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Herriman Journal

Utah’s assistant principal of the year impacts 3 local middle schools

May 07, 2020 11:38AM ● By Jet Burnham

Audrey Fish is a super assistant principal. (Vicki Wartman/OHMS)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

In the past 11 years, Assistant Principal Audrey Fish has impacted students and staff at West Jordan High (2009-10), Elk Ridge Middle (2010-16), Oquirrh Hills Middle (2016-20) and Fort Herriman Middle (present) with her innovative ideas and perceptive philosophies.

Co-workers describe her as enthusiastic, energetic, creative, a go-getter, fun, generator of great ideas, loyal, nurturing, positive and insightful. Fish was recently named Utah’s Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year and moved on to finish in the top three assistant principals nationally.

“She's very deserving to be in the top three,” said Oquirrh Middle School Principal Donna Hunter. “I'm so happy for her that she was able to be recognized for her hard work, good ideas and her follow-through.”

Other former and current colleagues echo Hunter’s sentiments.

“Even though Audrey no longer works at Elk Ridge Middle, her leadership and legacy she left behind continue to impact us in many positive ways,” said Elk Ridge teacher Patricia Bronson.

“She truly loves the students and teachers at the school, and it shows in her actions,” said Fort Herriman Principal Eric Price. “She is always looking for new ways to help the students and teachers. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and she has been a great addition to our team. She has already made an impact even though she has only been here since February.”

Fish said she has benefitted from supportive co-workers.

“I would say every principal and vice principal I've worked with has helped with this award,” Fish said. “They’ve helped shape me and allowed me opportunities to grow. It's been a wonderful journey.”

Fish is a fanatic supporter of teachers.

Celeste Butler said when Fish joined the staff at Fort Herriman Middle, she quickly learned staff members’ names and made an effort to personally connect with each one.

“She is a very enthusiastic, positive leader,” Butler said. “She has been willing to help in any way she can.”

“She isn't someone who sits back and waits for others to do the work or someone who just oversees projects,” Bronson said. “She jumps in and contributes, always with a smile and positive direction.”

What makes Fish an exceptional administrator is the social emotional lens that shapes her interactions with others.

 “While at Elk Ridge Middle School, Audrey brought respect and compassion as she encouraged teachers, staff and students to see situations from other points of view rather than from our own limited perspective,” Bronson said. “She embraces difficult situations not as problems but rather as opportunities to grow and become better. She understands that when people make mistakes, they should be given chances to learn from those mistakes.”

When students are sent to her for discipline issues, Fish applies restorative justice. She guides them through the process of examining the effects of their actions and problem solving to repair the wrong and restore damaged relationships.

Butler said Fish’s influence helps her see struggling students in a different light.

“I always see the situation a bit differently after Audrey has shared her insights and perspective,” she said.

Fish shares her social emotional viewpoint with teachers by example and through group book studies in which she encourages teachers to incorporate social emotional elements into their curriculum to benefit students as well as to diffuse their own stressors.

“The goal is to respond versus react whenever situations arise in our lives,” Fish said. This philosophy has shaped the way administrators, teachers and students have adapted to the abrupt change to online school due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The FHMS administration regularly checks in with teachers to support them in managing this new way of teaching while balancing the time needed to help their own children with online learning.

“We are helping our teachers as if they are our own students so that they can help their students,” Fish said. “We're paying attention to their social and emotional health and well-being.”

To support teachers in their professional growth, Fish was one of the first administrators to implement peer instructional coaching for teachers, which has become a standard in Jordan District schools.

“If we want to improve student learning, we want to do that one teacher at a time,” Fish said. 

Her idea is that peer coaches help teachers to feel supported and to grow as professionals as they help each other fine-tune their teaching strategies.

Fish continues to apply effective education practices she discovers in books and at professional conferences. As a national finalist, she has the opportunity to share her philosophies and successes on the blog of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.