University of Pittsburgh School of Education alumnus Timothy Wagner (MS ’09, EdD ’13) credits his first teachers for setting him on the path to a career in education.
“The relationships my earliest teachers built with me made me feel so safe, comfortable, and engaged in a learning environment,” says Wagner, who is now the principal of Upper St. Clair High School. “That has a lot to do with why I was blessed to know at an early age that working in education was right for me.”
Wagner was recently named Pennsylvania’s 2023 Principal of the Year by the Pennsylvania Principals Association. He will represent the state in the 2023-24 National Secondary Principal of the Year award program, presented by the National Association of Secondary School Principals in October 2023.
Wagner has spent his entire career in the Upper St. Clair School District, earlier serving as an elementary and middle school teacher, gifted education coordinator, curriculum leader, and associate high school principal before becoming the high school principal in 2019.
While his first year as principal was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wagner was proud of how his school community navigated those challenges.
“So much of the change that’s gone on around us—and the need to support students, staff, and the community through that change—has helped us to be resilient and thrive on the other side of a pandemic,” he says.
As principal, Wagner makes students’ health, mental health, safety, and wellbeing a priority.
“Things like an e-sports tournament or other fun ways to engage students allow school to be a place where they know that they are more than the grades on their report cards,” says Wagner. “Seeing students as more than just students has been a priority for me when it comes to things like teacher professional development and conversations with parents.”
Wagner earned both his Master of Science in Applied Developmental Psychology and Doctor of Education in Administrative and Policy Studies from the Pitt School of Education. His experience at Pitt established a strong understanding of how to do his best work in a public school setting.
“Pitt did an amazing job of helping me to bridge and blend the theoretical and applied, and preparing me to put things into practice,” he says. “The programs also equipped me with an understanding of the intersection of practice and policy, and who we are as people in the midst of it all.”
Wagner also values the role Pitt Education plays in facilitating collaboration among principals in Western Pennsylvania through the Tri-State Area School Study Council and other initiatives.
“As a practitioner in the region, Pitt has been a bit of the glue that brings school leaders together, and that’s something that helps all of our work today,” he says.
When reflecting on his Principal of the Year Award, Wagner thinks of the many educators who have influenced him, and the Upper St. Clair High School community that inspires him to continue the work.
“To be recognized in this way was thrilling, but my success is so related to the teachers that I’ve had in my own life, including the professors I had at Pitt,” he says. “It’s also a reflection of how much our community values education, that our students come to school excited and ready to learn. I’m very proud to be a part of that.
The 2023 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year is also a Pitt Education alumnus. Ryan Hardesty (MAT ‘09) was named the top teacher in the state for his work at Highland Middle School in Beaver County, PA. Read his story.