Jackie Bernard's son was in kindergarten when she first noticed Francine Endler.
Endler was the new principal at Allegheny No. 1 Elementary School in the Hollidaysburg Area School District where Bernard's daughter, Madison, now 16, attended. However, Bernard's son, Alec, now 12, and other kindergarten-age children weren't yet old enough to attend.
But on one of her first days as principal, Bernard recalls Endler standing outside and greeting each of the kindergarteners by name as they got onto their bus.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
WISE?Women Education honoree Francine Endler is the principal at Allegheny No. 1 Elementary School in Duncansville.
"I was so impressed with the fact that even though the kids were not staying at her school, she took the time to learn all of their names," said Bernard, the Blair County Deputy District Attorney. "She had my attention right from the get-go."
This type of behavior is typical of Endler, who is this year's recipient of the WISE Women of Blair County award for Education. Endler has been working in public education for the past 14 years, and before that with kids in foster care.
Endler, who lives in Duncansville with her husband, Douglas J., said she is both "humbled" and "thrilled beyond words" to receive this honor, especially as someone not born and raised in Blair County.
"It's very special to me because Blair County and the people of Blair County have been so accepting," Endler, 45, originally of Johnstown, said. "I feel very much that this is my home."
Endler received a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh, a master's degree in counseling services from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and two post-master's certificates. Aside from serving as principal for Allegheny No. 1, she is also the guidance department chairperson for the school district.
With all of her success, Endler still finds time to be a student. She is pursuing a doctoral degree in the educational leadership program at Duquesne University.
"I'm an extremely curious individual," Endler said. "As a leader for teachers and kids, I think it's important for them to see me as a student as well. I talk to students about how I have homework just like they do."
Despite what she's done personally, Endler considers her greatest accomplishments to be those she worked on collectively with the rest of the school staff.
This includes Allegheny No. 1 receiving Keystone Achievements Awards for the past eight consecutive years.
"It really speaks a lot to the students and staff," Endler said of the award. "Having the opportunity to lead a group to that level has been a wonderful journey."
Endler plans to continue working administratively in the public education system to satisfy her passion for helping teachers grow professionally. She also hopes to be a role model for kids, women and other educators who find themselves in leadership roles.
"I have benefited from so many people who have invested in my life, the people who saw leadership abilities in me and have encouraged me in my path," she said.
Bernard credits the influence of Endler and other early educators for why her children are doing so well in higher schooling.
"She definitely has a one-on-one relationship with her students," Bernard said. "I think students need to have adults they can trust and rely on. ... [Endler] is a professional woman who's gone above and beyond in her field."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.