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South Salt Lake Journal

Woodrow Wilson’s Christine Christensen named 2023 Elementary Principal of the Year

Jun 06, 2023 10:38AM ● By Peri Kinder

When Christine Christensen took over as the principal at South Salt Lake’s Woodrow Wilson Elementary (2567 S. Main St.) in 2016, the school had a failing grade. Last year, under Christensen’s leadership, the school’s grade jumped up to a B. The school has gone from proficiency scores in the teens to scores in the 40s.

But that’s just one reason Christensen was chosen by the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals as the 2023 Elementary Principal of the Year.

Selected from nominees across the state, Christensen’s application highlighted the work done by the school to engage families, encourage leadership, create intervention systems and develop trauma-informed practices to help students who have suffered physical, mental or emotional ordeals. 

“I think the most important thing any leader can do is surround themselves with people that are ready and willing to do the heavy lifting,” she said. “I think that the key is really bringing in my staff and sharing that leadership with them and helping them be part of the decision-making processes so that they have ownership.”

To help combat disruptions in the classroom, teachers created “calm down” spaces for kids to destress and work through difficult emotions. Students are taught how to handle anger and frustration in an appropriate way so teachers can spend time educating the children without being distracted by behavioral issues. 

Educators at Woodrow Wilson teach, and reinforce, the school’s six core values: Be accountable, determined, inclusive, confident, optimistic and resilient. There’s also a scholar’s creed that is recited each morning. 

“The creed includes those values and how the kids can use the values to achieve their goals and to become leaders and to become excellent scholars,” Christensen said. “It’s a growth mindset. We’re not perfect. We’re not there yet, but we want to keep striving everyday to be better.”

Christensen, a West Jordan resident, has worked as a principal for 11 years. She also taught second, third and fourth grade in the Jordan School District and worked as a literacy and instructional coach. 

As principal, Christensen heads the Woodrow Wilson leadership team which meets twice a month to set goals, create programming and work up plans to achieve goals. There are several other leadership teams at the school which allows every teacher to be on a team and contribute to leadership success.

Efficient planning is a priority at the school. Teachers use their time with students wisely to ensure learning is effective and benefits the students. Christensen is proud of the efforts made by the faculty and staff at Woodrow Wilson and knows those efforts have paid off for students, families and the South Salt Lake community. 

“We just have great kids, and we have amazing families that want the best for their kids,” she said. “They entrust us with those children for seven hours a day and we take that very seriously. We want to make sure that we are doing right by them and making sure that they have what they need to be successful adults.” λ