By Amanda Dyslin
---- — ARLINGTON — Colleagues of Sibley East Elementary Schools principal Mari Lu Martens seemed to stand in line to tell the folks behind Minnesota’s 2013 National Distinguished Principal award what a great administrator she is.
James Amsden, high school principal: “Mari Lu is one of the most dedicated and passionate administrators that I have encountered in my career.”
Sara Utendorfer and Sheila Knacke, elementary teachers: “The energy, determination and perseverance she exhibits have made our school district successful.”
Philip Keithahn, chairman and CEO of ProGrowth Bank: “Mari Lu is a past president of the Gaylord Rotary Club, a positive contributor and volunteer to many organizations where she has provided leadership, and a terrific role model for young men and women who want to start small, think big and achieve great goals.”
Martens learned Friday she was the state recipient of the prestigious award, which honors exemplary elementary and middle school principals who “set the pace, character and quality of education children receive during their early school years,” according to the organization’s website.
She was in St. Paul for the final interview, and not even an hour later she got the call.
“I was still on 494,” she said. “I said, ‘I think I have to get off the road here.’”
Martens gave the credit to her colleagues and students at Sibley East.
“It’s just great,” she said. “To be chosen, I’m pretty proud.”
The award is presented by the Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. It was established in 1984 and aims to highlight the importance of the school principal in achieving educational excellence.
The principals in the southwest division of MESPA nominated Martens for the honor.
Martens will attend the banquet in October in Washington, D.C., along with the other winners from each state in the U.S.
She said her most significant achievements as a principal include scoring above the state averages on assessments tests; creating a positive school culture; and developing a system that prepares students for college-readiness.