Michael Yurk, principal of St. Paul Lutheran School in Grafton, Wis., has been selected as a 2017 National Distinguished Principal.
The National Distinguished Principal program was established in 1984 by the Association of Elementary School Principals to recognize and celebrate elementary and middle-level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character and climate for the students, families and staffs in their learning communities.
“Mr. Yurk was nominated and selected by his fellow principals through a nationwide search process conducted by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod,” said Terry Schmidt, director of LCMS School Ministry. “He is an excellent school leader, worthy of this honor, and his faithful service as a school administrator reflects the qualities that often result in a school’s becoming a school of choice in the community. When one of our leaders is honored, it reflects well on all of our Lutheran schools.”
A graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Yurk previously held the positions of assistant principal, dean of students and athletic director at Luther High School North in Chicago. He has served as principal of St. Paul, Grafton, since 2008.
In October, Yurk and his wife Joy traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive the award and take part in two days of activities planned to honor all of those recognized. Each state in the U.S. selected one National Distinguished Principal from its public schools. In addition, four honorees were selected from U.S. private/parochial schools, and three were selected from international American schools.
Each recipient gave a brief speech about his or her school and community. Yurk says, “This was the most rewarding part of the weekend, as I was able to share with my fellow honorees the blessing we have in Lutheran schools to share the love of Jesus with our students on a daily basis. Our mission at St. Paul … is ‘Focused on Excellence … Centered on Christ.’ As a school, we expect educational excellence and deliver that in a setting that is based on the firm foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ.”
During Yurk’s tenure at St. Paul, the school has been honored with “exemplary” status by National Lutheran School Accreditation. Yurk was named the 2016-17 LCMS South Wisconsin District Administrator of the Year and was a finalist for the Herb Kohl Excellence in Education Leadership Award in 2017. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Lutheran Education Association.
While in the nation’s capital, Yurk and his wife were able to tour the Capitol building, the White House and several monuments and memorials, as well as attend a reception at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
Yurk says of the experience: “To be recognized with so many incredible leaders that are shaping and molding the future of our nation is almost indescribable. God has placed leaders in schools — public and private — to use their individual gifts to make a difference in young children’s lives. The weekend’s events not only allowed me time to reflect on how blessed I am to serve in a Lutheran school with a staff, congregation and community that are dedicated to our children, but … [to hear] what great things are happening throughout our country for children — many of whom have social-economic situations that are difficult hurdles to overcome.”
Of Lutheran education — and his own work with children — Yurk says: “Christian education brings so much more than required curriculum. We are developing spiritual, emotional, physical and social needs of our young students. … When I come to school in the morning I believe that something great is going to happen today, and as principal, I’m going to have a role in that. I’m humbled that God has selected me to do His work in His Kingdom at this place and at this time.”
Posted Dec. 14, 2017