Coates Elementary Principal Jesse Kraft Named Washington Post Principal of the Year

News Release
May 18, 2020

Jesse KraftJesse Kraft, who has served as principal at Coates Elementary School since 2016, has been named The Washington Post’s 2020 Principal of the Year.  He was selected from a group of 19 finalists who lead schools in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

The Post highlighted Kraft’s leadership during this year’s quarantine, how he and his staff had mental health resources ready for students and, when the district had problems with its distance learning rollout, Kraft and his teachers used the school’s Facebook page to share lessons. He started working with children in high school and realized that he could have a career that serves society and, equally, is fulfilling to him.

 “Jesse has taken strides to make our community feel welcome and to partner with them as much as possible,” says nominator Josie Mani, gifted education teacher. “He has made Coates more inviting and welcoming to all. We have bright, colorful murals and artwork inside, and welcoming signs and banners outside. Jesse invites community members, such as churches, businesses and the Coates family.” And Kraft has worked with these community organizations to encourage their involvement at Coates, including mentoring students.

“He is the face that welcomes these new students to our school,” adds Mani. “He maintains an active social media presence and even learned some Spanish so that he could further connect the school and community. Coates’ parent liaison writes,"Mr. Kraft is always there to listen and support ideas and make them a reality. His example of humility, a love of learning, and care for others motivates everyone at Coates ES to be better employees, parents, and students." The combination of diverse programs for parents has drawn many additional parents to volunteer at the school.

Kraft is a frequent visitor in classrooms, where he observes, encourages, and teaches.  Math and reading resource teachers are called upon to help build teacher capacities and enhance their practices. Still a teacher at heart, Kraft teaches Positivity Project lessons, quarterly grade-level assemblies, and is teaching upper level students the fine art of public speaking in a series of lessons dubbed “Talk Like a Boss.”

Kraft began his career with FCPS as a teacher at Newington Forest Elementary in 1996, then served as assistant principal at Westlawn Elementary and Oak Hill Elementary.  In 2009, he was named principal at Providence Elementary, where he served until being named principal at Coates.  

A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Kraft was named FCPS Outstanding First Year Principal in 2010. He is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and was nominated for FCPS Teacher of the Year in 2004. 

For more information, contact Jesse Kraft at