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Winola Elementary School Principal Kari Roberts talks with third-grader Landyn Walsh during the school's lunch break. Roberts recently received the Principal of the Year award from the Blackhawk Division of the Illinois Principal Association.

VIOLA — Winola Elementary School Principal Kari Roberts received the Principal of the Year award from the Blackhawk Division of the Illinois Principal Association.

Roberts received the award at a ceremony Monday.

“Every day is definitely different from the one before," she said. "It is not always an easy job, but at the end of the day, I can rest easily knowing that every difficult decision I have made, has been based on what is best for our students."

Sherrard High School Principal Tim Wernentin, who also serves as the Black Hawk Region Director for the Illinois Principals Association, said it was a difficult choice between the candidates.

“Kari's experiences, materials and letters of recommendation were very impressive. ... The committee felt she was the strongest candidate.”

She said she enjoys seeing students progress from year to year and working closely with families — a role she said, that is different from a teacher's.

“I absolutely loved teaching" but said she wanted to have an impact on a greater number of students and enjoys supporting the growth of teachers and staff.

“It is like one big family, which has a huge impact on our students' well-being.”

Roberts said she couldn’t do the job without a strong administrative team, staff, families and students.

She also credited success to her mentor: longtime, now-retired principal Polly Dahlstrom.

“I wouldn’t have made it through the first couple years without her,” she said.

Roberts, who attended Sherrard schools as a child, now lives south of Milan in the district, with her four daughters: Kaylee, 20, a junior at Western Illinois University; Emma, 17, a senior at SHS; and twins Maddie and Ellie, 6, who are first-graders at Winola Elementary.

She began her teaching career in 2003 as a substitute. In 2005, she was hired to teach fourth and second grade full time at Winola Elementary. In 2013 she became principal of Sherrard Elementary and served in that position for two years. Roberts has been the principal of Winola Elementary for the past three years.

Roberts said, “There are so many incredible educators in the Quad City area. It's exciting to be recognized by my colleagues and to have others acknowledge the profession in a positive way."

The nominees completed online essay questions and submitted their resume and three letters of recommendation.

Each region's board of directors review the materials and selects a winner.

Two other awards were handed out to local educators. Assistant Principal of the Year was awarded to Rowdy Fredericksen, of Wilson Middle School, in Moline. Heidi Lensing, the principal at Ridgewood Elementary, in East Moline, earned the Herman Graves Award (for dedication and service to IPA).

All the winners are now under consideration for the state-level awards.

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