St. Paul Public Schools Principal, Be Vang, Receives Professional Leadership Award

By Ethan Heideman


The Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) recognized Be Vang, principal of Mississippi Creative Arts School, St. Paul Public Schools, with the 2019 MESPA Division Leadership Achievement Award for MESPA’s St. Paul Division.

Principals are responsible for a school’s instructional, school culture, and resource leadership. The award honors principals whose exemplary leadership and sustained efforts have made noteworthy contributions to the operation of effective school learning programs – improving education, their communities, and their profession. She was recognized by colleagues statewide on February 7, 2019 at the MESPYs, the premier elementary principal celebration of the year celebrated during MESPA Institute, the annual statewide convention of Minnesota’s elementary and middle-level principals.

Vang summed up her educational philosophy in a quote, “Education must serve as the means for every learner to develop as critical thinkers in order to maximize their own full potential and others.”

Vang was nominated by Catherine Rich, principal at Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet School in the St. Paul Public Schools. In her nomination, Rich stated: “Be is an energetic, engaging leader. She has taken on the challenges of fully developing an arts integration program at her school. She has worked collaboratively with her building team, district supports, and community members to develop and clearly articulate a 5-year plan for her school. She has participated on critical state programs and panels as well as continued her own professional development. She holds high standards and expectations for the students in her building as well as the staff. She is a passionate advocate for the students in SPPS. She consciously ‘walks her talk’ as an advocate for equity in education for students and families at her building and within the community. She has been a principal for 5 years and recognizes the urgency in reaching our students with high quality, rigorous, culturally relevant, relational instruction now.”

Among her most significant career accomplishments, Vang includes:

  • Creating a 5-year strategic plan for Mississippi Creative Arts School to implement a schoolwide arts integration approach to teaching and learning. This plan has guided the work of the school’s teachers to raise achievement for all students. This plan also included a component to provide intensive arts learning experiences for 4th- and 5th-grade students who would like a deeper exploration of the arts. At the same time, it also provided opportunities for students who are not keen around the arts to have other learning opportunities they wouldn’t normally experience while in elementary school: foreign language, ethnic studies, athletics, leadership development, etc.
  • Collaborating with CAAL (Coalition of Asian American Leaders) and MNEEP (MN Educational Equity Partnership) to work on the EL component of ESSA for the State of MN and creating a policy brief for communities to better understand the component and its focus areas, as well as co-presenting on these components at conferences and symposiums.
  • Co-creating Hmong culture and history curriculum for our district to be embedded in the social studies curriculum at the elementary school level. Providing teacher PD on how to implement the curriculum into their classrooms.

MESPA members selected 13 of their peers to receive the 2019 MESPA Division Leadership Achievement Award. Jon Millerhagen, MESPA Executive Director, congratulated the award winners by saying, “MESPA members who receive the Division Leadership Achievement Award are the strong foundations of their schools, their communities, and our association. They are transformational leaders who care deeply for their students. Our association benefits greatly from their knowledge, enthusiasm, passion, and commitment.”

MESPA works to: Improve education for Minnesota students through collaboration and advocacy; Unite current, past, and future licensed elementary and middle level principals; Encourage and support a cooperative relationship between MESPA and other state/national organizations; and Advocate for the professional ethical, economic, and social welfare of its members.

MESPA Mission: The Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association strives to be the premier leadership resource for elementary and middle-level principals and a strong leading voice for public education. MESPA is committed to ensuring a high quality education for all children through strengthening and enhancing the principal’s role as educational leader in our schools.