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Jill Versteeg, East High School Principal and winner of the IHSPA Administrator of the Year Award.

Jill Versteeg is a relatively new principal at East High School, taking the helm mid-way through the 2021-22 school year and leading her staff, families, and students through some incredible challenges at her school. Through those events, staff have seen her as a constant source of information and support.

“The first word that comes to mind when I think of Jill is ‘accessible’,” said journalism instructor Natalie Niemeyer. “She constantly prioritizes time and relationships with students.”

Niemeyer nominated Versteeg for the 2023 Iowa High School Press Association Administrator of the Year not just for her leadership and relationships with students, but her willingness to treat student journalists as professionals.  Following a shooting near campus in March of 2022, Niemeyer said Versteeg supported student journalists in their quest to tell the real and uncensored stories of the surviving victims.

“Even while dealing with her own grief, she cooperated with students when asked tough questions,” said Neimeyer. “She trusted them to do their jobs.”

The work student journalists did in the aftermath of the shooting earned them an All-Iowa News Team of the Year award, East’s first ever. Niemeyer said without the cooperation and trust of the EHS admin team, students would not have been able to do this important work.

Versteeg is humble, saying she appreciates the nomination and the gratitude from the journalism program. But she points back to Niemeyer and her students as the real source of inspiration.

“They do the hard work,” Versteeg said. “I get to sit back, admire what they do, and make sure they have the tools and support for success. When barriers get in their way, it’s my job to remove those for them and watch magic happen.”

She says journalism students are learning lifelong skills like how to think critically, collaborate with a variety of people, and be better communicators.

“Their voices and words are powerful, and they deserve to be heard,” she said. “I am honored that I am in the position to help provide ways for their voices to be heard and their words to be read. We need to hear them and listen to what they have to say. Their words have power.”

Versteeg will be presented with the award at the Iowa High School Press Association Iowa City banquet in October.

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