LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Mike Willard

Position: High School Principal
School: Highlander Charter School
School District: Highlander Charter School
City, State: Warren, RI

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Mike Willard was nominated by an anonymous student.

"Mr. Willard is underappreciated, to say the least. I know this because I used to be one of the students who didn't appreciate him and all he does for the students, the school, and the community," said the nominator. "Over my past few years at Highlander, I've gained a huge appreciation for Mr. Willard, and he deserves to be recognized."

"One of the things he did for us was put together a soccer team," said the nominator. "We are a small school, and we didn't have a soccer team for a few years, I personally play soccer, so I wanted a change. Mr. Willard let me voice my opinion and initiated change. He not only started our soccer team, but he got us an exceptional coach, and we won the championships! This may not seem like a big deal to many people, but it made us feel valued and important."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Mr. Willard has been working day and night to make sure everything is perfect for the students and their needs. He even takes time out of his busy day to meet with students about college and career options.

Overall, Mr. Willard values his school and students. He really cares and wants the best for everyone. When he's at school, he does everything he can to make sure every student feels safe and important.

"Mr. Willard is a great, funny principal, and he doesn't get enough credit for all the hard work he does," said the student. "Overall, I'm very glad I've had the privilege of having him as my high school principal."



Comments (26)


Wendy Van Gyzen Posted over a year ago

Mike is a kind-hearted giant! His work is always in the best interests of his students & he seeks to support & find solutions, in and out of the box. He is a huge, integral part of the Highlander community; we are extremely fortunate to have him caring for all of our students!

Wanda Brown Posted over a year ago

Mike thank you for all you have done for my family and many others. The time and dedication you put into our children speaks volumes! Keep smiling and keep leading.

Brian Wildeman Posted over a year ago

While I have no doubt that each and every educator who has been nominated for this award deserves to receive it, there is something Mike has that allows him to stand out from his fellow nominees. Mike is an administrator and it should not go unnoticed that he is the only administrator nominated for the Life Changer of the Year award. I point this out because often times one of the downsides to becoming an administrator is the lose of direct contact time you have with students in comparison to when you are a teacher. This means that in order for Mike to have been nominated by a student he clearly has made it a priority to maintain direct contact time with his students. But not only has Mike maintained direct contact time with he students, he’s used that time to build relationships. On many occasions I have been with Mike when he has taken a phone call from a current or former student during his own personal time. These calls ranged from “Where are you? We haven’t heard from you in days. Are you okay?” to “I know things are tough right now for you and your family. What do you guys need? Give me the list and I’ll make it happen.” If these aren’t actions of someone who is trying to help change someone’s life then I don’t know what is. Overall the most important reason I would put forward as my reason to vote for Mike is because he has never done any of this with the hope or thought of being nominated for this award, and more importantly, regardless of the results Mike will continue to do all of the same things. That’s a true Life Changer.

Susan Posted over a year ago

Mike Willard has all the qualities it takes to be a life changer. I have seen him at work with Highlander's youngest and oldest students and he "gets" them all. He connects to people of all ages with his wit, warmth, and wisdom. He is very hard working and gives his all in the classroom and on the court as coach. He has matured as an educator into a strong Principal. He is deserving of this title!

Tim B Willard Posted over a year ago

Mike is brother and I support this nomination 100%. He is an amazingly kind, talented, dynamic and hard working teacher, father, and coach that is always willing to put others before himself. The efforts he puts into his students are unparalleled and the impacts he has on their lives can be seen throughout his school and the greater community. The fact that a student nominated him for this award speaks volumes to the type of impression his dedication and efforts leaves on his students and staff. I vote Mike!

Brendan Power Posted over a year ago

Mike should be acquitted of all charges. Just kidding, Mike is unbelievably deserving of this recognition. I've known Mike since the 3rd grade. He's an amazing friend who would do anything for you. I know he works tirelessly for his students and staff and never takes his leadership role for granted. My kids would be lucky to have him as their school administrator. Some of my fondest memories growing up are schooling Mike on the basketball court. It's amazing how much wasted height is on that giant frame of his......anywho, this award isn't about height or basketball prowess, it's about Mike's commitment to his students and staff. Mike is an amazing guy and I'm lucky to call him one of my best friends. As the Gatorade commercial says....Be Like Mike!

Student of the best Principal Posted over a year ago

Mr.Willard has been the best principal you could ever ask for he deserve to win this nomination because he has put many tireless hours in to support his students. Good luck Mr Willard!

Hendry Posted over a year ago

Congrats Mr.Willard thank you for everything you have done for the school it's been honor to have you as a principle/mentor.you have taught me the importance of what it means to be a student athlete not only that but how to be successful and i'm very grateful for that I hope i get the opportunity to become one of your future basketball players and respect you and value you as a coach may god bless you.

Jessica Blanco-Busam Posted over a year ago

Mike Willard is one of the most committed and hard-working educators I know. He is one of the first ones in and last ones out, working tirelessly for the high school. He is always considerate of student perspective and advocates for what students need. He focuses on building relationships and seeing the best in people and tries his hardest to meet the needs of his staff and his students.

Jae Willard Posted over a year ago

Because I see behind the scenes on a daily basis, I know how limitless Mike’s commitment is to his students. It’s like they’re an extension of our own family. I mean, how many principals give their students their personal cell phone number? It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 pm on a Friday, if a student texts in need, he is there to support them and help guide them as best he can. And his dedication to his staff is just as important to him. He wears every hat there is to give his staff and students what they need; leader, mentor, coach, educator, brother, father, friend, helping hand...... He truly goes above and beyond every day of the week.

Annemarie Posted over a year ago

I could not have said it better than the anonymous student! Mr Willard is a caring and energetic leader who truly works to please everyone.

melissa Posted over a year ago

Way to go Mike! You deserve so much more than a simple accolade. Keep doing what you’re doing I’m sure all of the parents love and appreciate you!

Nancy Posted over a year ago

I have known Mike from the very beginning of his teaching career. I admire his dedication to the welfare of his students. The respect he shows to students, faculty, administration and staff is impressive. To me, he is an example of what you want every teacher to represent....compassion, caring, and instilling confidence in every student. All along my educational path, I wish there had been more teachers like Mr Willard

Angela Willard Posted over a year ago

Mike is our son so I may be a bit biased BUT Mike is so deserving of this award. He is very conscientious and always puts in 100% plus. He has shown he is fair, considerate of others and always willing to go the extra mile; whether for his staff, students or the athletes he coaches! We are proud of the man he is and feel he is very deserving of this award!

Paula Valerio Posted over a year ago

I've seen the mutual love & respect with the kids when mentoring there. Congratulations!!

Benjamin Davies Posted over a year ago

Mike Willard has always had the unique talent and the commitment to make a great impact on the lives of so many students - can’t think of anyone more deserving of recognition!

Ruth Porter Posted over a year ago

I wholeheartedly endorse Mr. Mike Willard as a life changer. He is driven by a passion for educating students in and out of the classroom. He instills essential life skills into the culture and expectations of each Charter School student. Self respect, collaboration and teamwork, hard work, the importance of practicing and honing skills are modeled by this principle. He goes way beyond the job description in many ways behind the scenes such as soliciting neckties and shirts for school athletes so they can fully participate in Team Day attire. He fosters pride and professionalism as well as ensuring a quality education for each student. Mike is humble and would never seek this recognition, yet he and his school are deserving of being Life Changer of the year.

Tim Willard Posted over a year ago

This is my brother and I approve this nomination! He is an amazing educator, father, husband and community member. What an honor for him to be nominated anonymously by a student!

Ted Villa Posted over a year ago

I’ve watched Mike show his leadership skills by rolling up his sleeves and jumping in to get things done. Its not that he just gets things done, but he anticipates the needs of others. Go Mile!

Tim Willard Posted over a year ago

This is my brother and I approve this nomination! He is an amazing educator, father, husband and community member. What an honor for him to be nominated anonymously by a student!

Kylee Claxton Posted over a year ago

So happy to see Mike being recognized for the stand up, hard working, loving guy that he is. Vote Mike Willard! I’ve been blessed to know Mike for many years now. I can’t think of a more deserving person to receive this honorable award!

Eirene Donohue Posted over a year ago

Mike Willard is the best! His positive spirit and energy is a benefit to everyone around him.

Brian Schneider Posted over a year ago

Great guy

David Porter Posted over a year ago

What a well deserved recognition for an outstanding man. He truly has a passion for educating young adults. As well as investing time in guiding and mentoring students in real life. I’ve known Mike for most of my life, and whenever we talk or re-connect-he’s always talking about his school, the students and how proud he is of them.

Sadye Claxton Posted over a year ago

Mike Willard works tirelessly on behalf of his students and school. The role of “principal” is no easy task, but Mr. Willard puts his heart and soul into his students. He has always done everything he can to make his students feel valued, teaching them not only academics but life skills to succeed. After LONG days and weeks of work, he continues to be an amazing father and family man on top of it all! Well deserved nomination for Mr. Willard!!!

Matt Greiner Posted over a year ago

I've known Mike Willard for almost 30 years and there is no doubt that he is deserving of this recognition. Mike has undoubtedly worked himself to the bone this year and cares deeply about the students for whom he's working. A great leader and coach, Mike is exactly the type of person I would want to manage my kids' educations, especially during this difficult time. I have to take exception with one aspect of the nomination, however. Is he "funny"? On the surface, yes, I guess he is. But he's just regurgitating all my lines and bits, honestly. Yes, he's a good imitation of my sense of humor but I don't think he should get credit for that. But I'm focusing on the 1% negative when we should be focusing on the 99% positive. Being funny isn't the main criteria by which we judge a life changer, I just value the truth and want credit for my jokes. Vote Mike Willard!