In a surprise ceremony Monday morning, Westbrook Middle School Principal Matt Nelson was awarded middle-level Principal of the Year in front of the entire student body.

Using the guise of Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America to summon students and staff into the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, school officials welcomed Richard Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association to announce the award.

Durost began by giving accolades to the student body and staff by saying that the attentiveness and respect during the assembly, “is a tribute to you young men and women in the building, and also the staff.”

“I’m here this morning because I’m pleased to announce to you that your principal, Mr. Matt Nelson, has been selected as the middle-level Principal of the Year for the entire state,” Durost said to a cheering crowd. “It is well-deserved, Matt. Congratulations.”

Following the announcement, Nelson said he was very “touched and humbled” by the award, but felt that the award represented the entire school more than just himself.

“Mr. Durost picked up real quick that Westbrook Middle School is a special place,” he said. “In my book, this is an award for middle school of the year.”

Nelson added that he often tells people about the great students and staff of the school, who have faced challenges and continued to do great work.

“We’re the largest school in the district, the most diverse, and with all of that we’ve always been able to do great things,” he said.

A Maine Principals’ Association press release stated the many reasons for Nelson’s nomination.

“He has focused the attention of the school on student achievement, using data effectively to impact growth. As a thoughtful, proactive systems thinker, when he speaks, people listen. He is serious about making school a great experience for everyone and embodies a headstrong momentum toward success. Acknowledgement of the accomplishments of students, teachers, and school community members are varied, frequent, and meaningful,” the release states.

Durost also shared comments about Nelson in the press release.

“He is visible and energetic, recognizing that school success depends largely on the quality of relationships and the health of the school culture,” he said.

Nelson will be honored at the association’s spring conference awards banquet on March 27. Next fall, he will also be honored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals in Washington, D.C.

There are roughly 800 principals in the state who are members of the association, with the organization providing 60 days of professional development each year.

Every year, the association honors an assistant, elementary-, middle- and high school-level principal with the award.

Principal Matt Nelson of the Westbrook Middle School is announced as the Maine Principal of the Year by Dick Durost, executive director of the MPA, at left, in an assembly at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center Monday morning.

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