Church, who is currently the principal at Greencastle High School, was selected over principals in Clay, Greene, Hendricks, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.
The selection was made by a Blue Ribbon Committee of other principals, according to Steve Heck, Executive Director of the IASP.
"To be selected by my colleagues in this district, and I've been in this a long time and didn't expect this, my first reaction was to be elated," Church said.
"I'm humbled and honored," he added.
Heck said the board looked at three major criteria: examples of leadership, engagement in the community and innovation.
Church has 24 years of administrative experience in schools, including eight years in the Clay Community School Corporation.
"Some of my most rewarding years were in Clay County," Church said.
Greencastle was the first school that Church was principal at in 1982.
"About eight years ago, my wife and I moved to Greencastle --* I've come full circle," Church said.
Church also founded and was director of a Christian drug treatment program in Terre Haute, which was a large part of his selection for the award.
"I know when the Blue Ribbon Committee studied all of the applications, and there are many things that stand out in Jim's contributions," Heck said.
Heck said that principals make many behind the scenes contributions, and he believes it is "essential" to recognize the "investment in the community" that principals make.
When asked what his favorite part about being a principal is, Church answered, "Kids. My favorite part is to be able to go in everyday and work with young people."
For winning the District 8 award, Church will receive $1,000 to put back into the school as well as a plaque awarded by Dr. Suellen Reed, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Schools.
Church is also eligible for the statewide award for High School Principal of the Year.
He is one of 12 district representatives in the state.
"I'm just honored to be one of the 12," Church said.
The winner of the state award in the elementary, middle and high school divisions will go to Washington, D.C. to be recognized.
Heck said Church's dedication to students and the community made him an easy choice.
"When you look at those kind of things, and they don't even address the initiatives he started at the high school. He was hands-down our Principal of the Year in District 8," Heck said.
Entries are graded based on a rubric created by previous winners.
The IASP corporate partner, The Horace Mann Companies, gives the $1,000 award.