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Fort Worth ISD Names 2023-24 District Principals of the Year

Suzelle Birkmire Wins District 2023-24 Elementary Principal of the Year

When students start their day at Meadowbrook Elementary, it's with the encouraging voice of their principal, Suzelle Birkmire.

The morning announcements start with applauding and acknowledging the hard work of the students — whether that’s improved attendance or leveling up in DreamBox.

“I want to make sure that those students are acknowledged in the morning,” Birkmire said. “It sets the tone for a positive day.”

The staff keep the positive affirmations going all day. They post student names on the data wall so their success is celebrated. 

“I know that if we acknowledge our students, they will want to come back tomorrow for some more engagement and some more fun,” Birkmire said.

Her positivity and constant uplifting of her students does not go unnoticed, and it’s part of why Birkmire is the district’s 2023-24 Elementary Principal of the Year. 

Acknowledging student success is the best part of her days, she said. And there’s a lot to celebrate, the A-rated campus has several distinctions from the state.

A big part of being principal is analyzing student data, and Birkmire enjoys sitting down with her staff and seeing the growth and achievements of their students in literacy, math, and science.

In some ways, it seems the path to becoming a principal is in Birkmire’s blood. Her brother and several aunts were educators, and she grew up in the classroom before leading a campus herself.

But in recent years, Birkmire lost her dad, brother, and sister. All people who poured into her and helped her make her dreams come true, she said.

In that grief, Birkmire’s school community uplifted her the same way she encourages students every morning. It allowed her to keep giving 110% to her students and honoring her family’s memory.

“I want to make sure that our students come in every single day feeling valued, respected, feeling part of a learning community,” Birkmire said. “I know I have the best staff in Meadowbrook in the school district that can pour into our students. And I know that if students feel valued and respected that they will come back the next day to finish off where they left off.”

For 26 years, Birkmire has served the students of Fort Worth ISD and tried to instill that value and respect in the school community.

But now, she’s ready to retire. Before ending the school year, Birkmire wants to make sure the legacy of encouraging and uplifting students is cemented in the school community.

“I want my staff to know that when I'm gone, they need to treat every single student as if that is their own child,” she said. “Pour into them, give them everything you have every single day, because you are what they are looking forward to every single day.“

Dr. Quanda Collins Wins District 2023-24 Secondary Principal of the Year

Recently, Dr. Quanda Collins had to call a group of students into her office at TCC South Collegiate High School. It wasn’t for a fun visit, and she said she knows adults and children sometimes make mistakes and her students are entering adulthood.

She loved the students in her office, and she knew they just made a bad decision, but there still had to be consequences. Her students left saying that they knew Collins was doing what’s best for them and that she was just doing her job. 

“And in that moment I was undone,” Collins said. “Because the grace that they extend me in my position is just….our students are amazing. And I get to do this every day. I get to, even in my moment where I'm not able to end every moment with them in the best light, they extend me an opportunity to be their leader.”

Her ability to build that trust with her students is what led to the district naming Collins the 2023-24 Secondary Principal of the Year. 

“There's no other career, no other job, no other purpose in this world, on this planet that's better than the principal,” Collins said. “And I'm honored.” 

Collins is in a unique position because her students are in both high school and college. Not only are they navigating the journey of becoming young adults, but they’re also taking college courses.

But even that is a blessing to her. Collins gets to see how much her students care about the world and community they live in. 

“They are aware of the challenges that they face as they transition into adulthood — even the younger students,” she said. “I am so full of hope for tomorrow.”

At her campus, Collins makes sure staff knows the goal is that no matter what is happening outside the walls of their campus, the TCC South Collegiate High School will not lose sight of their purpose.

Everything, no matter what, is for the students.

“What we do daily, how we plan, how we structure our school is setting an environment intentionally around what the needs of our students are,” she said. “Yes, my students live in an urban setting. Yes, many of them do not have some of their basic needs met. However, they are thriving. So I feel every day we are fulfilling our purpose.”

All of that work helps build the next generation of leaders. Collins knows plenty about setting students up for future success — one of her previous students is also a finalist for this award. De Zavala Principal Marlette Martinez is an Elementary Principal of the Year finalist.

Principals like Collins and Martinez are helping Fort Worth ISD figure out the best ways to serve students.

“Through our adventurous nature, through the fact that we are very action-oriented, day by day we are getting smarter about how we are helping students to build their resilience, their tenacity, and having that grit so that the next generation — just like Marlette, so that the generation after them are even smarter and more intentional,” Collins said. “I'm very confident in what we are doing in Fort Worth ISD with our students.”