2018 National Distinguished Principal


Dawn D. Oldenettel, principal of St. John’s Lutheran School in West Bend, Wis. is selected as a 2018 National Distinguished Principal.  The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) established the program in 1984 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.

“Dawn Oldenettel was nominated and chosen by her peers through a nationwide search process conducted by The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) and is one of four private school educators selected by NAESP,” says Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, director of schools for the LCMS.

Mrs. Oldenettel is credited for strengthening St. John’s instructional culture by supporting teachers in professional and curricular development and introducing new reading and math programming, supported by MAP assessments and integrating technology into the classroom.  A commitment to community is evident in St. John’s student fellowship gatherings, school improvement projects and staff-led academic family events.  Mrs. Oldenettel seeks to develop a community of servant leaders through service projects that are designed to help those in need.  Her open-door policy and welcoming, proactive attitude have earned her respect from colleagues, parents and students.

A parent shares, “Mrs. Oldenettel’s dedication, integrity and leadership have grown the school in a short five years and impacted parents, students and staff; all of which are a blessing to St. John’s.  She shares her knowledge with those around her, preparing and guiding in a way that is pleasing to our Lord.  Her email signature ‘Grace Happens Here’ speaks loudly of who she is, as it is this grace that makes her stand out above the rest.”

Mrs. Oldenettel expresses, “Leadership duties call me to create and cast a vision for our school and students and management duties require me to continually monitor progress and make adjustments to ensure success.  I prioritize with this simple, but meaningful phrase: Jesus First, Others Second, and myself third.  Teachers and students must know that they are uniquely created, loved, and chosen as children of God and so is every other teacher, parent, or child in our building, community and world.”

Mrs. Oldenettel’s work during forty years of service include includes teaching at Cal. Lutheran High School, San Diego, Cal., Immanuel Lutheran, Higginsville, Mo., Zion Lutheran, Independence, Kan. and two years as an adjunct instructor at Independence Community College, Independence, Kan.  She served as principal at Zion Lutheran, Independence, Kan. and is currently serving as principal at St. John’s Lutheran School, West Bend, Wis.  

Mrs. Oldenettel holds a B.A. in classics from San Diego State University, a B.S. in education from Concordia University, Nebraska and an M.S. Ed. from Pittsburg State University.

Mrs. Oldenettel will be honored October 11-12 in Washington, D.C.