Hebron 9 principal Amanda Werneke talks to students throughout their lunches. Last month, Werneke won LISD secondary principal of the year after being nominated for the second time.
Hebron 9 principal Amanda Werneke talks to students throughout their lunches. Last month, Werneke won LISD secondary principal of the year after being nominated for the second time.
Shiren Noorani

Quick on her feet

Hebron 9 Principal wins LISD Secondary Principal of the Year

She sprints from one end to the other, past the cafeteria, then the hallways, then the stairs. There is another problem on campus and she’s needed; she is always needed. Despite always being on the run, Hebron 9 principal Amanda Werneke still finds a way to be present in the moment. Whether it’s lunch duty, a staff meeting, an evacuation drill or her McAlister’s Deli trip for lunch, she is always quick on her feet. 

Werneke has been with LISD since 2003 with a brief relocation to Florida in the middle, but has been a part of the Hebron community for 17 years. She taught English I and III at the main campus from 2007-2008 and served as an assistant principal at the main campus the next two years. She moved to the ninth grade campus when it first opened in 2010, and served as assistant principal until December of 2015, when she took over the principal position midyear. Last month, Werneke won LISD secondary principal of the year after being nominated for the second time. 

“I love Hebron,” Werneke said. “I love our community, I love the student population, [and] I love the diversity. I get bored really easily, but I’m never bored of this job and the excitement of it. I love being principal here at Hebron 9, even on the hard days, it’s a great job. I’m very grateful for the honor and I’ll try to live up to that.”

Werneke grew up in Fort Worth and was an editor for her high school newspaper and continued her passion by writing for the daily newspaper in college. She earned her undergrad at Texas A&M, where she graduated with a degree in political science. She completed her masters at TCU with a degree in educational administration and went on to be an English teacher for seven years before switching over to administration – a switch that wasn’t planned. 

“I didn’t want to be a principal, but I was excited about being able to support teachers so they could support students,” Werneke said. “I love the activity part of a high school, and you really get to experience that as a principal. It was the student life part that really motivated me.”

English I teacher Cassie Madewell said her first impression of Werneke was a humanizing moment during her interview when she was applying to teach at Hebron 9. When she first met Werneke, she said she was an emotional mess after a rough week at her old campus. Madewell was unsure what they would get out of her during the interview, but Werneke’s reaction is what made her realize that she needed to work for her. 

“The first question they asked, I immediately started sobbing because it had to do with my [old] campus [and] my [old] team,” Madewell said. “Because Amanda Werneke is who she is, she promptly handed me a tissue, started sobbing with me and hugged me, even though I had never met the woman before.”

Werneke’s footsteps are always heard throughout the hallways. No matter how minor the event, she’s running toward it with a sense of urgency. Hebron 9 Librarian and former English teacher Shannon Whiteley said Werneke has always been full of energy in the best ways. 

“I always described her as small but mighty,” Whiteley said. “She is short of stature as far as her height goes, but absolutely not as far as her reputation, her energy and her ability to get things done. She’s always been high energy and enthusiastic about what she does and who’s in our schools. She loves our school and she always has.”

Counselor Heather Burgess said Werneke makes sure to be at lunch duty as much as she can because it’s important for her to interact with the students. She said Werneke makes the time because she wants to get to know the students to the best of her ability.

“At a lot of schools, the principals aren’t doing lunch duty,” Burgess said. “We [have talked] about this every year because her calendar is full, [but] she refuses to give up lunch duty because it is her chance to get to know at least some of the students. She makes it her goal, and she’s just loving on the kids, getting to know them and supporting them.”

For Werneke, an ordinary day is filled with meetings that consist of budgeting, managing staff, figuring out schedules and managing day-to-day operations. Assistant principal Deanna Gerde, who has worked with Werneke for eight years, said she sees Werneke trying to interact with everyone regardless of what the day looks like and is always ready to tackle whatever comes her way. 

“She has her lists, she prioritizes and she has her non-negotiables that she does every day,” Gerde said. “When we get thrown a curveball, she’s really good about pivoting [and] looking at the big picture. She’s very quick on her feet literally and figuratively.”  

With all the changes going on in the education world, Madewell said Werneke has fought for the staff and encouraged their ideas. She said Werneke is very vocal and listens and asks questions in order to help figure out what is going on.

“She is communicative [and] she is transparent,” Madewell said. “There is not a day that you will not feel listened to, supported, [or] cared about, both professionally and personally. There’s this willingness to be human, to show that with your staff, there’s this level of trust there, that we are grown, professional, educated adults and are very capable and she lets us do those things.”

For Werneke, being principal is about being present in the community. She attends as many games and events as she can, whether it’s a fine arts show, concert or a football game. She and her husband live in the community because she said to her it’s important to be a part of it. 

“We are like a giant family here at Hebron 9,” Werneke said. “It’s always had that feeling and I don’t want that to change.”

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