Burlington Township principal recognized for her outstanding leadership

Dr. Denise King is receiving two awards for her work at B. Bernice Young Elementary School

Denise King’s office at the B. Bernice Young Elementary School is decked out in purple — her favorite color — and she’s sitting at her desk, smiling from ear to ear. The elementary school principal has recently been named the NJ 2016 National Distinguished Principal.

“I was surprised and shocked,” King said.

She knew she was being nominated for the award, but says winning was very unexpected. She added that the process was a lot more in depth than she expected.

“Someone came out and I thought it was going to be a brief interview, but she must have stayed here for a couple of hours touring the building, talking to staff and students and getting a feel for our learning environment,” King said.

It’s clear the organization saw something very special in the school. Not long after she was interviewed, King received a call saying she had been selected to represent New Jersey as the NJ 2016 National Distinguished Principal.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals establish the program in 1984. It was designed to recognize and celebrate elementary and middle-level principals who have set high standards for instruction, character, student achievement and climate for every person involved in their learning communities. King was also honored with the NJSPA Visionary Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership. King has received extensive commendations and support since winning the awards.

“At the helm of every successful school is a successful principal,” said Gail Connelly, NAESP’s executive director. “Our National Distinguished Principals program provides us with an opportunity to recognize the outstanding leadership of these principals and their commitment to creating successful learning communities. Because of them, students thrive academically, teachers grow professionally, and communities are strengthened.”

Burlington Township School District Superintendent Mary Ann Bell also commented on King’s awards.

“The Burlington Township School District is excited that Dr. King was selected by her professional organization, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association as the Elementary Visionary Award Winner for 2016 and also the NAESP (National Association of Elementary School Principals) National Distinguished Principal of the Year,” Bell said. “We are excited that she is being recognized for her dedication and hard work on behalf of the young learners in Burlington Township. Dr King can be seen in the halls interacting with students, reminding them to ‘be cool and be safe’ and handing out smiley faces, while always having an open door and open heart for her staff. The entire Burlington Township school community would like to congratulate Dr. King on this honor.”

King boasts that there are many things that set the B. Bernice Young Elementary School apart from other schools in the state.

“I think the way that we connect with students, connect with families. We have an open door policy. We want and encourage our community to really be a part of the learning process with us. I think that is unique for us. And the continual importance of making sure that students know that we care,” King said.

King holds a B.A. from Rutgers University, an M.Ed. from Cheyney University and an Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University. Before being promoted to principal of the B. Bernice Young Elementary School in 2005, King was vice principal at Fountain Woods Elementary School.

King now oversees a school of more than 850 students, ranging from Pre-K to second grade. But the large population at the school doesn’t stop her from doing her best to get to know every student.

“We make it personalized. We know the kids’ names, we call them by their first name, we know the families,” King said.

King added that the school tries to keep the community involved with the district. She openly accepts any feedback, recommendations and concerns and always tries to follow up and keep the lines of communication open.

Upon winning the award, King received a $7,000 grant. She used the money to fund the iPad initiative for the Pre-K program.

“It’s really been a goal of mine and for our teachers. Our youngest learners are 3- and 4-year-olds specifically. Some of our most challenging areas of learning have needs for touching, needs to learn by using the iPad technology,” King said.

The iPads will be used for learning activities, such as reading e-books. She says she sees no downsides to using technology in school at an early age.

“It’s the way that you balance it, it’s the way that you structure it. And if you’re using the best practices to actually perform the instructional methods for learning, then it can’t be a negative, it can only be a positive,” King said.

One of her favorite programs at the school is the 30-day book challenge, which challenges kids to read 30 books in 30 days.

“Anyone who meets the challenge goes outside and you’ll see hundreds of students on the grass blowing bubbles with me and Mr. Russell for accepting the challenge and meeting the challenge,” King said.

King has made it clear that her biggest passion is the kids.

“We just want to make sure that they feel valued, that they know that they’re respected, and that we’re going to continue to help them become successful,” she said.