CAS Announces 2022 First Year Principal Award Recipients

Each year, the Connecticut Association of Schools honors outstanding first year principals with the William Cieslukowski First Year Principal Award. CAS is pleased to announce the two award recipients for 2022 are:

  • Christina Amaral, Principal, East Hampton Middle School
  • Christine Mori, Principal, Highcrest Elementary School, Wethersfield

As you can see from the summaries below, both recipients are well deserving and made a tremendous difference in their school communities in just their first year as a principal. We are excited to introduce them to you. CONGRATULATIONS, Christine and Christina! Keep up the GREAT work!


Christina Amaral, principal of East Hampton Middle School in East Hampton, Connecticut, has been selected as the 2022 William Cieslukowski Outstanding First Year Middle School Principal. Christina was nominated by 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher and Team Leader, Richard Storrs, representing the East Hampton Middle School faculty and staff. Mr. Storrs said, “during her short tenure as principal, Christina Amaral has done tremendous work to help EHMS be a better school. She sees the value in her teachers and staff, and is willing to support them as they try new ideas and propose improvements for the school. She wants to help her students and her school grow, and won’t shy away from ideas that are out of the box or unusual.We are lucky to have her!”

After graduating from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, CT, with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics in 2007, Ms. Amaral began teaching as a mathematics and social studies teacher in March of 2011 at Martin Kellogg Middle School in Newington. From July of 2011 through June 2020, Ms. Amaral taught 6th and 7th grade mathematics at East Hampton Middle School. During this time she earned her Master of Arts in Educational Technology from Saint Joseph College (2013) and her Sixth Year Educational Leadership – 092 Certificate from Central Connecticut State University. In 2016, Ms. Amaral was chosen as the East Hampton School District Teacher of the Year.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak struck, Ms. Amaral was named Interim Assistant Principal of East Hampton Middle School until the spring of 2021 when she was named Interim Principal. She brings her strong instructional background, her leadership abilities, and her dedication and passion for teaching and learning to the position. One veteran teacher said “she understands the importance of social-emotional learning (not just during the pandemic). While knowing that some home lives are difficult… we know that she is there to support us.” In her first year, she has shown “tremendous leadership as a teacher, as an innovator, and as a manager” and teachers at the school describe her as “a shining beacon of positivity.” Mr. Storrs said, “while those who have known her for a long time can see that she is tired or frustrated, she always has a smile and leads by example with her attitude that we will get through all of this.” One veteran teacher added, “I’ve seen seven rookie principals come into this building, and Christina balances the fun with the learning with a flair that I have never seen before.”

English teacher Trisha Seeley describes Ms. Amaral as “an administrator whose assets as a valuable team player are made evident by the respect and admiration of her colleagues and students alike. Her kindness and good citizenship are evident in all that she does.”

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Clark cited Ms. Amaral’s “flexibility and passion for lifelong learning, critical assets to anyone looking to thrive in the modern world of school administration. Christina is always willing to be responsive to the needs of our students, families, and district.”

As reflected in these words by Mr. Storrs, Ms. Amaral’s work as a school leader at East Hampton Middle School has resulted in a marked and beneficial change toward positive improvement: “Ms. Amaral has breathed new life into a building that has been fraught with change in the past few years. Administrators have shifted quite a bit in recent history, and the elevation of one of our own to be our leader has brought some much-needed order and continuity to our school. We are lucky to have her, and she is well deserving of this honor.”

For all of the reasons above, it is with great pleasure that CAS presents Christina Amaral with the William Cieslukowski Outstanding First Year Middle School Principal Award. Congratulations, Christina!


Christine Mori, principal of Highcrest Elementary School in Wethersfield, Connecticut, has been named the 2022 William Cieslukowski Outstanding First Year Elementary School Principal. Curriculum Specialist Pamela Guide, who nominated Mrs. Mori on behalf of the Highcrest teachers, said “she truly exhibits outstanding instructional leadership with high expectations, innovative and thoughtful practice, and calm and confident leadership all of which has an overwhelmingly positive impact on the Highcrest School and the district at large.”

In their reference letter, Superintendent Michael Emmett and Assistant Superintendent Sally Dastoli described Mrs. Mori as “a highly reflective educator. She is constantly looking for feedback and, most importantly, she integrates feedback into her practice.” The five board members of the Highcrest Parent Teacher Organization cited her “expertise with elementary school children. She recognizes and respects their developmental needs, while showing respect and understanding to parents.”

In 2001, Mrs. Mori graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special Education. She earned her Master of Arts Degree in Teaching and Learning with a concentration in Reading from Nova Southeastern University in 2015 and her Sixth Year Certificate in Educational Leadership – 092 Certification in May 2021 from Central Connecticut State University. During her career, she has taught third, fourth and fifth grades as well as serving as a special education teacher. During 2017-2021, Mrs. Mori was the curriculum specialist at Duffy Elementary School in West Hartford Public Schools before beginning her first year as principal of Highcrest Elementary School.

During the 2021-2022 school year at Highcrest, Mrs. Mori faced routine and sometimes difficult challenges as the sole administrator for a school of approximately 477 students along with 35 certified and 35 non-certified staff members. Some were the day-to-day challenges that all administrators face dealing with decisions, evaluations, emails, phone calls and meetings. Along with the pandemic, Mrs. Mori dealt with the death of one of her students; revamped the dismissal procedures; and embraced the opportunity to have an audit done to determine how welcoming Highcrest is in several major areas including physical space, policies, procedures, welcoming school staff and written material. Through it all she has established herself as a risk-taker, a visionary leader, and facilitator of courageous conversations with various groups dealing with equity, bias, diversity, and inclusion. Her motto, Better Together, is, according to her staff, evident every day. Her work on building relationships, collaboration and making sure everyone has a voice has positively impacted the culture and climate of the school.

According to Superintendent Michael Emmett and Assistant Superintendent Sally Dastoli, Mrs. Mori has many “skills, characteristics and attributes that contribute to her exceptional leadership but it is her deep knowledge of curriculum and instruction “that is the icing on the cake…. With her background as an instructional coach, she brings a thorough understanding of teaching and learning. She artfully mentors her instructional coaches, teachers, and all staff that impact student learning, resulting in improved outcomes for students.”

Mrs. Mori’s energy and innovative spirit as a beginning building leader are remarkable. For all of the above reasons, CAS is proud to present the William Cieslukowski First Year Elementary Principal Award to Christine Mori. Congratulations, Christine!

By Dr. RoseAnne O’Brien Vojtek, Assistant Executive Director