Press Releases Banner

AISD’s Blaine Helwig Earns Top Award from U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education has recognized Blaine Helwig, principal at Graham Elementary School, with the esteemed Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership.

Helwig is among seven principals in the United States to earn the department’s top awards for administrators this year.

“It’s the principal who shapes the vision, sets the tone and targets the energy of the many people who run a school,” Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, said about the award recipients. “It’s the principal who inspires, cajoles and models the excellence he or she knows the school can reach.”

Helwig was honored in Washington, D.C. earlier this month during a ceremony where Graham was recognized as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School.

“Although the Bell Award is presented as an individual award, the award should be viewed as the collective work by the Graham faculty and staff members during the last five years. It is a total team effort, working diligently day-in and day-out, to make a school succeed as Graham has done,” Helwig said upon accepting the award.

The department selected Graham as an “Exemplary Improving” school, an honor reserved for schools, where at least 40 percent of students are from disadvantaged communities that demonstrate the most progress in improving student achievement levels.

“We have been very fortunate to have consistently produced stellar academic results at Graham,” Helwig said of Graham’s Blue Ribbon school designation. “Being selected for this national award is both humbling and a culmination of our dedication toward improving students’ lives.”

In an announcement about Helwig’s leadership award, the Department of Education cited his success in bringing student scores from “barely acceptable” to an “exemplary” TEA rating for the last four consecutive years.  

The announcement also praised Helwig for devising strategies to help students with homegrown, stop-gap academic programs that master fundamental math and reading skills. The design of these programs includes a progress monitoring system for teachers that pinpoints what students know and what they need to learn next.

The department also commended him for being a skilled collaborator, bringing community and business groups in to build a school garden and illustrate hallways with interactive learning murals.