Copper Hills High School Principal Todd Quarnberg was recently named 2015 Utah High School Principal of the Year.
Quarnberg was nominated by another principal, or principals, in the organization, but he has “no clue who,” he said.
Quarnberg was surprised he won the award, particularly since the day he interviewed for it was the same day one of his students committed suicide.
“I was not at my best; I was heartbroken,” he said.
Raised in Scipio, Utah, Quarnberg grew up on a farm. At times he hated the hard work, but these days he looks back and is grateful to his parents for the work ethic they taught him.
He describes himself as “a single guy married to Copper Hills High.”
Quarnberg gives most of the credit for positive changes at the school to his team of administrators, teachers and staff, although he admits he has “worked feverishly” to get the school to where it is today.
One of his proudest accomplishments is the pride his students now have in their school.
“The kids don’t tip their heads and look at the ground anymore when they’re asked what school they’re from,” he said. “They look you in the eye and say proudly, ‘I’m from Copper Hills.’”
Although Quarnberg believes in data-driven education, he thinks that’s just part of the equation.
“You need to have a relationship with the kids,” he said. “They need to be taught to be accountable, to stand for something. They need to work with their teachers to get the best education they can, all the things they need to be truly college and career ready.”
Copper Hills is currently the largest school in the state, with 2,750 students. And the growth just continues. Quarnberg said the school has just received four portables and they’re expecting four more this summer.
With the additional growth comes challenges but also opportunity, he said. There’s more programs, and Copper Hills now offers triple the concurrent enrollment classes it has in the past.
Each year, about 50 Copper Hills students graduate high school with an associate’s degree.
Although as principal he is working hard and “getting tired,” Quarnberg said he can’t imagine being anywhere else.
“Did I mention I love Copper Hills? I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
While he knows it’s probably not politically correct, Quarnberg says he tells his students all the time that he loves them.
“If you receive an award because you love kids, it’s the easiest award to get,” he said.
As for winning the national award, Quarnberg said “it would be good for Utah,” if he won.
He will compete against finalists from the other 49 states for the title of National High School Principal of the Year. Winners will be named at a National Association of Secondary School Principals conference in September in Washington, D.C.
Quarnberg has his own thoughts on the winner.
If there’s anyone who has more love and passion for their school than he has for his school, they should receive the national award, he said.