NJPSA Announces Winners of the 2022 Visionary Leadership Awards

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Christopher Turnbull, Principal of Bear Tavern Elementary School in the Hopewell Valley School District, was named Visionary Principal of the Year, Elementary Level; Stella Nwanguma, Principal of Winslow Township Middle School, was named Visionary Principal of the Year, Secondary Level; Scott Wisniewski, Assistant Principal of Wayne Valley High School, was named Visionary Assistant Principal of the Year; and Mary Ellen Engel, Supervisor of Nursing in North Brunswick Township Public Schools, was named Visionary Supervisor/Director of the Year. Each will receive his/her award during the NJPSA/FEA/NJASCD Fall Conference at Borgata on October 14, 2022.

As principal of Bear Tavern, Christopher Turnbull has spearheaded several initiatives and encouraged his team to challenge their perception of what is possible, giving them permission to “go big.” During his tenure, Bear Tavern has transformed its lobby into a habitat of trout, tropical fish, hydroponic plants, and a large yellow-bellied slider turtle. The exterior of the building is now an Outdoor Learning Area that involved partnerships with 20 local businesses. In addition, the school has been named an EcoSchools USA Green Flag school, a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Bronze Award winner, and a River Friendly School by the Stony Brook Watershed Institute. He also changed the way morning announcements were made to serve as a gateway into the social-emotional learning curriculum.

Stella Nwanguma transformed Winslow Township Middle School from being identified by the NJ Department of Education as a “Focus” school in need of improvement into a model school, which is recommended by the NJDOE to area schools as a school to visit. The students experience top-notch new academic programs such as Robotics STEM, Environmental STEM, Graphic Arts, Journalism and Mass Media, TV Production, and Coding and Game Design. Winslow has also won several awards for sustainability, including the Bronze certification and Silver Certification and received the 2020 Middle School Sustainability Champion Award.

As assistant principal at Wayne Valley High School, Scott Wisniewski has either led or introduced several social-emotional or wellness programs into the school, such as the annual week of respect, Third Party Compliments, Wellness Fair, and a recent grant from the National Council for Mental Health. The activities in these programs have helped to build a positive culture and reduce disciplinary actions and HIB incidents. Due to his efforts, Wayne Valley has earned a Gold Star rating from the Anti-Defamation League for five consecutive years. Wisniewski has also presented NJSBA, TechSpo, and the Garden State Google Summit on SEL activities and how technology is embedded into each activity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mary Ellen Engel was counted on to provide clear, accessible, evidence-based information across multiple platforms to ensure ease of access to all community members. She used technology to capture, analyze, and disseminate accurate data and provide accessible resources and services to ensure healthy, safe, and caring schools. She appeared on local television and presented at Board meetings to educate the school community on return-to-school planning related to health and wellness. In addition, as an Executive Board Member of the NJ State School Nurses Association, she collaborated with nurse leaders throughout the state and shared information with the North Brunswick Leadership Team and school nursing team.

Each winner will receive $7,000 to be used by his/her school or district, as well as a $1,000 personal award, in addition to other gifts.