There’s no question what inspires Deb Henton M’95, C’96, D’99, superintendent of North Branch Area Public Schools.

Actually, there are approximately 3,000 inspirations. Her students.

“Whenever I can raise student achievement, that’s No. 1,” Dr. Henton said. “That’s why I come to work every day. I want to create an environment where kids have the best opportunities possible to achieve their dreams. Our vision statement is to inspire dreams, build integrity, and instill hope in our students, our staff, our families, and our communities.”

It’s because of this commitment, passion, and “outstanding leadership and innovative spirit” that the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) recently named Dr. Henton as the 2018 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year.

A proud alumnus, Dr. Henton attributes much of her success to the education she received from Saint Mary’s.

“I will always have allegiance and loyalty to Saint Mary’s,” she said. “It has helped me become the person and the leader that I am today.”

A press release announcing her honor touts a lengthy list of accomplishments — during her 11 years at North Branch and throughout her career.

During her tenure Dr. Henton developed and implemented two five-year strategic plans which resulted in: new course offerings; updated buildings; the establishment of an education foundation; greater efficiency of systems; better support of students, staff, and families; a 1:1 digital device initiative for grades 5-12; all-day kindergarten; Spanish K-12; and early childhood programming, beginning at age 3.

In 2014, Dr. Henton implemented new literacy methodologies in NBAPS’ primary and intermediate grades, which greatly improved test results. She’s also improved the district’s overall community engagement and was lauded for the innovative actions she’s taken to reduce the budget, most notably the enactment of a four-day school week.

Originally a stay-at-home mom, Dr. Henton was encouraged to go back for her bachelor’s degree in education by one of her friends. “She told me I should think about going to college because once my two sons were in school, I’d probably want to do something,” she said. “I started teaching Sunday school to see if I liked teaching, and I did. And one of my parents asked me, ‘Are you a teacher; you’re a natural.’ ” After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in 1989, she was further encouraged by colleagues to get her master’s degree and go into education administration.

It was then she was introduced to Saint Mary’s and enjoyed her studies from the very first class.

“No matter the class or location, I found Saint Mary’s to be flexible in meeting the needs of its adult learners,” she said. “They provided relevant content that increased my own tool kit, and I found the university’s values to match my ethical beliefs. I came out of Saint Mary’s with a deep understanding of the educational trends and topics and with the keys to what it means to be a good leader.”

Dr. Henton earned a M.Ed. from Saint Mary’s in 1995, followed by education administration licensure in 1996, and then her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in the university’s very first cohort in 1999.

“Saint Mary’s has been the foundation for my success,” she said. “It’s helped me every day feel grounded and feel like I have the knowledge and the skills to do my job.”

As the Minnesota honoree, Dr. Henton is a candidate among other state recipients for National Superintendent of the Year, to be announced during the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) convention held on Feb. 15-17, 2018 in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo provided by Isanti-Chisago County Star

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