Instead of talking about himself, Kim Wilson used most of his acceptance speech for winning the South Carolina High School Principal of the Year award to describe one of his students.

He talked about Zorrie Green, who he said started at Stall High as an unfocused troublemaker, but who this year placed third in the state wrestling competition and has college aspirations. Wilson said Green represents the kind of transformation the North Charleston high school has experienced during the past few years.

"As a school, we are winners," he said.

Those who know Wilson say one of his strengths as a principal is the relationships he has built with students, faculty and the community.

"He's gotten people to believe in themselves and to believe they can succeed at Stall," said Lou Martin, an associate superintendent who oversees high schools.

That's one of the reasons the South Carolina Association of School Administrators picked Wilson as its 2014 High School Principal of the Year. The group made the surprise announcement at a Charleston County School District principals' meeting Thursday.

The association also named Andre Dukes, an assistant principal at West Ashley High, as the 2014 South Carolina High School Assistant Principal of the Year. West Ashley High Principal Mary Runyon called Dukes a phenomenal assistant principal who is always thinking, always proactive and has a passionate way of going about his job.

Wilson will go on to compete for national honors, and he's had a chance to study under a former award-winning leader. Wilson, 61, was an associate principal for Wando High School Principal Lucy Beckham, who was named the 2010 National High School Principal of the Year.

"We had some times together, and I'm proud of his success," Beckham said.

Wilson spent most of his 39-year career in education at Wando High, where he worked for 25 years as director of guidance and as associate principal. He became principal at Stall High in 2010.

Superintendent Nancy McGinley made the decision to put him at Stall High, an "at-risk"-rated, high-poverty school, because of the respect he had won from Wando High teachers and administrators. Although it was a difficult decision for Wilson to leave a school he loved, McGinley said Stall High needed a great leader and she was grateful Wilson recognized that and accepted the job.

The school has seen mixed test scores since then, and McGinley said she expected its results to "sky-rocket" in coming years.

"The results are yet to be seen," she said. "A foundation has been created."

Molly Spearman is executive director of the statewide association who presented Wilson's and Dukes' awards Thursday. Charleston County schools' winners were indicative of the kind of leadership present in the state's schools, and it shows the importance of that role, she said. Great teachers won't stay in a school if it doesn't have a strong principal, and Wilson has the whole package of what great leaders should have, she said.

"It takes the extra mile of passion and of really caring, and (Wilson) has that," Spearman said. "You don't have to be around long to realize that."

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.