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4041 N. Central Ave., Ste. 1200
Phoenix, AZ 85012



2017 Exemplary Principals Bios


2017 Rodel Exemplary Principals

Wayne Deffenbaugh

School: Desert Thunder Elementary School


District: Avondale Elementary School District

About: Wayne Deffenbaugh has been principal at Desert Thunder Elementary School in Avondale for ten years. He holds a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in education.

"Wayne has provided leadership and support to his colleagues informally over the years. His steady approach and reflective nature make him approachable to all. One of Wayne's greatest strengths is his willingness to provide input and ask clarifying questions. As a seasoned leader in our district, Wayne offers valued perspective and insight into various situations and will often provide voice to the discussions. In addition, Wayne has been effective and successful in what is arguably the toughest time to be in education. Changing expectations- both in standards and assessments, teacher shortages and the great recession. Throughout all, Wayne has demonstrated steadfast leadership that has resulted in high expectations and results in increasing achievement and building character at Desert Thunder." — Betsy Hargrove, superintendent

Amalia Garcia

School: Luke Elementary School


District: Dysart Unified School District

About: Amalia (Molly) Garcia has been the principal at Luke Elementary School for three years. She holds a bachelor's degree in bilingual education and a master's degree in educational leadership.

"Ms. Garcia exemplifies positive, professional leadership that makes a difference in the lives of the students and the staff. Ms. Garcia is always focused on student success. She has led the implementation for new programs and best practices for teaching and learning. Ms. Garcia builds positive relationships with all stakeholders. Ms. Garcia makes everyone around her better as she continues to be a teacher and a learner. Through Ms. Garcia’s leadership, Luke Elementary School is a great place for students and staff. Schools need more principals like Ms. Garcia. She is an ideal leader to mentor aspiring principals." — Gail Pletnick, superintendent

Kristi Langley-Wells

School: Sunset Elementary School


District: Cartwright Elementary School District

About: Kristi Langley-Wells has been principal at Sunset Elementary School in Glendale for eight years. She holds an education specialist degree and a master's of science.

"School success is all about leadership! Kristi Langley-Wells is a model principal who believes that students at Sunset can achieve at high levels. She has consistently shown that her students can excel as evidenced by her past AIMS data and current AzMERIT scores which show her above state averages in math and English Language Arts. She is a member of the district principal professional learning community and models how to lead a school using best practices to drive her school continuous improvement plan. Kristi will do whatever it takes to support her teachers so they can do what they do best- ensure the students receive a world class education." — Jacob Chavez, superintendent

Hilary O'Brien

School: Madison Camelview Elementary


District: Madison Elementary School District

About: Hilary O'Brien has been the principal at Camelview Elementary School for three years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and a master's of education in administration and earth/space science.

"Hilary O'Brien represents the future of educational leadership. Hilary has gained a reputation in leadership circles as an excellent Principal. This is because she possesses the skills and attributes of leadership. She knows curriculum, instruction and assessment and is able to coach others in this area. She knows how to bring teams of teachers, parents or community partners together to achieve the schools goals. She is empathetic to every student's need, every teacher's struggle, and to the community's challenges. Yet, she sees opportunity in every circumstance. Hilary is respected by her peers for her tenacity, her confidence, and her skills. I have full assurance that students who attend this Title I school will continue to achieve the "A" school label as they have done for several years." — Quinn Kellis, superintendent

Denis Parcells

School: William C. Jack School


District: Glendale Elementary School District

About: Denis Parcells has been the principal of William C. Jack Elementary School for six years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Washington, and a master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Arizona State University.

“Mr. Parcells is viewed as a developmentally responsive leader. He has the ability to create professional learning communities of teachers that focus on all students' intellectual and social growth. Mr Parcells demonstrates a strong commitment to academic excellence by guaranteeing all students are provided with curriculum, instruction, assessment and supports they need to meet rigorous achievement standards. Being a past Rodel Principal, Mr. Parcells has consistently and effectively mentored current and future site administrators while relaying his charisma, passion, and grit for a focus on all students and families.”  — Joe Quintana, superintendent 

Jan Stevens

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School: Indian Bend Elementary School


District: Paradise Valley Unified School District

About: Jan Stevens has been principal at Indian Bend Elementary School in Phoenix for four years. She holds a master's degree in educational leadership.

"Mrs. Stevens demonstrates extraordinary leadership by casting a vision with her staff and strategically planning for success. Her work ethic, passion, tireless commitment to excellence, and continued student achievement results are evident in her school climate and data. She successfully merged two Title I schools, carefully working with both communities to honor each school’s values and traditions. Mrs. Stevens effectively blended two school communities to have a shared vision that was inclusive of the 612 students and 82 staff members.

Mrs. Jan Stevens believes in shared leadership and builds strong relationships with her students, staff and community. She is down to earth, transparent, trustworthy and credible. Mrs. Stevens says her sense of humor is one of her greatest leadership assets. The positive school culture permeates throughout the campus and is evident the moment you enter the front door of Indian Bend." — Kimberly Guerin, assistant superintendent of instructional support-elementary

Tim Thomas

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School: Rogers Ranch Elementary School


District: Laveen Elementary School District

Tim Thomas has been principal at Laveen Elementary School for three years. He holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in educational leadership.

About: "Mr. Thomas is a very effective and successful principal and has great leadership qualities. He took a school that had a "D" label and turned it around in just one year, achieving a high "B" label. He has built strong positive community ties and relationships. He is recognized as a leader, not only within the district, but across the state. Mr. Thomas has served very willingly and effectively as a mentor to aspiring and practicing school leaders. The culture and climate of the school has greatly improved, and students thrive under his leadership. Total days assigned to in-school (ISS) and out-of-school suspensions (OSS) were reduced by two-thirds from 2876 the previous year to 996 his first year at Rogers Ranch School. He has further cut that number in half to 456 days of ISS and OSS this past year. Tim has taken the lead in developing a STEM focus at his school, with Rogers Ranch School being used as a model with multiple visits from other districts. Tim serves as a leader at the district level as well as the school level." — Bill Johnson, superintendent

Tonja Yalung

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School: Kyrene de los Ninos Elementary


District: Kyrene Elementary School Distrct

About: Tonja Yalung has been principal at Kyrene de los Ninos Elementary School in Tempe for five years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, a master's degree in Elementary Education/Education Leadership.

"Mrs. Yalung has leveraged both instructional and cultural levers to drive consistent, transformational, and replicable growth at Kyrene de los Ninos.
As the school leader, Tonja transforms the way educators and support staff conceptualize the work they do. Tonja approaches the school's complex, multifaceted student needs from a diagnostic mode that tries to capture the variables and the key interactions and then eliminating the major causative components one by one. She continuously envisions the school's work as progressive and steady, informed by the understanding that it will be a combination of actions that attains the results." —Jan Vesely, superintendent