Principal at Highlands Ranch school represents state in nation's capital

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The duties that come with being a principal are, for Laura Wilson, a means to an end. And that end is children, who she says are the highlight of her days at Redstone Elementary School.

“The best is kids high-fiving me, giving me hugs,” she said. “I love helping special-needs students. Also, being able to play and have fun like a child yourself.

“It's not this stuff,” she said, indicating the paperwork on her desk.

Wilson was honored to be chosen among just 60 principals from around the country as a National Distinguished Principal, an award given by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She spent two days in October at the National Distinguished Principals program in Washington, D.C.

“It was a little like being in a beauty pageant, and I represented Colorado” she said. “I don't do this job for accolades and awards, but it's nice to be recognized.”

Wilson knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in high school, working a side job as a children's dance instructor. She never envisioned becoming a principal, but a principal who observed her during her first teaching job in Aurora spied Wilson's leadership abilities.

“She saw the potential,” Wilson said. “I was good at coaching. She really pushed me.”

Wilson was principal at Redstone Elementary the day the Highlands Ranch school opened in 2006. Her greatest source of pride is reaching a years-long dream this fall of putting an iPad in every student's hand. The school held a series of fundraisers to reach that goal, raising about $55,000 three years running.

The increased enthusiasm Wilson sees among her students now has exceeded her expectations.

“It's opened the doors of communication and learning,” she said. “Schools and education are changing, and we need to change as well.”

While schools throughout the district are integrating technology into classrooms, Redstone is the first to have iPads for each student. Educators from across the country call Wilson to ask about the impact iPads are having, and to learn how the school realized its goal of one per student.

“Our school mission is `A school of possibilities,'” Wilson said. “I pride myself on making the impossible possible.”

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