Orland Park's Liberty School educator Sara Kash reacts in surprise after she was named Assistant Principal of the Year in Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Liberty School’s Sara Kash named Illinois Assistant Principal of Year 

By Jeff Vorva 

Sara Kash said she could not recall ever being surprised before.

Not even for birthdays.

Liberty School Principal Daniel Prorok said he was not all that great about keeping secrets, but that was vital in providing the first surprise of her life.

Somehow, he kept the secret long enough and was able to surprise Kash last Friday morning in a hallway near the main entrance of the Orland Park school with a gathering of family, friends and colleagues to honor her for being named the 2021 Illinois Assistant Principal of the Year by Horace Mann and the Illinois Principals Association.

After a meeting concluded at 11 a.m., she headed out of the main office, opened the door and was met with the surprise.

And, yes, she was surprised as she held her hand to her masked mouth in astonishment after seeing the assembled group.

“I’m speechless,” she said.

The award recognizes principals who have demonstrated a positive impact on their students and learning community. Criteria for the award includes:

  • Demonstrating a positive impact on education and advocacy for children.
  • Ensuring the school climate is positive and reflects high staff and student morale.
  • Moving actively to implement the goals and objectives of the school.
  • Working collaboratively with teachers and other staff to improve the educational program and student achievement.
  • Involving the community in the life of the school and uses community resources for students.

Prorok said she checks all of those boxes and more.

“She brings a lot to the assistant principal role that I think is unique,” he said. “She has a great personality, and anyone can talk to her. She can solve any problem. She is very deserving so when I got the call, I wasn’t surprised.”

The bad news for Prorok is that this is his last year working with Kash. In February, the Darien native and resident accepted a job as a principal in the Woodridge District 68 school system starting next school year.

She said she has been happy with her time in Orland District 135 and Liberty.

“There are so many joys,” she said. “Mr. Prorok is an amazing principal empowering teachers and students and getting the best out of themselves including their voice in all aspects of our school day.”

Prior to her current position she was a teacher at Washington Elementary School in Schiller Park School District 81 where she served as the literacy curriculum leader and as a member of the school leadership team. Sara began her career with Cook County School District 130 as a fourth-grade classroom teacher and team leader.

Kash has a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with ESL approval from National Louis University and a Bachelor of Science in Education from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also earned a Certificate of Advanced Study in Administration and Supervision from National Louis University.

“When she came to us, I said to the interview team ‘We’re going to get her, but I hope we can keep her for at least three years.’’’ Prorok said. “We knew she was special right away.”

Kash was selected from a pool of region nominees provided by 21 regions within the Illinois Principal’s Association. She will be recognized at the IPA’s Education Leaders Annual Conference in October.

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