Clarkstown CSD Administrator Honored as Elementary Principal of the Year

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Matthew Younghans

ALBANY, NY (03/29/2023) (readMedia)-- ALBANY, NY – Matthew Younghans, principal at Little Tor Elementary School in the Clarkstown Central School District, has been selected as the 2023 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.

Together with the PTA, Younghans spearheaded the development and implementation of many STEAM programs including a STEAM lab called the "Innovation Lab" at Little Tor Elementary School. The lab now provides a space for students to explore, develop, cultivate, and grow their 21st century learning skills. The lab is well known around the school as a fun, creative space where the students feel comfortable making choices and taking risks through learning by doing. As a result, the students have showcased their new skills and projects by participating in the Clarkstown Schools Tech Showcase, STEM Day, Hour of Code, and Computer Science Education Week. Parent and PTA President Rebecca Coatti commented, "A parent once recommended creating an Innovation Lab for STEAM activities. Dr. Younghans worked hand-in-hand with the PTA to make this happen quickly. It was our honor to present him with the National PTA Life Achievement award for his dedication."

Teacher Jessica Kempkes notes that "he embraces innovation in every aspect of education. He leads us with support by always reassuring us that he will help us navigate any situation together."

Believing that the goal of education is to develop the social-emotional well-being of students as well as developing students who are both educated and confident their abilities, Younghans successfully shifted Little Tor ES to a restorative practice model for discipline, rather than the traditional tiered approach. This approach focuses on assessing the social, emotional, and mental well-being of each individual student. As such, Younghans notes that, "this has created a culture of positivity and caring within the school building and an environment where students are known, accepted, and cared for deeply as individuals."

Noted Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Instruction Jeff Sobel, "On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Younghans utilizes excellent leadership skills, including communication, organization, and a positive manner to ensure that children are provided a caring, nurturing experience. Parents have expressed appreciation for his handling of difficult, sensitive matters."

Commented Principal of West Nyack Elementary School Annie Streiff, "Matt has distinguished himself (for many years!) as a natural leader. He is a tremendous resource not only for his school community, but also for his district and colleagues. With a singular vision toward student success, Matt's innovative leadership sets a very high bar for the rest of us. He leads with wisdom, practicality, a very healthy sense of humor, and most importantly, with a profound respect for each student."

Superintendent Marc Baiocco commented, "I am impressed with Dr. Younghans' leadership skills and the way in which he manages his building. I enjoy conversing with him and believe his problem-solving skills result in positive outcomes, in part due to his calm, poised, and confident demeanor."

Younghans received his Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Hartford, Master of Science in Literacy from the College of New Rochelle, his Certificate of Advanced Study in School Leadership from SUNY New Paltz, and his Doctor of Education in K-12 Administration from Seton Hall University.

Each year, NAESP convenes the State Elementary Principals of the Year in Washington, D.C. to be honored as NAESP National Distinguished Principals®. Established in 1984, the program recognizes public and private school principals who make superior contributions to their schools and communities. The event provides attendees with the opportunity to network, share best practices, and learn from their peers.

SAANYS represents nearly 14,000 school administrators, supervisors, and coordinators. As a professional association, SAANYS is committed to providing direction, service, and support to the membership in their efforts to improve the quality of education and leadership in New York State schools. SAANYS is affiliated with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).