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Principal of the Year makes every moment matter

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Jet Burnham

Principal of the Year Todd Theobald stresses time management to meet the needs of students. (Todd Theobald)

Todd Theobald, principal at Majestic Elementary, has a motto: “Make every moment matter.” His philosophy has turned Majestic from a failing school into a thriving one.

The school was consistently receiving an “F” on the Board of Education’s annual school performance report. Theobald turned that “F” into a “B” in his first year as principal and has maintained the school’s improved standing for the past five. 

Theobald said because of the transient nature of the school, time is precious.

 “We don’t have them for seven years like other schools do,” he said. “We don’t have time to waste.” Theobald believes in budgeting time in the same way he budgets money.

“When you have a budget, you know where every dollar is going so you can stretch it,” he said. “We want to get the biggest bang for our buck.”

As principal, Theobald works with teachers to find ways to reduce non-instructional time—like the morning routine.

“The kids come in, hang up their backpacks, make their lunch choice—this can take 15 or 20 minutes,” he said. He has calculated that more than 180 school days, even five minutes a day of wasted time totals over 15 hours of lost instruction time. 

Theobald was named a 2017 National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals for the impact he has had at Majestic. He insists he couldn’t do what he does without his faculty. 

“The award is not about me,” he said. “I have the most amazing faculty. They are the most dedicated and amazing people and I am getting credit for their work.” Theobald said his faculty faces a more difficult job than other elementary teachers—85 percent of their students receive free or reduced lunch, and many have difficult home situations. Some of their students come from the homeless shelter overflow. Theobald said all of his faculty members have made the choice to work at Majestic. 

“They are so willing to come on this journey and make a difference,” he said. “They know they are making a difference and will do whatever it requires.” 

Theobald, who has a B.A. in elementary education, a M.Ed. in educational leadership and a M.Ed. in math pedagogy, believes in providing frequent in-depth professional development opportunities for his faculty. Every summer, he holds a training boot camp of high-yield instructional strategies with an emphasis on efficiency. 

Theobald got special permission from Jordan School District to adjust the daily school hours to accommodate more professional development for teachers. Ten minutes were added to each school day, earning an extra early release day each month, allowing for an afternoon dedicated to professional development.

Theobald has outlined with his teachers non-negotiable quality instructions to be as efficient as possible. Teachers post a copy of the day’s lesson plan in their classroom, have clear objectives for the day and know how to measure learning for each lesson. Teachers track progress through Mastery Connect, a data platform, to quickly sort through student data and determine how to target student needs most efficiently. Teachers share the methods and tools that have been successful with their students with each other. 

“Our teachers use the wisdom of teams to identify needs and trends,” Theobald said.

Theobald has also worked to improve the community for his students. As principal, he evaluates ways to provide support, stability, education and empowerment to students and their families. He hired a family learning coordinator and a homeless liaison for the school and replaced traditional parent–teacher conferences with Academic Parent Teacher Teams. He keeps a Principal’s Pantry stocked with food for struggling families and provides access to meals and academic activities at the school throughout the summer months.

Theobald was honored with 62 other principals at a banquet held in Washington D.C. this October. Principals were selected for the award for demonstrating outstanding leadership and commitment to students and their communities. 

Education, Today
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