Teacher Tuesday: Brian Dotson named Principal of the Year.

December 8, 2020

Foster Elementary Principal Brian Dotson

Teacher Tuesday: Brian Dotson named Principal of the Year.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, staff writer.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbystatebank.com with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

LUDINGTON – Unbeknownst to him, Ludington Area School District’s Foster Elementary School principal, Brian Dotson wasn’t in on a little secret that had been brewing since August of this year. Last week, Dotson was named Michigan K-8 Principal of the Year by the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals.

“Kathy Surd, a community member and recent retiree from West Shore ESD, spearheaded a group of teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and students that collaborated on the nomination process,” Dotson said. “It involved letters of recommendation, my previous accomplishments, current activities, and so much more. This group put forth a lot of effort that began in August 2020, so I’m told.”

Dotson, who has been principal at Foster Elementary for six years received the award a few nights ago, when members of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association appeared on his doorstep.

“The honor is awarded by the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, which is a professional organization that includes many of Michigan’s K-8 principals,” Dotson said. “I have been a MEMSPA member for six years and have participated in and benefited from the tremendous learning opportunities the continually offer.”

Dotson is a native of Painseville, Ohio, where he graduated from Thomas W. Harvey High School. He received a bachelor’s degree from Baldwin–Wallace College (now Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, Ohio) in early childhood education and later a master’s degree in school principalship from Central Michigan University.

He was assistant principal at OJ DeJonge Middle School in Ludington for one year while also serving as the district athletic director. The next year, he became principal at Foster Elementary.

Dotson said he was a bit in shock when he received the award, not only because it is a huge honor to be considered, but also, because he now shares the company with many other very established and dedicated educators.

“In reflecting back on past winners of this award, I’m in awe of the caliber of people that my name will follow,” he said. “These principals have set the path, the example, and the opportunity for me to continue to strengthen public education. I intend to do just that.”

Along with being named the 2020 MEMSPA Principal of the Year, Dotson was also awarded the Make a Difference Award, by the West Shore Educational Service District in May 2017.

Even though principals don’t get to work with students as closely as teachers do, Dotson said the students are the reason he loves what he does and why he continues to strive to make a difference in his building as well as helping those at other schools as well. Working as a team, district-wide is so important for educators as well as students, families and community members, he said.

“The kids are the reason any educator goes into education,” he said. “As a teacher, I always wanted to make school fun, so that my students would be intrinsically motivated to learn. When the opportunity to become principal at Foster Elementary arrived, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to grow a love of learning for not just my classroom, but throughout the entire school. The staff at Foster is a collection of some of the greatest educators I have ever worked with. 

“Through the past six years, I have led with humor and heart. We have fun at Foster Elementary and we support one another. We are a team. I am honored to work with this amazing group of teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, students, families, and the community.”

With COVID-19 forcing educators to adapt and adopt new ways of educating students, Dotson said even though it has been a work in progress and a huge learning experience, he is working hard, daily with staff members and other administrators to keep students and families engaged in educational experiences as much as possible.

“It is no secret that COVID-19 has turned the world of education upside down and all around,” he said. “However, I have seen some good come out of all this craziness. I have witnessed educators collaborating with one another more often and working to build stronger relationships with families. I have seen a shift to the importance of the mental well-being of children, so that quality learning can take place.”

There is no doubt Dotson loves his job and really values all those who have come into his life during all of his educational experiences and he hopes to continue to work with exceptional staff members, families, students and community members and leaders for years to come.

“There are so many people to thank,” he said. “Being awarded an honor this high is not a one-person accomplishment. Of course, I would like to thank Kathy Surd and her group that pulled together all the information for the nomination, as well as my wife and family for their support. Thank you to all of the amazing administrators that I have worked with and learned from over the years including my Ludington administrative team, West Shore ESD leaders, and my fellow Region 12 MEMSPA principals. And a final thank-you to the entire staff at Foster and Ludington Area Schools, the wonderful students, their families, and the community of Ludington. I am honored to share this recognition with you.”

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