The Terrel H. Bell Award recognizes outstanding school leaders and the vital role they play in guiding students and schools to excellence, frequently under challenging circumstances.
As a teacher, a principal, a superintendent, a state commissioner of education, the Commissioner of the Office of Education under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and ultimately the Secretary of Education under President Reagan, Bell exemplified educational leadership. He was a firm believer that education is a powerful and liberating force in people’s lives.
Perhaps best known for commissioning the landmark education study, A Nation at Risk, Bell founded the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program in 1982 to recognize great American schools and school leaders.
Principals chosen as Terrel H. Bell Award recipients have transformed their schools. Their vision and collaborative leadership styles have produced outstanding results for all of their students to develop academically, emotionally, physically, socially, and culturally. These principals have shown that with effective leadership, skilled teaching, and high expectations, all students can learn.
Principals are nominated by their school communities during the final stages of the National Blue Ribbon Schools application process. The U.S. Department of Education, together with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Association for Middle Level Education, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, bestow the Bell Award on a handful of principals each year.
Secretary Terrel H. Bell held education as his highest priority, trusting that all students would find it, as he had, their personal key to success. The Bell Award honors Secretary Bell’s memory and celebrates school leaders who are realizing his vision of excellent education for every student.
Learn about recent Terrel H. Bell awardees: