Treem Elementary principal receives state, national honors

Henderson principal Lee Esplin is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Between supporting staff and implementing programs, it isn’t unusual to see the administrator wiping down tables and mopping the floor before heading out to play wall ball with his students during recess at Treem Elementary School, 1698 Patrick Lane.

“I see my role as jack of all trades, master of none,” Esplin said. “For me, it’s looking at what needs to be done and doing it.”

Esplin’s dedication to education earned him the 2014 Nevada Principal of the Year award from the Nevada Association of School Administrators. He also was honored in Washington D.C. as a National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

“Being selected was a great honor because I work with phenomenal principals in the school district every day who do wonderful things and could have very easily received the award as well,” Esplin said. “I don’t see myself as being any better than any of my colleagues, so it was very humbling to be recognized.”

Cathy Conger, principal at Bruner Elementary School, 4289 Allen Lane, nominated Esplin because of his work ethic, leadership and personality after working with him for more than 15 years.

“He’s an extraordinary leader, but he’s also a genuine person who cares about people,” Conger said. “If you were to ask anyone who works in an elementary school in the district, they would know who (Esplin) is. If you wanted to have a friend or wanted to clone someone, he’s the one you want.”

Born in Utah, Esplin studied education at Southern Utah University after his wife convinced him to switch his focus from being a seminary teacher.

“I was taking classes at the LDS institute to be a seminary teacher, and my wife told me they don’t get paid to teach in Las Vegas because it’s a volunteer position,” Esplin said. “My wife is from Las Vegas, and I think she wanted to come back, so she convinced me to join education instead so I could get paid.”

The couple moved to Las Vegas in 1994 and joined the Clark County School District. Esplin started his 20-year career by teaching second, third and fourth grade and later serving as an educational computing strategist at a handful of elementary schools.

“During that time, I went back to UNLV and got my master’s degree in administration,” Esplin said. “I also went through a leadership program offered by the school district.”

In 1998, Esplin was named assistant principal for two years at Squires Elementary School before transferring as principal to King Elementary School in Boulder City and later at Treem.

“My favorite part about being in education is watching kids grow and learn and giving them opportunities,” Esplin said. “Kids come from all kinds of backgrounds and challenges, so I try to help them learn and grow and know that they can become anything they want to become if they set goals and work hard.”

Though his duties are demanding, Esplin said he always tries to provide hands-on learning experiences for students, such as traveling to Carson City to learn Nevada history or attending a leadership science program at Pali Institute in California.

“It’s cool to see how much kids learn when they get to live an experience rather than just study it out of a textbook,” he said.

Esplin hopes to grow the school from a two-star to a five-star school, and he has his staff and faculty reading a leadership book on seven habits of highly effective people.

“We’re hoping to teach these skills to kids so they become proactive in their education and more responsible for their learning,” Esplin said. “It will also prepare kids for the future because these are skills and habits that will not only help them in school but help them in their everyday life.”

Contact Henderson View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at or 702-383-0403.

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