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Murray Journal

Liberty Elementary’s new principal wants to unite school with community

Sep 08, 2023 01:00PM ● By Julie Slama

When Shana Mondragon was little, she “played school and made my little brother sit there and be the student. Being a teacher has always been my goal. Education is my passion.”

Fast forward and now the former second- and sixth-grade teacher is taking on her first principalship at Liberty Elementary.

“It’s a small community similar to what I was raised in,” she said, noting Traverse City, Michigan as her hometown. “I lived in Murray a couple years out of high school with my brother. I love the small-town mentality of families supporting each other and working together. That was my first impression of Utah and now, 25 years later, it still has that appeal.”

Mondragon lists those two towns are just a couple of the places she has lived—Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Wyoming.

“I love the perspective I’ve gained, and I’ve brought some of that culture and those communities into education,” she said, adding that her recent European travels have given her an even broader and deeper appreciation. “I’m ready to meet the Liberty community. I’ve heard this is a great supportive community with amazing teachers. It’s going to be exciting to work with them to serve our kids.”

Murray City School District Superintendent Jennifer Covington welcomed Mondragon to the team.

"Murray City School District is delighted to welcome Principal Shana Mondragon to Liberty Elementary,” she said. “With her passion for education and breadth of experience, we are confident that Principal Mondragon's vision for Liberty Elementary aligns with our district's values, ensuring a bright future for our students. We look forward to witnessing her leadership and dedication as she embarks on this exciting journey with us."

Mondragon, who most recently served at Herriman Elementary, taught elementary school and was an instructional coach in Jordan School District after moving to Utah six years ago from Wyoming, where she taught for three years.

“The purpose of our job as educators is to meet the needs of kids. It’s changing every single day, and I love the opportunity to be able to meet those needs and really provide the kids the support they need to be successful,” she said. “It’s important as an administrator to listen to the community, listen to our students, listen to the teachers. That’s my goal, right out of the gate, to listen and observe how wonderful things are going and see how I can support and continue that.”

The new principal hopes to unite the school with the community.

“I want our kids to understand their community they live in and appreciate all the services and all the good things that happen here. We’re going to have some community events and reach out to them with career days here at the school so our kids can get a taste of what they do and find a path for them. I hope this will instill a love of learning and an intrinsic motivation to learn more around them, so they want to be part of the community,” she said.

Mondragon also hopes students can learn on field trips and see opportunities they have to serve their community.

“The goal is to prepare these kids to become contributing members of society and maybe the best way to do that outside of our classroom is really to get into the community,” she said.

As a teacher, Mondragon connected her students with nearby seniors.

“When I took students to a local nursing home to converse with our elderly and hear their stories, they learned to appreciate the seniors’ lives and the work they’ve done to build the community that they lived in. That was a fun way to bridge that relationship, that gap between the younger generation and our older generation. The students would start with a game to play together to get to know each other. Then, they’d ask the specific questions in line with the social studies curriculum about the economy or what school looked like and they’d hear different stories. It was building that connection and also gaining a pride of their community—and they were learning communication skills and confidence in talking to others,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to work together.”

In the weeks before school began, Mondragon met with the PTA and with new teachers, and was ready to welcome back teachers and students. She also was excited to meet families during back-to-school night and the Sept. 28 carnival.

While her duties are to provide teachers resources and support, Mondragon hopes to interact with students.

“I love being with the kids. I’ll be in the classrooms and in the cafeteria as often as I can, while providing the resources and support for our families and our teachers,” she said.

Mondragon, who studied psychology and sociology at Troy University in Troy, Alabama, before going on to earn her Master’s in Elementary Education from Regis University in Denver and in Educational Leadership from Southern Utah University, started her career by volunteering in high school.

“My first few positions and the volunteer work were in special education. That’s what hooked me. That’s when I knew for certain I wanted to be an educator, but I’m actually not a special ed teacher. When I was an aide, I was in the gen(eral) ed(ucation) classrooms and realized those teachers have to understand the needs of all students and especially their special ed students. So, I switched gears because I wanted to be able to provide those strategies and meet the needs for all students,” she said.

It was the strong administrators in Wyoming as well as in Jordan School District that prompted Mondragon, who also has her English-as-a-Second-Language endorsement and her early childhood kindergarten through eighth-grade licensure, to take a job as an administrator.

“I love school. I enjoy learning. It’s so much fun,” she said. “I want to build a school culture where kids love school as well and they’re wanting to be here and they’re proud to be Liberty leopards.” λ