Golden Apple News, Outstanding Principal Award Recipient

Erin Anderson Named 2024 Golden Apple Outstanding Principal

Golden Apple Foundation is pleased to honor Erin Anderson, principal at Donald C. Parker Early Childhood Education Center in the Harlem School District, as the 18th Golden Apple Outstanding Principal, sponsored by McDonald’s Corporation.

Anderson has been principal of Parker Center since 2020. Before that, she was Director of Literacy in Crystal Lake for two years. She started at Parker during the COVID-19 pandemic, when staff morale was at its absolute lowest and when “no one would have wanted to join a new district, let alone be a principal at a school of our size, returning to in-person learning.” She had a lot of work to do to boost morale and restore trust and respect among the staff, but she jumped right in, giving her all. She spent the first couple months really getting to know the teachers both personally and professionally. When the school had a COVID outbreak in the fall of 2020, Anderson showed true leadership, immediately developing a plan for Parker staff, students and families so more than 250 kindergarten students who had only been in class in person for three days were able to continue their learning remotely. She has been known to sit on the rugs with students having bad days, using building blocks and talking with them. She encourages teachers to have work-life balance, boundaries and self-care. She trusts them to make their own decisions and is present for all staff and students.  Anderson’s nomination highlighted that her approach “is characterized by a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of student achievement, teacher development and school climate.” A nominator wrote, “Erin understands how important play is to a kindergarten student and has incorporated more play time back into our days.” She turned around the school environment, which is now described as positive, fun, creative and safe for risk-taking. She has brought her family in on weekends to complete landscape projects to provide students a safe place to play; re-instated calm down corners; laid down sensory paths; filled in for absent teachers as needed; instituted a day every week for teachers to rotate in to meet with her and the school development specialist to discuss student and classroom needs. Teachers feel heard and supported as she uses ideas and needs shared in these conversations to drive staff meetings and school improvement days. The collaboration has led to increased student achievement. She is admired by many teachers and students for her constant smiles and positive attitude, and for making trips to the principal’s office comfortable again!