While Sheila Harrity was studying for her doctorate in education at Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies, she applied what she learned to her job as principal of Worcester Technical High School. In fact, she did this so well, she was named National High School Principal of the Year—the first ever from Massachusetts.

Harrity, EDd’13, has been credited with taking one of the state’s lowest-performing schools and transforming it into a national model of academic success. Thanks to her expert guidance over the past seven years, the graduation rate improved 17 points to 96 percent, while proficiency on statewide tests skyrocketed from 27 to 92 percent in English and 35 to 84 percent in math—all accomplished at a school with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

These successes weren’t lost on the MetLife Foundation and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which named Worcester Tech one of the country’s top 10 “breakthrough schools.”

One key to Harrity’s students’ success: She takes a practical and personalized approach with them, incorporating their interests and career options into the curriculum to increase their motivation.