Inside AWSP

Principal of the Year


Every year, AWSP selects a Washington State Principal of the Year. In the past, we've selected three state winners; one from elementary, one from middle level, and one from high school.

Beginning in 2020, we're revamping our process. We will select one winner per ESD, regardless of level, and select one state winner from the nine ESD/Regional winners. This aligns with the classified, teacher, and superintendent of the year award programs. 

Updated Timeline

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, AWSP made the difficult decision to “hit pause” on the 2019-2020 POY/APOY process. The good news is, we reopened the nomination process! Nominations will accepted through July 31.

For those who were nominated and completed the application, we are holding your completed packets and pushing them to the 2020-2021 POY/APOY round, which will be announced in October 2020. For those of you who were nominated but didn’t complete the application, you now have until August 31 to do so!


  1. AWSP accepts nominations from any source. It could be a teacher, another principal in the district, a parent, student, or community member. (Note: nominators will need to create an OpenWater account. This lets the nominator start the process, save their work, and come back to it.)

  2. The nominated principal gets an email letting them know someone thinks they're great and they've been nominated to be the Washington State Principal of the Year. 

  3. The nominated principal completes an application in OpenWater. This mirrors the national application closely, so if they advance to national recognition, they won't have to reinvent the wheel when the time comes to fill out that nomination.

  4. A regional judging panel selects one principal from each ESD to be our Regional/ESD Principal of the Year.

  5. Another judging panel narrows the nine down to one Washington State Principal of the Year. That person will represent Washington for their respective national association. See the national recognition section below.


  • Nominations (anyone can nominate) must be submitted by July 31, 2020.
  • Nominated principals must complete the application for the Washington State Principal of the Year by August 31, 2020.
  • Regional/ESD winners will be selected by October 1, 2020.
  • The Washington State Principal of the Year will be announced by October 25, 2020.
  • The application for the NASSP National Principal of the Year are due by May 1, 2021.
  • The application for the NAESP National Distinguished Principal are due by May 8, 2021.

National Recognition

If the state winner is a member of NASSP, we will look at the other eight ESD/Regional Principal of the Year winners and select the highest scored application from a NAESP member. That person will represent our state at the national level and vice versa; if the state winner is a NAESP winner, we'll select the best application from a NASSP member to represent Washington for their national component.

National Association of Elementary School Principals


  • One Regional/ESD winner will represent Washington for NAESP's National Distinguished Principal Program (NDP).
  • NAESP honors principals from around the country and does not select a national winner. 
  • Applications for the NDP program are due May 8, 2020.
  • Winners are recognized in Washington, D.C. sometime in October 2020.

National Association of Secondary School Principals

  • One Regional/ESD Principal of the Year will represent Washington for NASSP's National Principal of the Year (NPOY).
  • NASSP selects one national winner from the state representatives.
  • Applications for the NPOY program are due May 1, 2020.
  • State representatives are honored at the National Principals Institute in Washington, D.C., usually in late September/early October. 
  • The National Principal of the Year is selected in October for National Principals Month. 

Looking for info for the national recognition for assistant principals? 

AP Recognition

2019 Washington State Principals of the Year


Alfonso Lopez

Alfonso Lopez
Lewis and Clark Elementary
Wenatchee Public Schools

Mr. Alfonso Lopez was born and raised in Mexico and immigrated to the United States to instill the value of education to his family. Over the past decade, Mr. Lopez's goal has been to make a difference in his students’ lives regardless of their cultural background, a complete opposite mindset than that of how he was raised. Mr. Lopez sees diversity issues as opportunities to grow. Instead of avoiding cultural diversity issues, he is proactive and seeks school improvement. He takes the opportunity to discuss difficult situations, listen to multiple perspectives, and develop next action steps, in order for his dual-language school to be more successful. He is an agent of continuous improvement to promote each student’s academic success and well-being. He manages uncertainty, risk, competing initiatives, and politics of change with courage and perseverance, providing support and encouragement and openly communicating the need for, process for, and outcomes of improvement efforts.

Middle Level

Guy Kovacs

Guy Kovacs
Kalles Junior High
Puyallup School District

Mr. Guy Kovacs was named this year’s Washington State Middle Level Principal of the Year, and was also chosen to move forward as Washington state’s nominee for the National Association of Secondary School Principals  (NASSP) competition for National Principal of the Year. Having been a school administrator for 19 years (with six of those being at Kalles), Mr. Kovacs has a wealth of leadership knowledge and experience. In every building he has served, he has worked to create a culture that is centered on students. Mr. Kovacs believes that one of the best ways to help students is to help teachers. He has focused on providing effective professional development in areas like strong first-instruction, data-based decision-making, effective RTI efforts, and more. Mr. Kovacs believes schools should be fun and that students should have tons of options to be involved.

High School

Jason Smith Headshot

Jason Smith
Gov. John R. Rogers High School
Puyallup School District

Mr Jason Smith was selected as this year's Washington State High School Principal of the Year. He was also nationally recognized on May 13 as Jostens Renaissance Educator of the Year for his leadership. Only two educators from more than 6,000 schools across the country were selected for the award.

As principal of John R. Rogers for five years, Mr. Smith and his staff have adopted an "AP For All" philosophy, believing that all students should experience the rigor of an Advanced Placement class. This has increased the number of students taking AP exams by more than 30%. Mr. Smith also fully believes that one of the most important things he can do as a principal is to hire great teachers. Mr. Smith writes, "I have become very aggressive in hiring. I've come to embrace the philosophy that it is 'people not programs' that make a difference."

For More Information 

David Morrill | Communications & Technology Director | (800) 562-6100