One important thing to know about Chris Himsel, Indiana State University alumnus and superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools in Fort Wayne: He is in it for the kids.
So much so that his peers have noticed — and awarded him the 2017 Indiana Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.
“It was overwhelming to find out because so many of my superintendent colleagues across the state are doing good work,” said Himsel, who learned of the recognition weeks before the public announcement on Sept. 26 at the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents annual fall conference. “I’m blessed to serve with great families, administrators, teachers and support staff, and this is recognition of all that we’re doing in the Northwest Allen County Schools.”
The recognition comes on the heels of the 2015-2016 school year that tested both Himsel and his staff. Northwest Allen County Schools started off last school year with the death of an elementary school teacher on the first day of school, followed by the loss of another teacher the next week and the unexpected death of a recent retiree a few weeks later.
In late fall, a bomb threat at Maple Creek Middle School required use of and tested the school’s safety plan. In the spring, the city of Fort Wayne attempted to annex a large portion of the district, which would have more than doubled their property tax cap losses. However, the Northwest Allen community rallied together, and the annexation was voted down.
Through it all, Himsel said, his staff remained focused on what the students need and committed to providing a safe learning environment and supporting them when learning gets difficult.
“We challenge students to go further than they thought was possible and stay focused on what our kids need,” he said. “We can’t ignore test scores, but it is short-sighted if they are all you are focused on. We focus on how to meet the needs of our kids and how we can help them become contributing members of the community.”
Himsel, who will represent Indiana in the American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year program when a winner is announced in March, has served as an assistant professor at University of Indianapolis and executive director of the Indiana Association of Supervision and Curriculum before being hired by the Kokomo-Center board.
He served as Kokomo-Center School superintendent from 2008 to 2010 before accepting the superintendent’s position at Northwest Allen County Schools.
For three years, Himsel served as an assistant professor at University of Indianapolis and executive director of the Indiana Association of Supervision and Curriculum. Prior to his work at University of Indianapolis, he served six years in the Lafayette School Corp. as director of secondary education.
He also served as principal of Jefferson High School for one year and principal of Tecumseh Middle School for two years. He taught high school math and was a middle school assistant principal for the Metropolitan School District of Perry Township.
Himsel graduated from Danville High School in 1985 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics education in 1990, as well as an education specialist degree in educational administration from Indiana State. He also earned a Master of Science degree in secondary school administration from Butler University.
“Chris is an outstanding leader. He has proven his strong leadership ability in two school districts and has been greatly respected in each,” said Terry McDaniel, associate professor of educational leadership at Indiana State. “He is a tremendous asset to the communities he has served. He has proven to be a leader across the state. We are extremely proud to have him as a representative of our educational leadership program at ISU.”
Twenty-seven years into his education career, Himsel knows he made the right decision to transfer from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he was an engineering major, to Indiana State to seek a career in education.
“You have to have a passion for helping kids succeed,” he said about the change in his course of study. “When I’m invited to talk to college students, I tell them that there is a lot we can teach them — content, class management — but if you have no passion for kids and their success all of the things you’ve been taught will never come across to the kids. Kids latch on to those teachers who invest in them; they look at them as role models. We need more people with passion and commitment for helping kids succeed.”
Himsel clearly practices what he preaches. Even with a resume stacked with achievements, accolades and important job titles, he still ranks watching a student who has struggled make it to graduation day amongst the proudest moments of his career.
“There are some kids for whom achieving graduation just took a lot of time, effort and investment from their teachers, their families and their own hard work,” Himsel said. “When you see that kid who has overcome things like a disability, abuse or whatever the hardship might be in order to grab a hold of that diploma, it feels really good.”