SLOY Announcement hero

Meet the 2023 Gradient Learning School Leaders of the Year

In her 15 years as Founding Principal at Carter Lomax Middle School in Texas, Norma Penny led with one primary goal.

“We’re going to keep trying to get a little bit better than we were yesterday,” Penny said. “We never stop growing.”

Penny, who passed away unexpectedly in 2021, embodied the characteristics of a school leader who fostered a learning environment that led to positive change. Penny left a legacy of impact at Carter Lomax, and she is the inspiration for the Gradient Learning School Leader of the Year Award.

Penny posthumously becomes the first recipient of the national honor, and she is joined by two other passionate school leaders: Catherine Hunt of Northport School District in Northport, Washington, and Chris Lin of Intrinsic Schools’ Belmont Campus in Chicago, Illinois.

Penny, Hunt, and Lin are the inaugural School Leaders of the Year for collaborating with compassion and enabling teachers to guide students to become their best selves. The award honors principals and assistant principals who rethink, reimagine, and rebuild education by working together with their communities.

“Good school leaders build capacity in others and figure out what makes somebody tick,” said Melissa McCalla, the Chief Technology Officer for Pasadena Independent School District in Pasadena, Texas. “Norma was great at that, and helped people become better leaders themselves.”

Our three inspiring recipients of the inaugural Gradient Learning School Leader of the Year Award:

Catherine Hunt, K-12 Principal, Northport School District

Catherine Hunt K-12 Principal Northport School District Northport, Washington “It’s all about the kids. My thought every day is, ‘What can we do today to best help our kids?’”

Read Catherine's story.

Chris Lin, Assistant Principal Intrinsic Schools, Belmont Campus

Assistant Principal Intrinsic Schools, Belmont Campus Chicago, Illinois "The team dynamic has to be there. When that collaboration works, it is fantastic and beautiful."

Read Chris' story.

Norma Penny, Founding Principal Carter, Lomax Middle School

Norma Penny Founding Principal Carter Lomax Middle School Pasadena, Texas “The world changes, and we as educators need to change with it.”

Read Norma's story.

Thank you to all who submitted nominations for your terrific school leaders! Learn more about the Gradient Learning School Leader of the Year Award.