Dishman Elementary principal named National Distinguished Principal for Texas

Irma Davis

AUSTIN, TX –– State education and community leaders gathered virtually Tuesday, May 19, to recognize Principal Irma Davis as the 2020 NAESP National Distinguished Principal (NDP) for Texas. Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association hosted the online event where Davis was 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.

Modeling high expectations for students and teachers, Davis led the transformation of Dishman Elementary from a low performing campus to a model for academic progress and student achievement in Harlingen CISD. The school is known for its supportive and engaging learning environment where students, teachers and parents are committed to working together and holding each other accountable to “Work hard, stay focused and remember the goal.”

“Dishman Elementary is a Title 1 school with 97% of its students economically disadvantaged. Ms. Davis has never let these circumstances distract her from proving her belief that all students are capable of achieving academic success,” Harlingen CISD Performance Outcomes Administrator Dalia Garcia wrote in her recommendation letter. “She has dedicated herself to supporting students and empowering teachers in an effort to bring successful outcomes to all at Dishman Elementary.”

In Davis’ nine years at Dishman Elementary, the school has garnered national recognition for maintaining high achievement levels among all students and narrowing the achievement gap. The school was a Texas Honor Roll School in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Education named Dishman Elementary a National Blue Ribbon School—the first school in the district’s history to receive the prestigious award.

“Dishman Elementary’s success is proof that when we show children we believe in them and engage them as active participants in their education, they will dream and achieve bigger than they ever imagined,” TEPSA Executive Director Harley Eckhart said. “Davis has maintained a high level of progress on her campus by creating a culture of shared accountability for the academic and emotional welfare of all students. Teachers, parents, and most importantly, students believe in themselves and have the support necessary to meet and surpass expectations.”

Data analysis informs curriculum and instruction on campus. Teachers collaborate and strengthen their instructional leadership through PLCs. Teachers have learned how to interpret the data, identify areas of weakness and plan strategically to target those areas and differentiate learning for all students. Working with teachers, all students—whether they are struggling or excelling—also set goals and track and monitor their progress.

The school’s learner-centered approach and positive school culture has resulted in high parent engagement and support in the small rural community. Prioritizing the critical role parents play in their childrens’ academic success, Davis has forged deep connections with families. They understand the school’s academic rigor and high expectations are helping their children build the foundation for future success in life.

“As leaders, principals wear many hats to serve their school communities. And today, they work tirelessly to meet the physical, emotional and educational needs of their students and staff from a distance,” said Shad Madsen, CEO of Mentoring Minds. “We have so many of these leaders throughout Texas, but there is one who stood out in the crowd—and we are honored to recognize her as the 2020 National Distinguished Principal. It comes as a special privilege to recognize Irma Davis as this year’s distinguished principal and have her represent the state of Texas.”

A principal for more than 10 years, Davis was named the 2019 HEB Excellence in Education Elementary Principal.

TEPSA received more than 84 nominations for the 2020 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 virtual school visit by a team of educators. Davis will receive her award this fall.

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 about Mentoring Minds, the Critical Thinking for Life company.

Mentoring Minds is on a mission to put critical thinking at the center of K-12 education. Founded by teachers, Mentoring Minds provides print resources and an instructional management platform that empower educators to infuse critical thinking skills into standards-based instruction. Students learn the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking through the ThinkUp! Standards Mastery System, which provides rigorous materials that elevate achievement among all students. Mentoring Minds’ commitment to education extends beyond the classroom as well—the company proudly sponsors forward-thinking administrators across the U.S. and supports community-based education initiatives through MindShare, an employee-driven grant program. For more information, call 800-585-5258 or visit




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