Educator named parish’s principal of the year

Kelli Oertling is humbled by being named St. Charles Parish Public School System’s 2019-20 Principal of the Year, but she emphasized it’s not an honor that she alone deserves at Lakewood Elementary School in Luling.

“It’s not just about me – it’s about us,” Oertling said. “Definitely, it’s the work that we do each and every day here. It’s about the collective, not me as an individual.”

Oertling, who will represent the school district on the state level, said it’s nice to know her colleagues chose her to represent them.

“You never just assume it’s going to be you,” she said of the recognition. “Every principal works hard each and every day.”

An educator with the parish’s school system for 20 years, Oertling said she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher.

“As a little girl, it came naturally to me in wanting to help others,” she said. “From tutoring to supporting friends, it was just something I truly love and enjoy. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

From St. Rose to Norco to Lakewood, Oertling was described as being “the pillar of professionalism and a mentor to many throughout the years.”

She began her teaching career as a social studies teacher at Hahnville High School (HHS) in 2000 after graduating from Northwestern State University. She received her bachelor of science in education and her master’s degree in educational leadership.

While serving at HHS in many  leadership roles during her tenure, she also served as a Hi-Stepper sponsor for many years. Oertling went on to become administrative assistant at St. Rose Elementary School, and principal at St. Rose and Norco elementary schools. By 2014, Oertling was named principal of Lakewood Elementary.

“It’s our job to be there for our students and do whatever they need to be successful,” she said. “Supporting the whole child is important to me … making the school a safe place for them and an exciting place where they want to come and learn, and teach them to be good people because it’s the right thing to do. If we take care of each other, as adults we can be in the best place to raise our kids.”

At Lakewood Elementary, 52 percent of students scored at mastery and above on LEAP for 2018-19, up from the system average of 46 percent and above the state average of 35 percent.

To be eligible for the parish’s award, a principal must be an active, practicing principal with at least three years of experience and must demonstrate evidence of collaborative leadership, instructional leadership and personalization.

The Louisiana Principals of the Year Awards Program is designed to honor outstanding principals throughout the state. The program provides an opportunity to recognize principals both locally and statewide, as well as spotlight the positive aspects of educational leadership.

Oertling is a member of the Louisiana Association of Principals, the American Association of School Administrators, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

She said she is focused on creating a warm, welcoming environment for children to ensure they know they’re loved, and they do all possible to ensure they are successful.

She added, “When I get a hug and a smile from a child, I know why I come to work everyday.”


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