March 4, 2024
Annapolis, US 46 F

Tracey’s Elementary School Principal, Heather Garris Named Principal of the Year

Heather Garris, principal of Tracey’s Elementary School in Tracey’s Landing, today was named the recipient of the 2023-2024 George Arlotto Leadership Award and will represent Anne Arundel County Public Schools in The Washington Post Principal of the Year program later this year.

Garris learned of the news this afternoon during a surprise visit by Board of Education President Dr. Joanna Tobin, Vice President Robert Silkworth, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Bedell, and Education Foundation of AACPS Vice President Vic Samuels.

“I am extremely honored and overwhelmed to receive this award,” Garris said. “I could not do this passionate work without my amazing staff, our incredible students, and my supportive community. I am extremely thankful for my administrative network that I can continue to lean on and grow from. I will continue to work hard, hold high expectations for all, and make a positive impact at Tracey’s Elementary.”

The AACPS Principal of the Year program began in 2021-2022 at the urging of former Superintendent George Arlotto with support from the Education Foundation of AACPS, which sought to recognize outstanding principals in the county as is done in the annual Teacher of the Year program, which is now in its 38th year. The Foundation formally named the award in honor of Dr. Arlotto, who served AACPS for 16 years, including eight as Superintendent, in June 2022.

Garris is the third consecutive elementary school principal to earn the award. Richard Rogers of Mills-Parole Elementary School was last year’s winner and Julia Walsh of Tyler Heights Elementary School won the award two years ago.

Garris has been principal at Tracey’s Elementary School since 2018. She has worked for Anne Arundel County Public Schools since 2007 and spent the first seven years of her career as a teacher and behavioral specialist at Oak Hill, Freetown, and Annapolis elementary schools. Her administrative roles have included serving as assistant principal at Solley Elementary School for three years and as principal at Severn Elementary School for one year prior to moving to Tracey’s.

“Mrs. Garris is the face of Tracey’s and has created a safe, welcoming, inclusive environment for all,” Karen Donovan, Regional Assistant Superintendent for the Southern cluster, wrote in nominating Garris for the award. “She has high expectations for every student and works daily to ensure all students succeed socially, emotionally, and academically.”

One of Garris’ students put it more succinctly in a comment included in the school’s climate survey last spring. “I love my principal because she is the best,” the student wrote.

To be eligible for the award, principals must have at least five years of experience and be in at least their second year at a school. Nominees must also demonstrate excellence in the following areas: Management & Communication; School & Community Cooperation; Creativity & Innovation; and Instructional Leadership.

In addition to Garris, the Foundation will also recognize the following finalists at its annual Excellence in Education Awards Ceremony on April 25, 2024, at Live! Arundel Mills:

  • Deneen Houghton, Oak Hill Elementary School
  • Bonnie Myers, Bodkin Elementary School
  • Joe Rose, Center of Applied Technology – North

Tickets for the Excellence in Education Awards, at which the 2024 Anne Arundel County Public Schools Teacher of the Year and the Independent Schools Teacher of the Year will also be announced, will go on sale in January.

Sponsorships for the event are currently available. For more information on sponsorships, please visit

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