Inside AWSP

Elementary Principal of the Year Award

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The Washington State Elementary Principal of Year award recognizes elementary school principals who show a commitment to excellence through the academic and social programs they foster and the family and community ties they forge. To be eligible for this award, an individual must be currently serving as a principal and have a minimum five years’ experience.


2018 Elementary Principal of the Year: Gina Naccarato-Keele

Gina Naccarato-Keele

Naccarato-Keele has a vision at Linwood Elementary of “High Expectations and Maximum Support for Every Student Every Day.” She created structures and supports to help meet high expectations, including programs like the Child Study Team (CST), which creates a plan for students needing a little extra support. Naccarato-Keele leads her staff at Linwood Elementary in a great environment, creating a warm culture and always putting the students first. 

“A high-needs school, Linwood’s students, staff, and community members demand great devotion and attentiveness. Gina demonstrates a high degree of professionalism when working with all stakeholders.” Principal Jody Schmidt of Whitman Elementary said describing Naccarato-Keele. She continues, “She relentlessly pursues options to provide her families with support that ultimately helps students. Her mission is high expectations with maximum support. This belief is evident in the halls and the voices of the teachers and Linwood. They believe in her and her vision, and work to create and live that vision in their classrooms.”

Previous to her ten years as principal at Linwood Elementary School, Naccarato-Keele was the assistant principal at for a year at Regal Elementary School in the Spokane Public School District from 2007-2008. She is a graduate from Eastern Washington University, receiving her Masters of Education in 2001 and her principals certificate in 2007. After she graduated, she became a teacher in Spokane area for eleven years before becoming the assistant principal at Regal Elementary in 2007.

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Gina Naccarato-Keele
Linwood Elementary
Spokane Public Schools



The Selection Process

Regional and state level

To be eligible for the Elementary School Principal of the Year, an individual must first be selected as a Regional Distinguished Principal. Each year, the Board of Directors of the Elementary School Principals Association of Washington chooses 18 principals as regional winners, one from each of the state’s service areas. 

The regional winners are honored at a breakfast event held in conjunction with the Summer Conference. From this group of 18 principals, the state winner is selected by a panel.

The Washington state winner becomes a National Distinguished Principal as part of a program sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and VALIC. National Distinguished Principals are recognized at an awards banquet each year in Washington, D.C.

National level

There is no national winner at the elementary level.



Past Winners

View a list of past Elementary Principal of the Year winners.