Principal Patrick Mackin, of Slidell Junior High, was recently named state Principal of the Year in the middle school/junior high division in ceremonies hosted by the state Department of Education in Baton Rouge.

Mackin has been principal of the junior high since 2009, having previously taught at Bayou Lacombe Middle, Boyet Junior High and Alton Elementary schools.

The state Department of Education’s Principal of the Year and Teacher of the Year programs evaluate nominees from each school system across the state to select the semifinalists in elementary, middle school/junior high and high school. Mackin was nominated from among middle school principals in the St. Tammany Parish district.

After being named one of 15 semifinalists statewide, he received a site visit from the state department along with a personal interview. Soon after, he was selected as one of the state’s top 10 finalists for the award.

All of the semifinalists and finalists were invited to the presentation, and the top honorees were surprised that evening.

Mackin is the father of two girls who matriculated through Slidell Junior High and High School and the proud grandparent of three.

“I am so honored to receive this award, but I have to thank the faculty and staff at Slidell Junior High first and foremost,” Mackin said. “Although the award is in my name, this is definitely a team award.

“So many of the teachers here go above and beyond to ensure student achievement at SJHS; from meeting before and after school, to sponsoring clubs and mentoring struggling students, they are the backbones of our success.”

One of the programs at SJHS that Mackin implements is the Tiger Families program. Every student is divided into groups of 10 to 15, each with an adult mentor. The groups meet at least twice a month and form a type of small support system.

Report cards are delivered within these assemblies, and the program allows mentors and peers to provide praise and encouragement in small group settings. It’s also another way for the staff to have personal interactions with each and every student on a regular basis, he said.

“Some of the best advice I have ever received includes the motto of believing in your students,” he said. “We have high expectations for our students here at Slidell Junior High. I’ve learned both as a teacher and as an administrator that if you set your standards high, the students will rise to the challenge.”

Another piece of guidance that Mackin shares is directed for parents of junior high students in particular.

“I have often heard parents discuss how involved they were with their child’s elementary school but that they decide to ‘back off’ and let their child be more independent at the junior high level. I disagree,” Mackin said.

Junior high is such an important transition time for the youths, he said. “Between hormones, distractions and growth spurts, now is the time to be aware. Check in with your child’s teachers; be aware of their assignments and grades,” he said. “Also, encourage club participation at school. Junior high has a larger enrollment, and being involved helps students feel included, and that is a key to success.”

Superintendent W.L. “Trey” Folse and several school system representatives were in attendance at the awards event to congratulate him for winning the esteemed honor in Baton Rouge.

“He is a great educator and leader,” Folse said.

Also honored by the state at the event was Robin Day, a teacher at Little Oak Middle School, in Slidell, who was named as a finalist in Teacher of the Year recognition program.

“We congratulate both these outstanding educators for being selected state finalists and are proud to have them represent St. Tammany Parish Public Schools in the state competition. They are great examples of the difference teachers and school leaders can make in their schools and community,” Folse said.