Principal of the Year leads by example

woman and boy by a school bus
Principal of the Year Amy Schott greets students at the start of the day. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Amy Schott says being a principal is the “best of all worlds.”

“I love actively engaging with everyone each day to support the success of all students,” said the George Mason University alum who is principal of Henderson Elementary School in Woodbridge, Virginia.

In April, Schott, who holds an MEd in education leadership from Mason, was chosen as the Washington Post’s 2022 Principal of the Year from 14 finalists in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

Schott became principal of Henderson in September, having previously served as principal of Rockledge Elementary, also in Prince William County, for 13 years.  

Carolyn Renk, a special education teacher at Henderson, said that what makes Schott special is how she fosters a positive school environment.

“She encourages teachers to be open and honest with her and each other to make the best decisions for students,” Renk said. “On the morning announcements each day, Amy tells students, ‘You are loved at Henderson, and you belong here.’ Hearing this message daily helps students and teachers feel a wonderful sense of community.” 

Born in Minnesota, Schott entered the foster system as a baby. She was placed with a couple who took in a number of foster children, along with sponsoring refugees. The couple adopted her, but her adoptive mother died of cancer when Schott was in first grade.

Growing up, Schott vacillated between two careers—working with children and becoming an airline pilot.

“At the end of high school, I chose to go into education,” said Schott. “It’s a decision I don’t regret.”

Schott received her bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from Texas Christian University, then moved to Virginia to be near her brother.

“He said, ‘Come to Virginia. It’s like Minnesota without the lakes,’” Schott said. “I always thought it was so funny because I learned that Virginia is nothing like Minnesota after I actually moved here.”

Schott established roots in the area, marrying and having two children. She began teaching English as a second language and third grade students, ultimately moving into administration.

Her Mason experience as an education leadership major helped prepare Schott for a variety of challenges and experiences. “I was impressed with the quality of the instructors and the thoughtful organization of the program.”

Schott keeps in touch with members of her Mason cohort. “It was a chance to meet with aspiring leaders in the same boat, work with them, and get to know them,” she said. “We established collegial professional relations that benefited us well past graduation.”

Schott enjoys mentoring other principals and helping them navigate both work and family, as she has learned to do through the years. “It’s a joy of mine to be able to help other principals and advocate for them.”