New Twin Peaks principal knows value of education, security; wants to introduce new programs at schoolOct 04, 2021 01:53PM ● By Julie Slama
New Twin Peaks Principal Rebecca Spence joins students who are enjoying snocones at the school’s carnival this fall. (Photo courtesy of Melissa McQueen)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
To say that Rebecca Spence knows a bit of the life of hard knocks may be an understatement.
The new Twin Peaks Elementary principal grew up the fifth of eight children. She was the first to graduate high school when she walked in her cap and gown at Taylorsville High.
“I grew up in poverty,” she said. “Education was my key out of poverty and that’s why I love it so much and why I think it’s so important.”
Spence described her home life growing up as “traumatic.”
“I lived in motels sometimes, stayed in cars sometimes, and there was a lot of adversity in my childhood,” she said. “School was my safe place, so I always loved school.”
Having a safe place that helped her out of her living situation motivated Spence to earn her undergraduate degree (in communication disorders) and her master’s degree (in speech language pathology) from the University of Utah. She earned a second master’s from Utah State University in educational leadership.
Spence then worked 15 years as a speech language pathologist for Granite School District before she was an administrative intern for a year at Eisenhower Junior High and served four years as assistant principal at Redwood Elementary.
“That’s why I loved my time at Redwood so much because I got to encourage kids, so they didn’t have to live the same kind of life they were living as children when they were adults,” she said. “I tried to teach them to find their advocate at school because there’s always an adult that will take a special interest in you and look out for you if you look for one.”
That also is why she loves the safe environment of the wellness room at Twin Peaks.
“If there’s somebody who needs to take a break or relax or whatever, we have a wellness room,” Spence said, adding that she decompresses by reading and hiking. “But it’s also just building that relationship with the kiddos, letting them know that you believe in them, have high expectations for them and know that they can achieve high things. When kids know there is that growth mindset, and have the support of teachers and other adults in the school, and those high expectations, we can all meet our peak.”
In her first principal position, Spence has ideas for the smallest school in population in Granite School District from a barbecue night to birthday tables for schoolchildren to a readathon. Already, the school hosted a carnival in late August.
“There’s lots of rumors about whether or not it’ll stay open, but there are no immediate plans to close it. It’s just a really great school with a great community that’s just kind of aging,” she said. Then she added, “We’re thinking about having a rich STEAM curriculum built into our school.”
A STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art and math—curriculum is just in the early idea stage, Spence said, and not official.
“Just being that it’s my first year and I’m the brand new principal, it’s probably not in the works for this year,” she said, adding that she has to learn the process, talk to PTA, school community council and all the stakeholders to see if there’s interest and if it’s a viable idea.
Currently, the school does offer music, but if approved, she’d want to expand to include art and the traditional STEM components.
This year, with the retirement of former Principal Julie Lorenzton, came a turnover of 10 teachers who also retired or transferred.
So, Spence has been on a learning curve to understand her school community, learn traditions prior to COVID-19 pandemic and find ways people can be involved in the school. She also likes to spend time in the classrooms and in the lunchroom where she gets to know the students or even dancing with the school children spontaneously.
“We’ve gotten a fresh start and we’re creating from new, with the support of teachers who have been here, leading us and guiding us,” Spence said. “The parents have been so delightful to get to know and the kids are great. I’ve felt very welcome. It’s been a really successful, positive beginning to the school year.”