Malakoff ISD Educator Named Texas 2019 NAESP National Distinguished Principal for Texas

Tool, TX – State education and community leaders will gather at Tool Elementary at 1pm Thursday, May 2, to recognize Principal Christal Calhoun as the 2019 NAESP National Distinguished Principal (NDP) for Texas. Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association will host the event where Calhoun will be awarded a check for $10,000 thanks to a generous donation from long-time TEPSA business partner Mentoring Minds. She will represent Texas at the National Distinguished Principals program sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals in Washington, D.C. in October.

Challenges abound in the small, rural PreK-5 school Calhoun leads. Eighty percent of Tool Elementary are considered economically disadvantaged. Add the 40% mobility rate, meaning almost half of the student population moves each year, and it’s easy to believe less than one-third of kids were succeeding prior to Calhoun’s arrival. Today two-thirds of students are meeting standards in reading and math.

“While Tool has a lot of residents who have struggled in life, everyone in Tool agrees that the campus is the brightest star in the area,” Malakoff ISD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Mike Burns wrote in his recommendation letter. “Everyone is proud to have Tool Elementary School at the center of the community.”

In seven years, Calhoun has led Tool Elementary to national recognition. The Texas Education Agency recently named Tool Elementary a 2018 National ESEA Distinguished School. The only school from Texas, Tool was one of 100 schools recognized throughout the nation. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education named Tool Elementary a National Blue Ribbon School.

For six consecutive years, the state has recognized Tool Elementary with the TEA Accountability rating of Met Standard with Designated Distinctions increasing from two in 2013 to all six in 2018 with an overall grade of 97.

While teachers at Tool are proud of rising test scores and improved student performance, Calhoun says they find their greatest success in meeting their student’s many needs. Under Calhoun’s leadership, attendance has soared to 97%, and more than three-quarters of kids regularly attend the monthly “Granny Calhoun” party to celebrate learning and perfect attendance.

“Extraordinary community engagement, high expectations for academic achievement and unique opportunities for students beyond the regular curriculum are hallmarks of this outstanding campus,” TEPSA Executive Director Harley Eckhart said.  “The creative approach to instruction and the warm, nurturing environment make Tool Elementary an exceptional place for staff and students. ‘Granny Calhoun’, the art gallery and the innovative use of technology for both parents and students are a few highlights that make this school a special place every day.”

Grade level and vertical teams meet regularly to discuss each student’s potential and ways to ensure every child is successful. Not only do they review test scores, teams also consider each student’s social emotional needs to determine where help is most needed. More than 20% of students meet weekly with a positive adult role model in the community mentoring program Calhoun created. Students who were formerly withdrawn have blossomed under this program, and teachers report increased student achievement and better behavior in their classrooms.

With limited resources available, Calhoun has recruited several community organizations to help her students. For example, she partnered with a local church, Calhoun implemented a Friday Food Sack to ensure students have food to eat for the weekend. After seeing the high level of need at the school, the church expanded the program into a community food pantry.

“At the heart of student and school success is a great principal. Our Texas principals live up to this every day and Mentoring Minds is proud to showcase their efforts through our long-time partnership with TEPSA and the National Distinguished Principal program. Christal embodies everything that makes our schools successful, and we are honored to have her represent the state of Texas,” said Shad Madsen, CEO of Mentoring Minds.

A principal for seven years, Calhoun earned her M.Ed. from Stephen F. Austin State University. She has volunteered as a TEPSA region officer for several years, including serving as the 2017-18 TEPSA Region 7 President. She was recognized as the Region 7 TEPSAN of the Year in 2018 for her service to the association.

TEPSA received more than 100 nominations for the 2019 NDP award. After a rigorous reading process, in which applicants shared their educational philosophies and accomplishments both in and out of the classroom, a peer-review committee selected four finalists. These outstanding leaders then showcased their achievements during a school visit by a team of educators. Calhoun will receive her award Wednesday, June 12, during the TEPSA Summer Conference in Austin.

TEPSA, whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of more than 3 million PreK-8 school children. Learn more at

Sponsored by NAESP, The National Distinguished Principals program honors outstanding elementary and middle-level administrators who ensure that America’s children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. The program was established 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. Learn more at

Mentoring Minds is a K-12 publisher with a mission to put critical thinking at the center of the classroom in order to support student achievement and empower educators to teach to higher standards. Mentoring Minds’ award-winning, research-based resources are designed to be flexible for classroom needs, supporting technology integration and standards mastery for Math, ELAR, and Science. Mentoring Minds’ commitment to education extends beyond the classroom, as well. The company proudly sponsors groundbreaking administrators across the nation and supports community-based education initiatives through MindShare, an employee-driven grant program. For more information, call 800-585-5258 or visit