Pearland High School principal Larry Berger may not have been sporting his Captain America costume, but he moved at superhero speed to get to the scene of a reported school emergency March 11.
When Berger arrived, however, he found not a campus crisis but a drum line and cheer squad leading into a teaching theatre packed with students, administrators, H-E-B representatives, balloons and cake.
Then he learned the big news: He is one of 10 H-E-B Excellence in Education regional principal finalists. As a finalist, Berger received a $1,000 check for himself and $2,500 for PHS.
Following the surprise announcement, the student body vice president, PHS’s teacher of the year Scott Crossno and Superintendent Dr. John Kelly paid tribute to Berger, who, in addition to his normal responsibilities, faithfully attends student musicals, concerts and athletic games and travels long distances to competitions.
“No one works harder than Larry Berger. He personifies Pearland High School. His mere visibility keeps people doing what’s right. He has traveled out of town and state to support band and choir performances. He has even attended Academic Decathlon competitions where there really isn’t much to see. He does this because his presence reminds students they represent Pearland High School,” Crossno said.
Kelly praised Berger’s willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty — even stepping in as cheer coach when the seat was temporarily vacated.
“Superman is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and leaps tall buildings in a single bound, and that is Larry Berger. Under his leadership, Pearland High School has soared to new heights in academics, athletics and fine arts. He is every bit a superhero in my book,” Kelly said.
When he finally took the microphone himself, Berger pointed to students as the reason for his success.
“This award is not because of me. If I’m a superhero, it’s because I get my strength from my students,” he said.
Berger has led PHS since 2009, during that time winning the Pearland Independent School District Secondary Principal of the Year Award twice.
His favorite motto is “do what is right and do it all the time.”
He does whatever it takes to put students first — from high-fiving students in the hall for their achievements to sporting a “Principal Taxi” shirt while pushing a top-fundraising student in an office chair to the next class.
Berger’s passion for students goes hand in hand with the high expectations he sets for the entire campus.
“If each day you tackle the job at hand with the intent to do what is right for yourself and others, you can’t help but be a success,” he said.
Berger will compete in Austin May 2-3 for the statewide award, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize and a $25,000 grant for the campus.
The H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards are the largest monetary program for educators in Texas, spotlighting best practices and celebrating the passion and creativity of Texas educators.
After nomination by H-E-B employees and community members, educators complete an application online about their professional experience, educational philosophies and achievements both inside and outside the classroom.
After two rounds of judging, 40 teacher and principal finalists are named.
Later this spring, a statewide judging panel will conduct personal interviews with Berger and other finalists to choose the winners.