Principal Karen Bukowski received top honors from a statewide organization focused on promoting physical fitness thanks to a middle school teacher’s effort to call attention to Bukowski’s work.

The Illinois Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance annually recognizes educators who’ve raised the profile of health-related curriculum at their schools. On Nov. 18, Bukowski was presented with a plaque and the title of Administrator of the Year.

“I’m definitely flattered,” Bukowski said.

Mary Norge-Drent, the school’s physical education instructor, wrote a two-page letter to the organization in February that was filled with praise for Bukowski’s work. Coincidentally, Bukowski was assigned in 1986 to be a student-teacher at Field Stevenson and worked under Norge-Drent’s supervision.

“On her last day of student teaching, I recommended to her not to settle into teaching,” Norge-Drent said in her letter. “She had potential to be a principal, and even a superintendent.”

Because childhood obesity has gripped younger generations, Bukowski said it’s important that the middle school’s phys. ed. curriculum instills the idea that exercise and health are lifelong pursuits. The school has placed less emphasis on team sports and activities and introduced golf, for example, as a means for maintaining an individual’s health. Under Bukowski’s leadership, the school has also acquired pedometers and additional equipment for the weight room.

During one summer, Norge-Drent told the awards committee, Bukowski called to invite her to a showroom for fitness equipment. The principal encouraged Norge-Drent to pick whatever she liked from the store’s inventory, and then covered the expense without dipping into Norge-Drent’s budget for the year. That act, Norge-Drent said, was one of the many ways Bukowski has advocated for a more meaningful curriculum.

“We now have a weight training club for students who need to recognize that physical activity is a healthier lifestyle,” Norge-Drent said.

Bukowski was one of seven school administrators recognized by the statewide organization.