Midvale Middle principal named Utah’s middle school principal of yearMar 29, 2022 09:37PM ● By Julie Slama
“This is about team effort,” said Midvale Middle Principal Mindy Robison who celebrates with her faculty, staff and other Canyons School District officials after being named 2022 Utah Middle School Principal of the Year. (Photo courtesy of Mindy Robison/Midvale Middle)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Taking a moment to reflect on her five years as principal of Midvale Middle, a school where she once taught students math, Mindy Robison sat back to contemplate, “What is it I’m most proud of?”
“I think our after-school programming really connects kids to the school, and it’s just been fun,” she said. “It goes to the culture and the climate of just saying, ‘We care about you, we support good behaviors, but we’re also here for you’ because a lot of kids have had traumas, and then, there’s been uncertainty with COVID. The bottom line is I’m a fierce advocate for resources for the school.”
Robison recently received the 2022 Utah Middle School Principal of the Year from the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals.
She was nominated last fall and provided a portfolio of her resume, recommendation letters, responses to questions and took part in an interview. Robison was shocked when her Midvale Middle community and Canyons School District leadership joined in the surprise of the top honor.
“They surprised me; I had no idea, which is funny because I pride myself on knowing what’s going on,” she said. “We were in a meeting, which we always have on Fridays, and they kept prolonging it. People kept raising their hands, saying things like, ‘Can you explain that a little bit more in depth?’ And I’m like, ‘You guys, we really need to go to your meetings.’ And they’re like, ‘No, we need clarification on this.’”
Robison said that one of the questions asked during the interview process was how she promotes equity so each person is known and valued.
“Midvale has a lot of things that other schools don’t, we have a full-time nurse, then counselors, a social worker, a community schools facilitator, and we just really talk about our goals. That ties in with the after-school program, especially in math, which has been a bit lower in the past and now, because of this program, we’re seeing growth there. Our math has gone up while other schools are falling behind during COVID. What we’re finding is because the kids like the after-school program, those students are having higher attendance rates. We have a high number of our multilingual learners coming to after-school program, much higher than we would have guessed,” she said.
Midvale Middle, which recently won the Salt Lake City’s Salt Awards as the best middle school, has a mobility rate of 35% in its 930 student body. The school has embraced the International Baccalaureate Middle Schools Programme the past 10 years, allowing the entire student body to create their own research-based service project as a culmination to middle school. There also are students in the accelerated SALTA Gifted and Talented Program, in the dual immersion Spanish program, English Language Learners and in special education self-contained classrooms.
Former Midvale Middle Principal and now Canyons School District’s Director of Federal and State Programs Wendy Dau recommended Robison.
“Mindy oversees one of the most challenging middle schools in Utah, yet she continues to think outside the box to improve outcomes for students,” she said. “She serves as an advocate for her entire school community. She holds students accountable and wants them to achieve at high levels, yet she fiercely fights to obtain the resources that she knows her students need. She communicates what is necessary for her students to feel safe and to have a supportive learning environment. She is always working with school performance, instructional supports and federal programs to create a unique coaching model that can provide intensive supports for reading and math instruction while focusing on the schoolwide needs of her multilingual population.”
In the after-school program, students have 30 minutes of math—either getting tutoring in areas they need review or experiencing enhanced opportunities such as MathCounts. Then, students and faculty engage in 30 minutes of enrichment activities, which can range from art to technology or fun opportunities such as bowling in the halls.
This year, after coming off of last year when upwards of one-third of the students remained learning virtually, “we started incorporating some homework help because we found some of our kids at all levels were asking and needing an extra hand with COIVD and Canvas and balancing time and everything,” Robison said.
Student input often comes during student advisories, which Robison established. It’s a time where once per month students provide feedback on the school culture. She also introduced student ambassadors to welcome those who are new to the school, giving them tours and eating lunch with them—another way she lets students know they are valued.
“We know as students become more connected to the school, we are seeing students love learning, and most importantly, grow and succeed as we foster innovation and creativity in the learning process,” she said.
MYP coordinator Shelley Allen said Robison is not only the leader, but the heart of Midvale Middle.
“Mindy has the unique ability to balance high expectations with patience and perspective,” she said. “She takes the time to listen to the needs of teachers and students and works with them to help them find success.”
That even means stepping in as a substitute in math, her preferred choice of classrooms.
In addition to teaching at Midvale, she also taught math at Mountain Ridge Junior and Timberline Middle, but when she started studying her undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University, she was a computer science major.
“I took two classes and realized, I really like people and not computers. I remember being on campus, walking by the education building. My mom’s an educator and I remember stopping and thinking, ‘You know what you need to be.’ I knew I wanted to be a math teacher and I’ve never looked back,” she said.
She earned her master’s in education from the University of Utah, then got her administrative certification from Utah State. She was principal at Crescent Elementary two and one-half years before coming back “home” to Midvale Middle, although when she returned, she was opening the new school building in 2017.
“My whole career, except Crescent, has been middle schools. I love middle school. You see so much growth in these kids and they’re compassionate and kind and just trying to figure it all out,” she said. “This award is good for the community. This is about team effort. Like when I look at the last five years what we’ve done, this isn’t a single person. It’s a team of administrators, counselors, teachers, support staff and every one of us is willing; when I have these crazy ideas, they’ll follow me, like ‘What are you going to do now?’ It’s like the after-school program, I’d really like to do this, but it’s because of teachers, staff and other people in the district here we can do it, because we all believe in kids, so we work really hard.”
East Sandy Principal Bryan Rudes worked as Robison’s assistant principal for four years.
“She is one of the strongest leaders I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “She jokes around, but she’s also extremely kind, caring and positive all the time. She’s always continually looking out for what’s best for kids. I think her push for increased funding and access to an after-school program she implemented was a huge undertaking and a successful one in helping students.”
Canyons Program Administrator Charisse Hilton agrees: “Mindy is a problem-solver. Mindy is not afraid to bring up problems and she finds the best way to solve them in ways that are best for students.”
Robison has received congratulatory calls and notes, but she’s also thanked people for their support and shared Midvale Middle’s success.
“I’ve reached out to people and rekindled some relationships; I can’t do this alone,” she said. “I really think the best thing is telling people that Midvale Middle is an amazing school, and for me, that surpasses everything. This is a place I love and it’s a place where we’re making a difference.”