Shelly Karren recalls the day she was offered a chance to return to Alta High after she’d spent time in New England earning a master’s degree in English literature and teaching on the east coast. Karren was volunteering at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013, when she answered a call from then-Principal Fidel Montero, who sought to lure her back to Alta, where Karren taught from 2002 to 2007.
Not more than a few hours later, chaos reigned when a pair of homemade bombs erupted a short distance from the finish line of the race. Three people died and hundreds were injured in the act of domestic terrorism. “I remember the high of that day and the low of that day,” said Karren, whose volunteer assignment was at Mile No. 19. “We suddenly saw streams of emergency vehicles and they shut down the race. Then we started to hear what happened through the radios.”
Shortly after the national tragedy, Karren came back to Utah to start anew as a member of the Alta faculty, where she eventually became an administrative intern and an Assistant Principal. She also has served as an Assistant Principal at Union Middle, where she learned to love working with sixth- through eighth-grade students. “There’s a lot of magic at the middle school level that people tend to overlook,” she says. “They remember their own experiences at that age, which for many people weren’t that positive. But there are so many opportunities to see growth in real time with middle school students.”
That perspective about 11- to 14-year-old students no doubt will serve her well as she begins her new post as principal of Indian Hills Middle. The Canyons Board of Education on Tuesday, July 11, 2023 approved her appointment, which is effective immediately. She succeeds Doug Graham, who will be an administrator on special assignment.
Karren says she looks forward to continuing her relationships with families in the Alta High feeder system, where she began her career in education some two decades ago. She also lives near IHMS, and that proximity gives her insight to the needs of the Indian Hills students and their parents. The new principal is excited to meet even more of the community at the school’s Thursday, Aug. 17 Back-to-School Night. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at IHMS, 180 E. Sanders Road.
“I am so excited,” says Karren, who also has been an assistant volleyball and basketball coach at the high school level. “My vision is to ensure that our school is a place where everyone — students, teachers, staff, and parents – feel like they belong and are valued. I feel that when everyone feels connected, there is greater space for learning and growth.”
Karren also has immediate plans to spread the good word about the top-notch teachers and programs at Indian Hills Middle. It’s important to her for the community to know about the achievements of the students and contributions of the faculty.
She seeks to bolster a positive neighborhood narrative about Indian Hills, be it through face-to-face interactions, via email or ParentSquare, or on social media. In fact, one of her first acts as principal was to work with fellow administrators to start an official Indian Hills Middle Instagram page “to highlight the great things that are happening in our school.”
In the coming weeks, Karren plans to reach out to parents and students to introduce herself and welcome them to the 2023-2024 school year. She’ll also strengthen relationships with the faculty and staff at the school.
“Students at this age need caring adults who understand them and who understand what they are going through at this age,” she said. “The people in this building remember that and are ready to help them navigate this time of their lives.”