IASP names Alber District 2 Principal of the Year
Riley Elementary principal Chris Alber has been named the Indiana Association of School Principals (IASP) District 2 Elementary Principal of the Year.
The honor, while still a shock to Alber, was one he found incredibly humbling, especially because of his respect for those he works with every day–from his fellow principals to mentors at the ESC.
“It’s extremely flattering. I don’t like to be in the spotlight necessarily. I’ve never won a national championship, but that’s how it felt. I think this could be a co-award with seven other principals in this district. The elementary principals are a very tight knit group. It’s a shared thing. It’s a district thing,” Alber said.
The IASP is an organization that allows principals to lean on and learn from one another about the multitude of initiatives, concerns, and issues that building leaders face daily. Alber has been a part of the the IASP for two and a half years and has been active in meetings, professional development offerings, and conferences. In order to win this award, Alber had to not only be a member but also be nominated by another IASP member and then beat out all other principals from his district. District 2 consists of eight counties: La Porte, St. Joseph, Elkhart, Starke, Marshall, Kosciusko, Pulaski, and Fulton.
“We are proud of our Riley principal Mr. Chris Alber for being distinguished as the District 2 Principal of the Year. Chris is active in the principal’s association and is committed to lifelong learning and personal growth. Anytime your peers recognize your qualities and commitment it is a great honor,” Mark Francesconi, LPCSC superintendent, said.
Riley Elementary has had quite the year. Alber’s recognition follows Riley being named an Indiana “A” school. The success, according to Alber, is all because of the Rocket team, who has built an unbreakable bond that creates a positive environment.
“If you build that chemistry, the test scores and everything else falls in line. Making sure the teachers and students feel a sense of belonging is really the key to everything else. Little things matter. The bigger success like getting an ‘A’ grade are manifested because we’re developing those relationships with the staff and students first. We all support one another,” Alber said.
For Alber, this success and his path have been a lifetime in the making. He grew up knowing he would go into education, taking after his dad. Alber attended Indiana University to study education, even doing a stint of his student teaching in England. He returned home to Michigan City where he worked at the alternative school there for six years.
Alber and his wife Gina, who also is an educator for La Porte Community School Corporation, then picked up and moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he taught social studies for five years. After the birth of their son Chase, the Albers wanted to be with family, so they moved back to Indiana, and Alber landed a position in South Bend for two years teaching students with emotional disabilities. It was then that his path led him to La Porte–first as an assistant principal at LPHS for six years and the last five years as principal at Riley.
Each stop on his journey has taught him different lessons that have shaped him into the educator and leader he is today.
That leadership role he holds now is one he takes seriously. Even though he is working on his Ph.D. with hopes of one day becoming a superintendent, his main goal to leave a lasting impact on students, knowing that whether he is in the principal’s office or central office that he has a teacher’s heart.
“I still teach. I just do it more one-on-one now. Whatever role or title I have, I want to make sure I am making school enjoyable for kids,” Alber said.
To Alber there is no secret to successful leadership. Hanging on the wall of his office is a part of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Citizen’s in a Republic” speech. The words center him each day and remind him of his mission and duty as a leader.
The speech reads: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
To Alber, leadership is showing up, which is often the hardest part. It’s evident that he is doing that every single day for the students, staff, and families of Riley Elementary.
“Showing up really matters. That’s step one. Be present. Be there and be there for the students. Be there for a parent call. Be there for teachers. Get immersed. A lot of challenges. You want to be in the game and show up and give your best effort every day,” Alber said.
Congratulations, Mr. Alber.