By LISA CAPOBIANCO
When Bristol Central High School Principal Peter Wininger saw his name projected on a television screen before a crowd of educators from throughout the country, time suddenly stood still for a moment.
Selected from a group of four finalists, Wininger made his way to a stage in Orlando, Fla. to accept the Varsity Brands “Principal of Principle” Award. In March, Wininger found out about his nomination for the award, which honors principals who “understand the essential link between school spirit and school achievement and therefore supports academics and athletics alike,” according to the Varsity Brands website.
Last month, Wininger attended the 2017 Varsity Brands School Spirits Awards Show in Orlando, where he was declared the winner.
“It was surreal,” said Wininger. “Time kind of stands still for a minute and when it projected my name, was relieved. I was excited.”
Principals who qualify for this award are “personable, active in school activities, encouraging to students and faculty and innovative in his/her approach to education and engagement,” as explained on the Varsity Brands website. A group of Bristol Central staff members collaborated to score Wininger on the nomination, including Gina Gallo, Kathy Archibald, Gale Dickau, and John Horan, who created a “Top 10” list of reasons why their principal deserved the nomination.
While Wininger was attending the award show, Gallo, a world language teacher, waited in anticipation all day to find out the final winner.
“I felt like he was going to win the whole time, but to actually see it come out, we were just so thrilled,” said Gallo, adding how nominating Wininger was a no-brainer.
Although he never dreamed that he would become a candidate for an award like this, Wininger said felt confident he was “on par” with the other finalists, who were from Florida, California, and Illinois.
“Just getting there, to be part of that final group, was certainly enough recognition for me and for our school,” said Wininger. “But winning was certainly a nice treat.”
Besides enjoying a breakfast at Epcot Center, Wininger said his weekend in Orlando also gave him an opportunity to learn a lot from other administrators.
“To be able to talk to other administrators and to view the amazing things other schools do with their student body…it plants a lot of seeds in your mind about how you can improve your practice,” said Wininger.
Described by staff and students as the “heartbeat” of Bristol Central, during the awards show, Wininger was recognized for the ways in which he has cared for the well being of the school community over the past 10 years. One initiative Wininger helped launch was the Ram Locker—a giving closet that provides clothing free of charge to students in need. He also created the annual “Festivus,” event—a school-wide celebration that features a pep rally, obstacle courses, and friendly competitions between students and staff.
Although the award recognizes him, Wininger said the honor is a tribute to all members of the Bristol Central community.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.