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Murray Journal

New principals want to encourage student leadership

Mar 05, 2019 03:09PM ● By Julie Slama

Granite School District’s Rebecca Te’o comes to Longview Elementary to be its new principal. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Two new school principals began in Murray elementary schools this January and both have a vision to encourage more student leadership opportunities.

While Longview Elementary Principal Rebecca Te’o and Parkside Elementary Principal Brian Dawes will take time to learn their schools’ cultures and traditions, both said they will look at the student councils to give students leadership experience.

“Our student council has a positive impact on the school and benefits the community,” Te’o said about the program former principal Chad Sanders introduced. “I want to ensure students are learning good citizenship and are getting the leadership skills here that they can build on as they move up to the junior high.”

Sanders left Longview at the end of 2018 to start his own business.

Dawes, who replaces former principal Lindsey Romero, said he would like to start a student council at Parkside next fall.

“I’d like to give sixth-graders more leadership skills and opportunities to learn,” he said. “I like to teach kids responsibility and empower them.”

Longview Elementary Principal Rebecca Te’o

Te’o comes to Longview from Granite School District where most recently, she was an instructional coach after teaching for 10 years. She has two master’s degrees, one in education with a math endorsement from Southern Utah University and a second in educational leadership and policy and administration from the University of Utah.

“I had the classroom perspective, but wanted a broader picture,” she said about becoming a principal. “I like the opportunity to impact more students and families.”

Te’o has helped implement technology to enhance teaching and engage student learning in Granite classrooms and is familiar with standard-based grading, where students and parents are able to understand more specifically which areas students need more support. 

She also believes in supporting teachers with skills and knowledge as well as collaborating on a master schedule, so they, too, are successful.

Te’o also believes in a positive behavioral support with students, helping them gain knowledge about their actions.

“I believe in making rewarding relationships and a reward system where students can earn, for example, this many more stickers to earn a recess.  If they make a choice that isn’t positive, then we need to look at the consequences and explain why this behavior or action isn’t appropriate and look at the choices they can make to correct it. Rarely are consequences black and white, but by explaining, we can help a child learn,” she said.

Te’o can relate to children in multiple ways. She follows football, rugby and hockey, having played all of them, and she rides horses, spending most of her summers at her grandfather’s ranch in northwest Colorado. She also enjoys cooking Samoan treats, including guava cake and pani popo (coconut bread), and she also attended Horizon Elementary as a child.

Already, Te’o has seen some Longview traditions of White Ribbon Week and the Darling Daughter dance and is looking forward to the upcoming Yes Day fundraiser in May.

Parkside Elementary Principal Brian Dawes

The new Parkside principal comes from Emery County where he recently served as Ferron Elementary principal since 2002. Before that, he taught health for six years and helped coach track at Emery High and taught health, geography and U.S. history one year at the junior high level.

Dawes, who is a Kearns High graduate, has his doctorate in educational leadership and administration from Argosy University and has been the president of the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals.

“I was ready for a change after being at the same elementary for 17 years and Parkside offered a change of pace,” Dawes said, adding that enrollment at Parkside is about 300 students greater than at his former school. “There’s a lot more cultural diversity here and that is wonderful. We have an exciting dynamic in this school.”

When the new Parkside principal pulled up to his school at 5 p.m. after visiting the district office before moving to the Salt Lake Valley, he was surprised to find the parking lot full. Inside was a rehearsal for “Seussical, Jr.,” which will be performed the evening of March 21.

“It was great coming in to visit with the parents and children,” he said.

While Dawes left his yoga mat in his truck during the Playworks Family Fitness Night in his second week as principal, he said he was able to meet more families and start to learn the traditions and culture of Parkside, Murray and the district.

“My goal is to get involved with the kids and give them positive reinforcement, with high fives or knuckles in the lunchroom,” he said. “I also want to empower our teachers and give them support so they can take educational risks, experiment how to increase student learning.”

Dawes said he loves to read books and is looking forward to reading on Dr. Seuss Day. His favorite is “Sneetches,” but appreciates the stories behind each of the books and how it can bridge conversations with students.

“I can read ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’ to sixth-graders as they transition out of elementary or ‘I Can Read with My Eyes Shut’ and students ask if Dr. Seuss was serious,” he said.

Dawes said many students already have gotten to know him through his tie collection.

“Some students just come by to see what tie I’m wearing today,” he said, adding that the favorite wasn’t the Mickey Mouse one he was wearing. “Their favorite tie is the Sponge Bob. The ties help make me approachable and it’s something fun for the kids.”

While Dawes loves to spend time with his family, he also likes to travel, including snorkeling and scuba diving in Hawaii. He had planned to ski with his family the night of Feb. 6, but with school being closed that day because of the abundance of snow, he decided to play it safe and reschedule.

“I’m looking forward to being a positive influence behind our teachers educating students,” he said. “When the students have bright achievements, it’s their time to shine and when they shine, the whole school shines.”