The raucous orchestra of sounds reverberating through the hallways at Albion Middle School is music to Sandy LeCheminant's ears. And she's found that a close listen to the cadence and timbre of her students' adolescent chatter can help pinpoint the real reason behind the brassiest of classroom and hallway behaviors.
"In this position, you get to see the process that students go through as they learn and grow," says LeCheminant, a music teacher turned middle school administrator. "You get to see them mature. You get to be the mediator as they work through adolescence. They may lose it the next day, but you get that chance to help the kids try to figure out life."
LeCheminant embraces the angst of middle school with a patient yet knowing smile. She's a cheerleader one minute, a rule-enforcer the next. But her trademark no-frills, steady-as-clockwork approach to aiding sixth- through eighth-grade students navigate the awkward middle school years is among the reasons why she's been lauded by her peers as one of the best administrators in Utah. On Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, LeCheminant was announced as the 2018 Utah Assistant Principal of the Year, an honor given annually by the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals.
She received the award at the organization's mid-winter conference, held at the Dixie Convention Center in St. George. LeCheminant, who also has been an Assistant Principal at South Jordan, Eastmont, and Indian Hills middle schools, is one of three secondary school principals to be honored. Ben Lomond High Principal Dale Wilkinson and West Jordan Middle Principal Dixie Garrison also received recognition as the state's top school leaders for 2018.
LeCheminant, who began her career as an educator in Prescott, Wisconsin, will represent Utah in the national Assistant Principal of the Year contest. Garrison will represent the state for the U.S. secondary principal award. LeCheminant joins a prestigious roster of previous winners from Canyons District, including the 2016 High School Principal of the Year Mary Bailey, 2014 Assistant Principal of the Year Doug Hallenbeck, 2013 Middle School Principal of the Year Mary Anderson, and 2011 Assistant Principal of the Year Dr. Paul Kirby.
Mike Sirois, Canyons District's Director of School Performance, has high praise for LeCheminant's contribution to Albion Middle and beyond. "She is an extremely dedicated administrator," he said. "Her work ethic is exceptional, as is her knowledge of research-based curriculum and instructional practice." For her part, LeCheminant acknowledges that "so much of our jobs" as assistant principals is based on student behavior. What's changed over the years, she said, is the role of an assistant principal. The APs of the past focused on meting out discipline to ruffians and rule-breakers. Now, she says, a good assistant principal will say, "'OK, this is happening. But why is it happening in the first place?' ... Then, 'What can we do to address the skill deficits so it doesn't happen again.'"
LeCheminant also enjoys working with teachers and parents to find ways to inspire learning in even the most reluctant and hard-to-reach student. "What do I do every day? I do a thousand different things. You have to be a jack-of-all-trades," she said, adding that she's often doing lunchroom duty one minute, then outside for bus duty the next. "I come to work every day, and I am still interested. I am still learning. And I still love what I do."