There’s a well-known trick to remembering the difference between the words “principle” and “principal.” A principle is an idea you stand by, but a principal is a person who stands by you. To remember the difference, keep this in mind: the principal is your pal.
In honor of Utah School Principals this week from Oct. 16-20, Canyons District is highlighting some of its amazing principals who love their students, inspire their teachers and keep their schools running.
Gone are the days of the notoriously dreaded principal’s office — in today’s world, principals are working to support the community, inspire teachers, and implement positive behavior interventions for struggling students. They are at extracurricular activities, they’re brainstorming in the middle of the night, and they’re up bright and early the next day to greet students with a smile. These days, getting called to the principal’s office is usually a good thing.
“I see my office as a teaching station, just like a classroom,” says Midvalley Principal Tamra Baker. “It’s an opportunity for us to teach parents, to help them understand their child developmentally, but it’s also a place to celebrate kids’ successes. They make good choices and you celebrate those and you reteach and reteach and reteach.”
For Baker, being a principal means being in the hallways, on the playground and in the cafeteria as much as she’s in her office. It means seeing her school as a center of the community that helps families with food and safety as well as education. Every day is different, says Baker, who worked as Canyons’ Director of Student Support Services before requesting to return to school leadership.
“I’ve never forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher first,” Baker says. “That’s what we’re all about, to help smooth the path for the teachers so they can do their job well. I love that about the job. I get to do something I love every day.”
Principals throughout Canyons District work to meet the needs of their specific community, from having food pantries on-site, to offering a summer academy that helps students transition to high school to helping students earn college credit while still in high school.
Principals are tasked with helping students become college- and career-ready, but they also face more needs and demands now, as the amount of student trauma, homelessness, domestic issues and significant personal struggles in their student body have increased, says Canyons Assistant Superintendent Dr. Bob Dowdle.
“The job is just huge, but our people do a tremendous job and I would take our school-based administrators and compare them with anyone in the nation,” Dowdle said. “They care about what they do, they do good work, and we see evidence through student achievement that shows their work is effective.”