Yarmouth Elementary School Principal Ryan Gleason was honored as Maine’s National Distinguished Principal of the Year at an event on Monday. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

When Yarmouth Elementary School students and staff gathered in their newly renovated gym for the first time Monday it was for a very special reason: to celebrate their principal, Ryan Gleason, as Maine’s Distinguished Principal of the Year.

Students cheered for their school leader, chanted his name and held up signs as Maine Principal’s Association Executive Director Holly Blair announced that Gleason had been chosen for the award.

The annual award honors principals “who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students, as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession,” according to the MPA.

Yarmouth Elementary School Assistant Principal Molly Kilpatrick nominated Gleason.

Yarmouth Elementary School Principal Ryan Gleason was named Maine’s National Distinguished Principal of the Year earlier this week. Rachel Vitello / The Forecaster

“As if a major construction project wasn’t enough, Ryan was also faced with the COVID-19 requirements and everything that came with it as a building principal,” Kilpatrick said. “Although I wasn’t part of the YES staff at the time, I’ve been told that he navigated the pandemic implications with relentless positivity and incredible direction. Even when things felt challenging, Ryan was a beacon of strength for his staff and school community.”

Gleason singled out his father, Ron, a former teacher, principal and superintendent in West Bath, as the inspiration for his career in teaching.


“My father was really one of my first heroes,” Gleason said. “He worked for many years in education. It’s safe to say the reason I’m here with you all today has a lot to do with my dad.”

At the event along with his dad were Gleason’s wife, mother, sister and daughter, who also attended Yarmouth Elementary.

“It’s not a ‘me’ award, it’s a ‘we’ award. I’m very lucky to be the principal of this school because I’m so proud of our staff, so proud of our students,” Gleason said. “Each and every one of you make this school special and I’m so fortunate that I get to be one of your leaders.”

The school’s tribute to Gleason came during its Wave of Kindness Week.

“One of the things Mr. Gleason is always looking for is for our students to be especially kind,” Kilpatrick said at the close of Monday’s event. “As you move forward in the day and this week, let’s think about the amazing school that we have, this amazing recognition that our school has earned and be extra kind to each other and to ourselves.”

Yarmouth Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said an in-person banquet honoring Gleason will be held in April in Rockport and a national banquet will take place in Washington, D.C., sometime this fall.

Gleason has been the principal at Yarmouth Elementary since 2017, and was previously an assistant principal at Falmouth Elementary School. Prior to that, he  worked as a teacher and administrator at St. Dominic’s Academy in Lewiston for 15 years. He attended the University of Maine and later received his master’s in educational leadership from Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

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