Ryan Hanson POY


Mr. Ryan Hanson, devils lake High School Named as North Dakota Principal of the year

BISMARCK, ND (March 17, 2023): The North Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals (NDASSP) as part of the National Association of Secondary School Principals principal recognition program, has named Mr. Ryan Hanson principal at Devils Lake High School, the North Dakota High School Principal of the Year. The NASSP National Principal of the Year program recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals. The program annually honors secondary school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools, and the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity select one middle level or high school principal to represent their state. From these state winners, three finalists are named as contenders for the National Principal of the Year award. The NASSP National Principal of the Year is selected from among the three finalists.

Mr. Ryan Hanson completed his undergraduate degree from Valley City State University in Math Education. He completed his master’s degree from the University of North Dakota in educational leadership. His desire to help students beyond the walls of his classroom led him to pursuing the principalship. He strives to build relationships throughout the school and community while assisting every student to become the very best version of themselves as they leave Devils Lake High School.  His leadership promotes engagement, perseverance, and advocacy for self and others while building a growth mindset in his students.

Mr. Hanson began his career at Center Public Schools as a high school math and science teacher along with coaching basketball, speech, and golf in 1992 – 1994. From 1994 - 1998, he was a high school math and science teacher at Divide County High School in Crosby, ND.  He served as a head coach for both girls’ and boys’ basketball while leading the academic team, science bowl team, and assisting with science fair and academic Olympiad competitions.  He began his career in Devils Lake in 1998 teaching math and science in both Devils Lake High School and the Alternative High School.  He was the head girls’ basketball coach and an assistant and junior high boys’ basketball coach.  He spent one year as the Starkweather-Munich girls’ basketball coach as well.  In 2004, he accepted an offer to lead the Firebird community as the new principal at Devils Lake High School.

Mr. Hanson credits several people who have assisted in his growth as an educational leader and a person.  They have been instrumental instilling a belief in what is possible and to never quit trying.  From Center Public School when Mike Ness gave him a chance at his first job and showed him a leader can be kind and caring and an educational mentor in Lyne Enget was found.  These two ensured he grew as a new educator and didn’t give up.  While at Divide County, Barry Haggin and Bob Brown instilled in him a passion for coaching the right way, the importance of communication, and what dedication to a program looks like.  Norm Sortland and Don Nielsen put him in positions of leadership and encouraged his growth as an educator and coach.  Devils Lake’s Dr. Steve Swiontek provided him the opportunity to be a school leader.  He provided the opportunity to build a relationship-centered high school while mentoring him as a new principal.  New superintendent Matt Bakke’s vision of “We Are One” has provided the district with a new direction enhancing his leadership.  Denise Jonas, Kent Dennis, Christa Brodina, and Jason Wiberg have been absolutely the best co-workers a principal could ever imagine working with.  Their support, teamwork, and guidance have been instrumental in his growth as an administrator and person.  Teacher leaders like Jim Samson, Phyllis Kadrmas, Kyle Regynski, and Jeff Stotts challenged him to do more, think differently, and simply be better. 


Mr. Hanson’s father was a school administrator for over thirty years.  Ironically, this is why he was never going to be an administrator!  However, Pat Kurtz convinced him it was a necessary move.  He cannot imagine doing anything else now.  Dave Handt was the best supervisor of a student teacher and has continued his support 32 years later.  From Shirly Boom and Susan Willert entering his life in 4th grade to Steve Willert, Elden Paczkowski, and Bob Thoreson being his teachers and coaches through high school graduation, he has had excellent role models.


In his nineteen years at Devils Lake High School, Mr. Hanson has weathered changes in enrollment and staff.  The school has transformed into a culture where students have a voice and relationships come first.  Devils Lake High School offers the widest variety of AP and Dual Credit courses in the school’s history.  Students are encouraged to challenge themselves throughout their high school experience while realizing they can do anything after high school.


Mr. Hanson and his wife Heidi are the parents of four children, Carlie, Macy, Parker and Gabby.  They also have one granddaughter Willow and their bulldog Thielen.  His dad Rudy has influenced his leadership while his mom Sheryl has always been his biggest supporter and encourager in life.  Mr. Hanson’s grandpa Russ provided the extra guidance and life-lessons which still resonate in his leadership today.  He cannot say enough about the support he has received from his family, especially his wife Heidi. 


Mr. Hanson is grateful to show up every morning at Devils Lake High School and work with the best students, staff, teachers, and administrators in the state.  He is thankful for Sharyl Peterson and Lisa Gathman stating they may never retire!  He has a great appreciation for the parents and community as their support has been amazing.  He is proud of the opportunities Devils Lake Public Schools provides students and is proud to represent his administrative colleagues throughout North Dakota.