All it took was an auditorium full of students, fellow administrators, a few family members and Oregon State University mascot Benny Beaver to bring Bend High Principal H.D. Weddel to tears.
“He is seriously one of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life; he’s a really big role model to me,” said Annie Beaver, 18, Bend High student body president. “Anytime I need help with anything, he’s always there.”
Weddel was named Oregon’s 2014 Principal of the Year at a surprise ceremony Thursday afternoon at Bend High auditorium. He was nominated by colleagues after winning the Distinguished Administrator award for Bend-La Pine Schools in 2013.
“H.D. is absolutely one of the most unique people I will ever know,” said Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Ron Wilkinson. “He’s all about building people up and building positive relationships and in his nine years at Bend High, five years as principal, he’s just done an incredible job of creating a culture here that is unlike most high schools.”
That culture is set to continue with Assistant Principal Chris Reese next fall, as Weddel will retire at the end of the 2013-14 academic year and begin work as chaplain with the OSU football team in Corvallis.
Nearly 1,700 students filed into the auditorium Thursday, most completely unaware of the occasion. They were soon greeted by a startled Weddel and begin to sing the Bend High fight song.
Rob Saxton, deputy superintendent of Oregon Public Schools and one of Weddel’s former colleagues was on hand to make the announcement.
“We have awards for people who are at the top of their field: in the Olympics, it’s a gold medal; in music, it’s the Grammys and if you’re an actor, it is the Oscars. We need to have that kind of award, that kind of recognition for people who take on the tough task and job of high school principal,” Saxton said at the ceremony.
“It takes energy, commitment and a great capacity for everyone. Mr. H.D. Weddel absolutely embodies all those things.”
Weddel is the fifth Bend-La Pine administrator in five years to win a high-level award of this kind. Even with the milestone and surprise ceremony in his honor, Weddel focused on crediting the students and staff in his “acceptance” speech.
“I don’t know if I’m the best principal in Oregon. I don’t think I’m the best principal in this building; I just want to be the best principal in my room at one time,” he said. “No one gets in this job to get awards; no one gets in this job to climb the ladder. People get in this job because they love kids. I get to be a part of that.”
The best part of the day for the newly crowned Principal of the Year? Having his family at the ceremony to celebrate with him.
“That my kids can be here with my wife, that’s the big piece for me,” he said. “To have them share (the award) with me on that stage was an honor.”
—Reporter: 541-633-2117, firstname.lastname@example.org