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3 top school leaders humble about awards

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A former state championship-winning gymnastics coach, special education teacher and private school headmaster each have been named Utah's secondary school principals of the year.

Yet those leaders — West Jordan Middle's Dana Bickmore, Lehi Junior's Colleen Green and Provo High's Sam Jarman, respectively — would rather see recognition for a job well done go to their school communities.

As Bickmore puts it: "I feel like I'm taking recognition for what should be a schoolwide recognition."

The Utah Association of Secondary School Principals annually extends assistant principal of the year, middle school principal of the year and high school principal of the year awards to Utah educators.

This year's winners, who come from the Alpine, Granite and Provo school districts, were selected by a committee of educators, parents and students, who received nominations and interviewed finalists.

"You reflect the very best practices in the state of Utah today," Davis High principal and association president Rulon Homer said in bestowing the awards Friday. "The quality of the school lies in the quality of its leaders."

Here are their stories.

Former Discovery Academy headmaster Sam Jarman has worked to make Provo High fit the goals of students and their futures, be it college or trade work.

In his four years as Provo principal, Jarman has secured grants to help prepare students for college, allow them to accelerate or catch up on studies during the summer, or receive tutoring or enrichments after school. And they can take advantage of internships and apprenticeships.

Provo students register by phone or the Internet, just as if they were in college. That way, they can take classes at the time of day, and from the teacher, they desire.

"I would call it a comprehensive high school that meets the needs of all types of individuals," the 16-year educator said. "This is really an award for Provo High School."

West Jordan Middle School principal Bickmore finds nothing more energizing or frustrating than working with middle school students. And she loves it.

"I like working with other people and kids, and I like to see that spark when they get something," said the 25-year educator, recalling why she chose a career in education. "I like to feel I've made a difference in the world."

Bickmore, who coached gymnastics at West Jordan High, encourages her teachers to work together to better serve and keep track of students' progress and development. Students have shown an 11 percent increase in end-of year test scores, and leaders praise the school's caring atmosphere.

"I think everyone will tell you she works long and hard hours advocating for the students and making sure we're doing everything we can to increase our test scores and make sure it's a good environment to work in and come to school," assistant principal Karen Kezerian said.

Colleen Green, the state's assistant principal of the year, works to build bridges between Lehi Junior High's students, parents, and teachers through talking with all of them.

She celebrates student achievements with morning announcements or by photographing them for the school newsletter. A former special education teacher, Green works to ensure students with disabilities are included on all levels. Students tutor students, which helps create bonds.

"It's fun to be with kids," said Green, who used to work in computer-assisted teaching and wrote curriculum for the private Waterford School in Sandy before making the leap to public education in 1990. She has been at Lehi two years.

"(Administration) is a great place to open the doors of learning. It's a different touching of lives. I love what I'm doing."

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com