Columbia Falls Junior High School principal David Wick was recently selected as the 2012 National Distinguished Principal for Montana.
Wick grew up in Great Falls, the son of Norman Wick, who was the Lutheran bishop for the state of Montana. The young Wick played basketball in his youth and was a member of the Great Falls High School basketball team that won the state championship in 1976.
"I was a role player," Wick humbly said last week.
After high school, Wick went to Concordia College, in Moorehead, Minn., where he majored in English, education and business administration. He later received a master's in education leadership from the University of Montana and completed a year of doctoral studies.
Wick started his education career in Elma, Wis., teaching English and coaching basketball. He also taught four years in Hope, N.D., and Brainerd, Minn., before moving back to the Montana to take an assistant principal position for three years at what was then the Central School in Whitefish.
In 1997, Wick was hired as the junior high principal at Columbia Falls High School. Eleven years ago, the current junior high building was constructed, which Wick said made a world of difference in the learning atmosphere. The old junior high had small windows, and the campus was spread out over several buildings, he said, making it difficult to keep an eye on things.
"Now I can stand at the back door and see every kid on the playground," he said.
The current building has big windows and plenty of natural light, making it a great learning place for students. That isn't a trivial distinction, Wick noted.
"The building is a pleasant and positive place," he said.
Wick also credits the school staff and the community for his success.
"The success of the school is a collaboration of a progressive staff, supportive community and stable school board," he said.
The Columbia Falls community, while considered blue collar, also has a great work ethic, he noted, which leads to success among its student body.
Much has changed on the technology front during Wick's tenure. Students and staff are attached 24/7 to cell phones and mobile devices. But the students themselves are pretty much the same.
"I think the kids aren't that much different," he said. "The same kinds of things occur with this age group. These kids are fun, energetic and generally excited to be at school."
Wick said he was humbled by the national recognition. He was nominated by school superintendent Michael Nicosia.
Wick is "committed to the moral standards and basic principles of leadership, who influences, who controls his own destiny, who is committed to truth and justice, and who has a passion for success," his nomination letter read.
The announcement was made during the 61st annual Montana Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals winter conference in Fairmont on Jan. 25-27. The award program was established in 1984. Wick will travel to Washington, D.C., in October to meet with other award-winning principals from across the U.S.
Wick's wife, Carrie, teaches in the Whitefish school district. They have two children, son Murphy, 13, and daughter McKenzie, 16.