Dr. Robert Heaberlin, principal of Lee Middle School in Coweta County, was named the recipient of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) Distinguished Educator award for 2012.
Heaberlin is only the second educator from Georgia to receive this honor.
The award was presented to Heaberlin late last year by the AMLE Foundation at the 39th annual Conference for Middle Level Education in Portland, Ore.
"Receiving this award in front of more than 2,000 convention attendees was a great thrill for me," said Heaberlin. "The rigor and relevance of UWG's educational leadership program allows its students the opportunity to step into school administration ready to meet the demands of today's educational world."
The award recognizes outstanding practitioners in middle level education who have made a significant impact on the lives of young adolescents through exemplary characteristics, leadership, vision and advocacy.
Heaberlin credits UWG for much of his professional development, saying he is "excited to be a part of such a progressive program and university."
"Dr. Bob," as he is affectionately known, is in his 40th year in education, having served as a teacher at all levels, as a high school coach and as a principal of elementary, middle and high schools.
Heaberlin said his vision is to ensure the academic success and positive social growth of each student, and he encourages students to strive to exceed as scholars and citizens. He follows the principles for successful middle schools to personalize the learning environment and focus on professional development.
Carrie DeBilzan, a Lee Middle School teacher, said Heaberlin's leadership has changed the way she regards her profession.
"His promotion of the middle school concept and his notion that all educators have a purpose in implementing change and modeling best practices in their fields of study convinced me that not only is he dedicated to his role as a principal, but is an inspiration to anyone who has ever had the privilege of working with him," she said.
A former president of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders and president of the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals, Heaberlin is a member of the Georgia Middle School Association and the NASSP No Child Left Behind Task Force, on behalf of which he has met with the House and Senate Education Committees and members of the U.S. Department of Education. He has advocated for years for additional funding in Georgia for schools that adhere to the middle school concept.
In 2012, the school Heaberlin leads was named a Georgia Lighthouse School to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. At the Lighthouse schools ceremony, Dr. John Lounsbury commented, "Lee Middle School is a model school. It represents the best of what a middle school should be."
Heaberlin is a '90 UWG alumnus who works as an adjunct professor for the department of Educational Leadership at UWG.
"Throughout this incredible educational journey, I have celebrated many successes and learned from so many challenges," the professor and principal said. "Life has been good to me and I only hope that I can give back to others what has been given to me."