Helping Every Student Succeed: Meet New Midvale Middle School Principal Wendy Dau
Sep 09, 2015 12:35PM ● Published by Bryan Scott
Raised by first-generation immigrants from Denmark, new Midvale Middle School Principal Wendy Dau grew up listening to her Dad’s advice on education: “Never stop getting an education; you get a degree, and then another degree.” As a result, Dau learned to love learning while developing a passion for education reform. Her desire to help students find success in school led her to earn a degree in history and English teaching, a master’s in history, and a master’s in educational leadership and policy administration.
Principal Dau now seeks to help students at Midvale Middle develop the same love and passion for learning that inspired her to pursue a career in education. Working with her new administration, Dau hopes to help students realize that “when it comes to their education, their background doesn’t matter; we want all our students to become courageous and responsible students who approach learning with inquiry and curiosity.”
As a high school history teacher in Davis County, Dau focused on expanding the AP European and AP U.S. History programs to include students who normally didn’t enroll in Advanced Placement classes. By emphasizing strong reading and writing skills, she successfully helped her students not only earn college credit, but develop the tools they needed to do well in college and their future careers.
Dau also joined her school’s leadership team, and while analyzing student performance data, realized the ways her school failed to serve students from key demographics. “We realized we weren’t serving kids in low income areas, students of color, or the LGBT population. We also realized that students not enrolled in Seminary were feeling ostracized. We were failing big groups of kids. So we had to figure out how to support all of our students.” Her desire to serve every student, regardless of background or orientation, led to a “passion for administration.”
Leaving teaching was difficult at first. “I miss teaching, but I love coming to work every day because every day is different. In teaching, the routine is the same every day, not having a routine is kind of fun,” Dau said. Dau also learned to embrace working primarily with adults rather than students. “As a teacher, you make a difference in the classroom, but as an administrator, I can hire the right teachers and help teachers better serve their students. I’m more removed from the students, but I feel like I can make a bigger difference.”
Now at Midvale Middle School, Dau hopes to expand the existing Middle Years Program (MYP) to prepare every student for the academically rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) Program offered at Hillcrest High School. The MYP approaches teaching and learning as inquiry based, but data from past students indicates that middle school students needed more scaffolding and support to achieve on the IB level.
In order to better prepare middle schoolers for high school, Dau wants to “zero-in on the sixth grade, so that everyone is caught up academically by eighth grade, and through the MYP, move on to the IB or CTE programs offered at Hillcrest. Research shows that if students are working at grade level by eighth grade, it creates lots of opportunities throughout high school.”
Midvale Middle School intends to bridge achievement gaps by focusing on student literacy. Monday through Thursday, every student attends a homeroom class focusing on literacy lessons. The classes organize students by reading levels, and are designed to help students improve reading skills. “Many of our students need help to deal with informational texts, like those they will see in college classes or in a vocational setting,” Dau said. “Our goal is to create an attitude of perseverance, and help students set goals to push themselves to the next reading level.”
Principal Dau’s fellow administrators are equipped to help students achieve high academic standards. Assistant Principal Karen Moore spent 14 years in the KIPP Charter School system, working with high impacted students in inner city environments.
Assistant Principal Kerry Schroeppel has worked in both Title 1 and high-income elementary schools, and works with the s and 6th graders as they transition to middle school. As the school prepares to enter a new building next year, Assistant Principal Kip Carlsen’s technology expertise will help the administration make the best choices for technology resources. Principal Dau believes each member of the administration is “enthusiastic about kids, and passionate about helping teachers. We look forward to working as a team, and gathering data to make sure we are as effective as we can be in helping our students succeed.”