FORT KNOX, Ky. — It doesn’t take long to realize something exciting has happened at Scott Intermediate School – just walk through the front door.
Since finding out March 10 that their principal was named the 2023 Department of Defense Education Activity Americas Principal of the Year, faculty and students have been busy covering the walls of the school with their love and appreciation for Theresa Wilson.
For Wilson, the win came as a big surprise. It didn't for others.
“I told her she would win,” said Sonia Coakley, the school secretary. “She told me, ‘I got nominated, but I probably won’t get it. I told her, ‘Yeah, you’ll get it. There’s no doubt in my mind, because you deserve it.’”
Shortly after retiring from the military in 2021, Coakley was hired by Wilson for her position, which puts Coakley in the same offices as Wilson.
“We hit it off, like, immediately,” said Coakley. “I think we are a great team. They say I kind of shelter her, but I just want to make she has time to do what she needs to do to be principal of the year.”
Coakley describes Wilson as “so involved, so hands-on” with the day-to-day goings on at the school; a passion that comes from her love of the children. But there’s another side to Wilson.
“She loves the students because she’s a people person, but she’s an excellent administrator,” said Coakley. “She’s good at problem solving, but she also likes to receive input from her staff so they can have their say. It’s not ‘I’m the boss and we’re going to do this my way.’”
Wilson has the unique advantage of having taught or worked in every school at Fort Knox. Coakley said while this fact often makes Wilson sought after for advice, she doesn’t let it go to her head.
“She always makes sure she stays in her lane,” said Coakley. “She’s there for people if they need to call and talk to her; she never tells them she doesn’t have time for them.”
Wilson has been an educator in some capacity for 22 years, whether as teacher or administrator. She joined the DoDEA team in 2009 at nearby Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a 7th grade teacher. Then in 2012, she moved to Fort Knox as the vice principal of Fort Knox Middle High School. By 2018, she took over the principal duties at Scott.
A native of Central New York, she said her time as a teacher in Florida made her long to return to a more northern climate that would place her closer to her family. Kentucky turned out to be a great fit for her.
At the end of January, Wilson learned that she had been nominated for the Americas honor. The next phase of the award was an interview.
“It was then I learned that I was a finalist,” said Wilson. “But then I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks, so I thought, ‘Well, maybe I didn’t get it.’”
When the email showed up in her inbox March 8 that she had won, she said it was a pleasant surprise. The next step is a March 28 interview for overall Principal of the Year, where she will be competing against the Europe and Pacific winners.
True to Coakley’s description of her, Wilson looked to others.
“My staff is really excited,” said Wilson. “They were thrilled, my staff specifically because they have been pushing for this for a long time. I’m excited because I have five teachers who have been nominated for Teacher of the Year.”
Coakley said win or lose, Wilson is in her opinion still the best principal in DoDEA.
“I am so proud of her,” said Coakley. “They made a great choice when they chose her as the Americas Principal of the Year, and I think they’ll make her top principal of the whole thing.”