A-W alum receives two prestigious awards

Posted June 8, 2017 at 5:00 am

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By Julie Ann Madden

Exemplary principal.

Outstanding supporter.

Innovative fundraiser.

Those are just a few of the words that nominators said of a woman named both a 2017 Iowa Middle School Principal of the Year and 2017 Administrator of the Year.

Cindy (Zoeller) Barwick, an Akron-Westfield Class of 1989 alum, was presented the honors May 12 in Des Moines.

“The word I’ve said a million times since this has all happened is it’s very humbling,” said Barwick, who has been Sheldon’s Middle School principal the last 16 years.

“It’s coming from a group of Middle School principals, who know what we do every day,” she said. “That is gratifying and humbling to be recognized by a group of your peers.”

“It reflects what we have created here at Sheldon Middle School,” said Barwick. “It is a fun atmosphere. We work really, really hard but we also have a lot of fun, and I’m proud to be the leader of that school but certainly know that it is not a one-person job to lead this school.”

“My teachers are all leaders and that also really helps to have things click along really well,” said Barwick. “It’s been my honor to be a principal here for as long as I’ve been here.”

The first award, Iowa Middle Level Principal of the Year, was awarded by the School Administrators of Iowa.

“She supports our students through attendance at school events, through academic leadership and through the advisee program at school,” wrote Lisa Johnson, parent of a student. “She works with her staff to ensure the curriculum is rigorous and challenging for kids while also working to serve their emotional and social needs as middle schoolers. She leads by example by having an advisor group of eighth graders with whom she conducts student-led conferences, plans advisee activities and works to have every student feel like a valued member of Sheldon Middle School.”

“On our District Leadership Team, (Barwick) demonstrates her passion for all learners, a vision for future planning and a dedication to her students and school,” continued Johnson.

Sheldon School Superintendent Robin Spears nominated Barwick for the award in June 2016 when the selection process began.

As a finalist, Barwick was interviewed before a panel of Middle School principals on March 27 and was notified the next day she was the 2017 recipient.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad presented Barwick with this award at a special reception at the Iowa Capitol building May 12 in Des Moines.

For the Administrator of the Year Award, Barwick was nominated by her Middle School Band Director Jeana Larson, who was Akron-Westfield’s band director for the 2001-2002 school year.

This honor was presented by the Iowa Bandmasters Association.

“She is the epitome of the supportive administrator,” wrote Larson in the nomination application. “She unselfishly gives her time and attention to every teacher, staff member, parent and student who walks through the doors of Sheldon Middle School. She is a good listener and her door is always open to concerns.”

“More than simply a boss, Mrs. Barwick is a leader to the teaching staff,” continued Larson. “She allows the teachers to do their job without unnecessary interference but is also available to help when needed. She has a great rapport with both staff and students.”

“It is not uncommon to see her in the hallway sharing a joke, having a casual conversation, or simply giving a smile to everyone from teachers to custodians, students and other support staff,” wrote Larson. “She is a firm disciplinarian, yet kids always leave her office feeling supported and cared for. She attends all of the home concerts and games for the students, not out of obligation but because she has an interest in the kids’ lives.

“She advocates for every program and activity in our school and allows each department to have its time to shine,” concluded Larson. “Her passion for students and education is obvious as she works to help mold smart, hard working and well-rounded young people.”

Barwick is an Akron-Westfield Class of 1989 alum. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in English at Iowa State University in 1994. Then Barwick earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from ISU in 2000.

Barwick began her teaching career at Decorah, teaching first grade one year, then six years she taught seventh grade.

In 2001, she became Sheldon’s Middle School principal.

Barwick and her husband, Gary, who is an Akron-Westfield Class of 1984 and ISU Class of 1996 alumnus, have two children: Jason, a high school junior; and Emma, a seventh grader.

Barwick enjoys reading and spending most of her time at her children’s activities. She also likes to run and the family is “big” ISU fans.

“The most important thing with any level is to establish a relationship with the kids and really pay attention to the climate and culture in your building,” said Barwick about being a principal. “If students feel like they have a connection to people — students, teachers — and also enjoy their time at school, everything else takes care of itself. The academics take care of themselves, they’ll be involved with activities. They will be in school — be active participants in their education.”

“Get to know your teachers,” Barwick would tell new administrators. “Get to know you students and realize everybody brings something important to the table.”

“Create a culture where people feel comfortable sharing whatever those gifts are,” she said. “Create ownership within your school so that teachers and students feel like they are valued members of that school community,” she concluded.

Barwick is the daughter of Judy and Wendell “Zeke” Zoeller of rural Ireton and daughter-in-law of Colleen and the late Verle Barwick of Akron.

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