Northbrook Middle School Principal Keith Thompson walked into a meeting with staff, both in person and on a Zoom call on Monday morning, and found a surprise waiting for him.

A banner congratulating him was hanging up and there were balloons next to a podium. Officials from the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals then stepped in to honor him as Georgia’s 2021 Principal of the Year.

The principal told staff he normally doesn’t like surprises, but he let out a laugh over this particular surprise.

“You guys got me good on this one,” he told his staff on the Zoom call.

Thompson was one of six finalists for the statewide honor and will now compete for the nation-wide Principal of the Year honor handed out by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He will join other state-level principals of the year at a gala in Washington, D.C., where they will be recognized later this year.

Thompson has been an educator for 24 years. He got his bachelor’s degree from Augusta State University in middle grades education and his master’s degree in educational leadership from Cambridge College. He also holds two degrees from Argosy University: a specialist’s degree in educational leadership and a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction from Argosy University. He graduated from GCPS’ of the school district’s Quality-Plus Leader Academy Aspiring Principal Program in 2011.

He was hired by Gwinnett County Public Schools in 2009 to serve as an assistant principal at the GIVE Center West and was later named an assistant principal at Osborne Middle School in 2011. Three years later, he was promoted to the principalship at Northbrook Middle School.

“He sees and hears people,” former GCPS principal Maryanne Grimes, who hired Thompson, said. “That is his super power. Dr. Thompson is the kind of leader who makes everyone around him better.”

Other officials also praised Thompson’s leadership and vision for Northbrook.

“From the very first day, Dr. Thompson has built a culture of excellence in which teachers and staff are obsessive about instructional time, relentless about student learning, respectful of each other, and passionate about each child,” Northbrook Assistant Principal Brooks Baggett said. “Northbrook is a great place to work and a great place to learn and Dr. Thompson is a true servant leader. This amazing recognition from the GASSP is not an award he sought, he was encouraged by his enthusiastic team to apply.

“At Northbrook Middle School we know what an extraordinary leader Keith Thompson is, and we wanted to make sure the district and state knew, too.”

Peachtree Ridge High School Principal Jadd Jarusinski, who spoke at the announcement along with Grimes and Baggett, added, “one of his strengths is that Dr. Thompson knows his people and he cares for them and that is evident by the great success found here at Northbrook.”

But, Thompson said his staff deserves recognition for the honor as much as he does and thanked those staff gathered over Zoom.

“What I do is for the kids,” he said. “My mantra is that we want to be high-achieving and nurturing. You can’t get that high-achieving part without the nurturing part.”

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