The Washoe County School District recently named three Northern Nevada leaders Stacey Ting-Senini, Krissy Brown and Tom Brown Principals of the Year. The Annual Principal of the Year Award recognizes outstanding leaders within the school district who have set high standards in regards to instruction, offer high quality learning opportunities, honor student achievement, help to build character, and set a conducive climate for students, families and staff to be able to excel in the education system.
Ting-Senini of Sparks Middle School has been with the school since October 2013 and is surprised at receiving the award. She came into the middle school as a temporary principal after the 2013 shooting, and admitted it was not an easy time at first, but soon grew comfortable with her placement.
“I fell in love with our darling middle school and have been here ever since,” she says. It’s shocking to be rewarded for something that I love to do. Kids feed my soul so it feels a little weird to be rewarded for that.”
Ting-Senini began her career with kids when she was 13 years old, working with them at her grandmother’s Holy Child Daycare. Born and raised in Verdi, Ting-Senini then worked with a Washoe County Aquatics program as an aide before moving up into the position of lead lifeguard. Ting-Senini then taught for a bit before moving to Seattle, Washington where she pursued a Master’s degree with a focus in Curriculum and Instruction. She also obtained her principal’s credentials from City University and Seattle Pacific University.
Always having a passion for kids and learning, Ting-Senini came back to Northern Nevada to help her mother battle cancer and became principal of Libby C. Booth Elementary School. She spent the next seven years fostering a community of academic success with her students and then became a consulting principal with the district, sharing her knowledge, experience, and leadership with new principals.
However, in October 2013 tragedy struck Sparks Middle School when a 12-year-old student shot and killed himself and a math teacher while injuring two more. Despite coming into a tough educational atmosphere as the community was grieving, Ting-Senini maintained her focus on helping the kids.
“I’m happy to be back. I enjoy eating lunch with the kids, being around them supporting them and their families. (The most rewarding part of the job is) to see them improve their grades and confidence. I’m a big advocate of student voice so I am always asking their opinions on what we can do better,” she says.
Ting-Senini noted that the most challenging part of the job is seeing kids struggle in making the right decisions, but that the middle school’s excellent staff has been able to help guide them in a way that turns their lives around for the better.
“I couldn’t be where I am without a good staff. Their support gave me the opportunity to win this award,” she says. “The staff has done miracles with kids who haven’t been successful at other schools around here. There’s a true sense of family and community here.”
An average day for Ting-Senini involves her getting to school at 6:30 a.m., getting the teachers ready, then the kids arrive at 6:50 a.m. They go through their day Ting-Senini managing emails, district and school business and then she stays for the after-school program from 4 to 6 p.m. Even though her work hours are Monday-Friday, her job doesn’t stop there.
“On the weekends I’m always thinking of the kids and worrying about them,” she says.
“I feel very honored and lucky to be a part of the Sparks community,” Ting-Senini adds. She says that after the school shooting, the city manager and local politicians expressed their support as she came into a volatile situation.
“Mayor Martini met with me and asked what the city could do to help. The community has been especially embracing in this post-traumatic growth period,” she says.
“I can’t do this without the community, teachers and kids. It’s like our motto says, ‘Together We Are Better.’”