TODD NESLONEY

Todd Nesloney is principal of Webb Elementary in Navasota, Texas, but he prefers to think of himself as the school’s “lead learner.”

“I wanted to work with children because I wanted to leave an impact,” says Nesloney, whose Twitter handle is @TechNinjaTodd. “I never really had ‘that’ teacher growing up who changed my life, who made me believe something new, but I wanted to be that person for others.”

After seven years as a nationally acclaimed elementary school teacher, Nesloney moved from the classroom to the principalship in 2014. His first task: rebuilding Webb Elementary, which serves more than 900 students in pre-k through third grade.

“I am passionate about public schools and about working with children, especially children who come from poverty or difficult backgrounds,” says Nesloney, a motivational speaker who coauthored the book Kids Deserve It in 2015. “I’ve always believed that as educators, sometimes we are the only ones in a child’s life who tell them they matter, who tell them they’re important and that they can do something fantastic with their life.”

Since Nesloney became principal, Webb Elementary has hosted “Dinner with a Gentleman,” which drew 580 people to celebrate the role of men in the lives of children. Other programs focus on building community and having students work together, whether it’s a community hotdog grill-out or “Little Free Libraries,” which provides free books to encourages to read.

“Some of our kiddos come from really difficult backgrounds, and school is their safe haven,” he says. “It’s the one place where they can feel seen, heard, and loved. Our students are kind, emotional, loving, hard-working, and more. And most of all? They work tirelessly to meet every expectation placed before them. I am so proud to be a public school educator, and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.”