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Educator prepares to head Pinnacle Canyon Elementary

Sun Advocate publisher

Chris Watkins prepares to pilot the Pinnacle Panthers in 2007.

In 1997 after years of teaching, Chris Watkins thought she was through with actually working as an educator in schools.

Instead she took a job with UNISERV and for nine years she worked for the Utah Education Association in the southeast part of Utah. Then came a restructuring of the organization and she found herself based out of Orem, driving back and forth to work from Emery County most days.

"I did that for one winter and that was enough," she said. "I had so many close calls driving over the mountain on those roads that I am lucky I am still here."

That was a loss for the UEA, but a gain for Castle Country. She retired and thought she was through with the education system in the state. A few years later she realized that she missed the students and the opportunity to mold young lives. Hence, she began a second go around in education by coming to work at Carbon School District. In a way it was a homecoming.

Watkins, who was born in Cache County, spent most of her childhood on a dairy farm working hard along side her family, when she wasn't going to school. When she was in the eighth grade her family moved to California, and it appeared the connection to Utah might be lost.

"But in my heart I was always an Aggie, and when I got out of high school I came back and went to college at Utah State," she said. "But I didn't attend the Logan school the whole time because I got married and moved to Emery County. So I finished at Utah State extension here in the area. I did my student teaching here in Carbon County at Helper Elementary."

There she learned the ground level skills of an educator from principal Sally Mauro, whom the newer elementary in Helper is now named after.

After that she went to work in Emery School District for one year at Cleveland Elementary. The next year she moved to Castle Dale Elementary and spent the next 19 years teaching kids at every grade level in the school. Earning three special endorsements during that time she also began working on a masters degree in educational administration.

"I earned that in a very interesting way," she said as she described her transition from an Aggie to a Ute. "We had a group of people in southeastern Utah who wanted the same thing and so was formed the southeastern Utah cohort group.

There were people from Emery, Carbon and San Juan counties that were in the group and we spent three years of Ed-net classes and three summers of classwork at the University of Utah to earn that degree.

She also spent a number of years being a special education teacher, which gave her insight into many things to do with students that she never realized before.

"That experience gave me a perspective I never had before," she stated. "It helps me to understand people and deal with their problems."

In the last few years she has worked as a teacher at Petersen and Castle Heights Elementary. But now she has taken the step to use that administrative degree.

"I always wanted to be a principal, and I am already loving it here," she said. "This school is special in many ways."

Pinnacle Canyon, being a charter school is sometimes perceived as being private, but it is a public school and consequently must meet many of the same criteria as other public schools.

"I am thrilled to be here," she stated. "We made AYP (annual yearly progress) this past year and I can see we will continue to head in the right direction.

One of the things she loves the best is the fact that the school has four men teachers.

"Elementary schools are notorious for not having hardly any men instructors, but we have a lot of men here," she said. "That fact is a good influence on the students."

Some of Watkin's goals during the coming year include a continued strong reading program, working hard with new teachers in the building, improving teamwork among faculty and staff members and improving the appearance of the building itself.

"We have a new school here and I want it to look better," she said. "But most of all we have new teachers with energy and older teachers with experience."

Watkin's believes that well rounded students are the key to a strong society, and that comes from a well rounded education program, one that the administrator of the school must be involved in.

"I am lucky here because we have Roberta (Hardy) as our business administrator, so I can concentrate on the education of students, rather than other details," she stated.

"I will be spending a lot of time in classrooms, working as a team with the teachers to improve the kid's education. We want to be very student-parent oriented in our school."

Pinnacle Canyon Elementary opens it's doors for the year on August 27.

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