University News

Warhawk alum Andy Farley named 2024 National Principal of the Year

November 21, 2023

Written by Chris Lindeke | Photos courtesy of Elmbrook Schools

Andy Farley is in his 11th year as principal at Brookfield East High School, one of Wisconsin’s most decorated schools — it is a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School, recently judged as a high school that “Significantly Exceeds Expectations,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and boasts a number of both 2023-24 National Merit Semifinalists and Commended Students.

A 2001 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater who earned a BSE in social studies education, Farley was himself a student at Brookfield East. And now he brings a national achievement not only to his high school but to the Warhawk family.

Close on the heels of being selected by the U.S. Department of Education to receive the 2023 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership, Farley has become the first Wisconsin principal since 1993 to earn the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) National Principal of the Year.

As the winner of the Wisconsin State Principal of the Year, Farley was automatically nominated for the national award before being selected from a group of three finalists. He received the award in Washington, D.C., in October.

The National Principal of the Year recognizes outstanding middle level and high school principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.

“This largely started with a nomination from a student. In our field, that means everything – the student experience and how they perceived the Brookfield East impact on their education and their career,” Farley said.

“I don’t want to use the word shocking, but it still feels like it’s an almost out-of-body experience.”


Andy Farley stands in a group holding an award.

Andy Farley, middle, receives the 2024 NASSP National Principal of the Year trophy from the organization’s leadership during NASSP’s celebration in October in Washington, D.C.


Earlier this fall, Brookfield East was one of eight schools in the state, and the only high school, to be selected as a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. It was one of three schools in the country to be nominated for exemplary work in closing achievement gaps for all learners.

The high school continues to set the bar for schools around the state. Farley instituted the state’s first-ever Hope Squad, which develops student leaders to serve as ambassadors for wellness throughout the school, community and region.

The Hope Squad originated as a suicide prevention program but has evolved into a group focused on holistic health and wellness. Students are nominated by their peers to be part of the group. Brookfield East is in its sixth year of running the program.

“All the research says kids in need of mental health support are two to three times more likely to go to peers,” Farley said. “The whole vision of the Hope Squad is to take those student nominations and train them with a backpack of preventative strategies. Our kids aren’t therapists or counselors — they’re trained connectors (to professional staff and resources) and ambassadors for wellness.”

Mark Hansen, superintendent of the School District of Elmbrook, is Farley’s direct supervisor and a fellow UW-Whitewater alumnus — he earned a BSE in social studies history. Hansen was recently named 2024 Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators. And in 2006, he was one of three finalists for the same NASSP national award Farley just claimed.

Hansen, who has known Farley for 10 years, lauded his communication style and his ability to connect Brookfield East to the larger community.

“Andy is an all-around amazing human being,” Hansen said. “His relationship with various stakeholder groups is sincere and authentic, and his relationship building skills are second to none. His mission at Brookfield East is academic and human excellence … he talks the talk and walks the walk.”


Andy Farley stands in a group holding an award.

From left, Mark Hansen, Elmbrook Schools superintendent, Andy Farley, holding his NASSP National Principal of the Year trophy, Scott Wheeler, Elmbrook Schools Board president, and Jean Lambert, Elmbrook Schools Board vice president.


As a high school student at Brookfield East in the early 1990s, Farley toured UW-Whitewater with his parents and was drawn to the small class sizes and learning environments. He noted the personal connections he made with his instructors and the lifelong friends he made during his time on campus.

“I think when you tour other colleges and campuses, you can quickly become a number,” Farley said. “At UW-Whitewater, it becomes a deeply personal connection, and it’s built upon relationships.”

Headshot of Andy Farley in college wearing a Warhawks jersey.

Those connections, some of which were forged as a member of the Warhawk football team from 1996-98, helped Farley navigate a difficult stretch academically during his first two years as a college student.

“I don’t know if there was a prouder moment in my life than when I reached that degree because of some of the struggles in my first couple years just to adapt to even more of a rigorous learning environment that all college freshmen need to transition to,” Farley said.

Farley met his wife, Amie (Williams), a 2003 graduate with a BSE in social studies, in an Intro to Sociology course. He enjoyed the job fairs, professional meet-and-greets and visits from government officials during his time at UW-Whitewater and specifically called out his instructors in his wide range of class subjects — psychology, history, political science and geography.

“I think UW-Whitewater does an amazing job of creating this relationship between future graduates and alumni and regional leaders that is really beneficial for future professionals and their first steps in the professional journey,” Farley said.

Armed with expertise in several areas and a Bachelor of Science in Education, Farley was hired at Waukesha North High School, where he spent three years as a social studies teacher in U.S. history, world history, political science and psychology.

He spent the next nine years as a teacher at Brookfield East. After leaving for one year to be an assistant principal at Menomonee Falls High School, Farley returned to East as principal, a position he has now held for more than a decade.

“I think UW-Whitewater prepared me wonderfully to be able to be not only a teacher but be a successful teacher on Day 1,” Farley said. “UW-Whitewater consistently created those opportunities to be in school, not even in your content area, which I think can be just as valuable as in your content area. I’m really grateful for the training and preparation that the university provided me to be a successful teacher on Day 1.”

Farley has kept his connection to UW-Whitewater since beginning his professional path. His brother, Ben, was an All-American for the Warhawk football team in 2007, when the team won its first of six national championships over an eight-year span. Farley said he still attends at least one game per season at Perkins Stadium.


Andy Farley stands with his wife in a school hallway lined with lockers.

Andy Farley with his wife, Amie, a 2003 UW-Whitewater graduate, in a hallway at Brookfield East High School.


Andy and Amie have three children – Grady (15), Delanie (14) and Ailin (10). Grady and Delanie each attend Brookfield East, where their father has built a legacy of excellence as one of the top schools in the state.

In his role as principal, Farley proudly dons his Brookfield East Spartan blue — but his passion for Warhawk purple also shines brightly.

“I would do anything in my power if there was an opportunity to help UW-Whitewater,” Farley said. “I would be there in an hour to help out. That’s how proud I am of that university and campus and experience.”

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