Meet the 2023 Gradient Learning School Leaders of the Year

In her 15 years as Founding Principal at Carter Lomax Middle School in Texas, Norma Penny led with one primary goal.

“We’re going to keep trying to get a little bit better than we were yesterday,” Penny said. “We never stop growing.”

Penny, who passed away unexpectedly in 2021, embodied the characteristics of a school leader who fostered a learning environment that led to positive change. Penny left a legacy of impact at Carter Lomax, and she is the inspiration for the Gradient Learning School Leader of the Year Award.

Penny posthumously becomes the first recipient of the national honor, and she is joined by two other passionate school leaders: Catherine Hunt of Northport School District in Northport, Washington, and Chris Lin of Intrinsic Schools’ Belmont Campus in Chicago, Illinois.

Penny, Hunt, and Lin are the inaugural School Leaders of the Year for collaborating with compassion and enabling teachers to guide students to become their best selves. The award honors principals and assistant principals who rethink, reimagine, and rebuild education by working together with their communities.

“Good school leaders build capacity in others and figure out what makes somebody tick,” said Melissa McCalla, the Chief Technology Officer for Pasadena Independent School District in Pasadena, Texas. “Norma was great at that, and helped people become better leaders themselves.”

Our three inspiring recipients of the inaugural Gradient Learning School Leader of the Year Award:

Catherine Hunt, K-12 Principal

Northport School District, Northport, Washington

“It’s all about the kids. My thought every day is, ‘What can we do today to best help our kids?’”

Read Catherine’s story.

Chris Lin, Assistant Principal

Intrinsic Schools, Belmont Campus, Chicago, Illinois

“The team dynamic has to be there. When that collaboration works, it is fantastic and beautiful.”

Read Chris’ story.

Norma Penny, Founding Principal

Carter Lomax Middle School, Pasadena, Texas

“The world changes, and we as educators need to change with it.”

Read Norma’s story.

Thank you to all who submitted nominations for your terrific school leaders! Learn more about the Gradient Learning School Leader of the Year Award.

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.