given thousands of hours of her time helping with fundraisers, schoolwide enrichment opportunities, playground projects and building improvement plans. Those at the school describe Noble as a dynamic leader who has empathy towards the underprivileged. They say she is an inspiration to other parents.
The MAEMSP is one of five affiliate associations under the School Administrators of Montana umbrella, a membership coalition working to be a support and advocate in education.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/IR_AlanaListoe