LA’s Brown Principal Of Year
Langford Area Principal Toni Brown wears a lot of different hats, and his peers think he wears them well.
Brown was recently named the Region 4 High School Principal of the Year by the South Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals (SDASSP). There are seven regions in the state made up of a total of 150 school districts.
The Region 4 honoree is not only the high school principal at Langford Area. His job includes serving as principal for grades 6-12, in addition to being the school’s athletic director, teaching two industrial arts classes (drafting and building trades), and serving as testing coordinator and career counselor.
Brown was recognized at the awards banquet in Deadwood during the South Dakota Principals Conference in Deadwood on Thursday, but he was quick to downplay the recognition.
“It is a good honor, but I’m not big into accolades and awards, it’s just not me. I just try and do my job.”
Robert Lewis, SDASSP President, noted that Brown has done that job well.
“Toni was nominated by his peers in his region because of his leadership, which is evident not only in his school district, but throughout his region and across the state.”
Langford Area Superintendent Monte Nipp echoed that sentiment.
“Toni wears many hats around here. To say he is busy is a huge understatement, and he does an excellent job of balancing all of his responsibilities with a smile,” said Nipp. “Toni is a very patient person with a great sense of humor. These are perhaps the key to his survival and success. His personality is so well suited to be a school administrator as he builds strong working relationships with his staff and students.”
The road to that job has taken some interesting twists and turns since Brown graduated from Sioux Rapids, IA, High School in 1979. His family operated a Mexican restaurant in Sioux Rapids, but he always knew he wanted to teach.
“I had a music teacher and shop teacher in high school that were my role models and stimulated my interest in education just because they were good teachers,” recalled Brown.
He enrolled at South Dakota State University and pursued music education, but discovered there was more to music than he thought. He switched to industrial arts and transferred to Northern State University where he received his degree in industrial arts education in 1985.
But then Brown’s road took another turn. He decided he wasn’t ready to go into the classroom and for 14 years did carpentry and construction work, and spent some time working in grain elevators while living in Webster.
Then, in 1999, education called again.
“At that time I thought maybe I should use my degree and see where that road leads me,” said Brown.
It led him to the Langford School District as an industrial arts teacher. Five years later he earned his master’s degree in Education Administration at NSU and became principal and athletic director in 2006. He added his Education Specialist degree in 2013 from the University of Sioux Falls.
“I had a guy tell me that if I was going back to school just to get credits I was wasting time, and that I should make it more meaningful. That’s why I went after my master’s degree when I had to re-certify, and that led to the principal’s job.”
Brown and his wife, Connie, of 32 years raised three kids and have two grandsons, and the Region 4 honoree considers his role as parent one of his greatest accomplishments.
“Helping raise three wonderful kids who have grown into outstanding adults is my greatest personal accomplishment, and being able to guide students into becoming successful adults is what I am most proud of professionally,” said Brown.
He also points back to his rather unusual road to his life today as a good training ground.
“Looking back, I would do it the same way. I’ve always been one to not do something until I’m ready, and I learned a lot of things and grew up a lot during that time between earning my teaching degree and actually going into the classroom. One of the biggest things I learned was patience, and you need a lot of that.”
He is also quick to credit his family for their patience and support.
“I would like to thank my wife and family for their support and understanding over the years and also the administrators, educators, athletic directors, and coaches I have had the pleasure of working with during my career.”
But it is really all about the students.
“I would hope that students would describe me as somebody willing to support them and go to bat for them,” concluded Brown. “You want them to respect you, but you also want them to trust you enough to come to you if they need help or guidance. I may not always have the answer, but I will always find it out.”