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Alum Wayne Workman honored as 2021 Nevada Superintendent of the Year

At the start of every meeting, each of the seven members of Nevada’s Lyon County School District board reads a selected “Attitude of Gratitude” note submitted by a student, highlighting something the student is thankful for.The messages set the tone for the meetings and reinforces what Superintendent Wayne Workman regards as most important — putting students first in all initiatives and decisions.

Workman, who was named 2021 State Superintendent of the Year by the Nevada Association of School Superintendents in September, has embraced a student-centered perspective over his 22-year career in education. It’s a philosophy he developed as an adult student in the Master of Arts in Education/Administration and Supervision program, and one that guides him as superintendent.

From his first position as a high school health teacher and basketball coach to various administrative roles ― including assistant principal, principal, human resources director and deputy superintendent ― Workman said he strives to structure learning and life opportunities for K–12 students so they recognize their options when it’s time to make decisions.

“When you keep your efforts student-centered, it influences the attitude and behavior of all the adults involved,” said Workman, who is now in the running for 2021 National Superintendent of the Year. “As educators, we do everything possible to provide students with keys to unlock doors in front of them in the future.”

Under Workman as superintendent, a role he began in 2015, Lyon County School District has created a jump-start program for high school juniors and seniors to participate in dual-enrollment college courses; implemented an online learning option years before the COVID-19 pandemic made it a necessity; and developed community partnerships for before- and after-school programs, health and wellness resources for families, and extra educational and mentoring opportunities for tribal organizations.

Additionally, Workman recently provided students a voice in creating a district student Bill of Rights and has been instrumental in developing an equity and diversity policy for the school district.

Dedication to the teaching profession and the holistic well-being of students also led Workman’s initiatives as president of the Nevada Association of School Superintendents (NASS) for 2019–2020, where he represents the state’s districts with the Nevada legislature.

Dr. David Jensen, a colleague of Workman’s through NASS and superintendent of Nevada’s Humboldt County School District, said Workman’s leadership skills have been apparent during the unprecedented challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic. He has spearheaded open, ongoing discussions on the importance of the social and emotional well-being of students as well as staff, and he has focused on strategies and structures to facilitate student learning and growth.

He said Workman is wholly committed to the interests of districts ranging from 60 students to more than 300,000.

“He advocates for the biggest district and also speaks the language of the smallest districts — all for the students,” Dr. Jensen said. “As an individual, he is ideal in leading us through some challenging discussions. He kept us going when it could have been so easy to revert or stop conversations.”

Workman credits the initiatives to the 1,100-plus district employees and executive cabinet team and his colleagues and counterparts throughout the state. He said he’s honored to work with his district’s school board, whom he describes as “incredible individuals who keep students at the center of discussion and decisions.”

Workman’s wife, Jenni, said she sees in her husband today the same determination and resolve that drove him to complete his master’s degree in 2006 while working full time as a teacher and coach, and a husband and father of four.

The sacrifices the family made so he could fulfill his educational dream were worth it, she said.

“The step to earning a master’s degree from University of Phoenix has opened numerous doors for Wayne in his passion for education, which in turn has greatly blessed our family,” she said.

Workman said he often draws on an assignment from one of his master’s program courses when he embarks on creation of new processes or tackles a difficult administrative situation. The assignment was to develop and document his teaching philosophy. He had already been a teacher for eight years, but he quickly recognized from the student viewpoint that he had an opportunity to refine that perspective and even deviate from it if it no longer served his goals.

Now, as a seasoned educator, he hearkens back to that perspective, seeking to provide students and employees alike with innovative frameworks and plentiful opportunities, so when they reach a crossroads in learning and life they have the keys to unlock multiple doors.

“As educators we have the ability to provide those opportunities to students,” Workman said. “Then they can take whatever path they choose.”