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The City Journals

Channing Hall Director Receives Top State Award

Oct 07, 2015 11:27AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Julie Slama

When Channing Hall’s head of school Heather Shepherd went to the annual Utah Charter Network symposium, she had no idea that the school board members accompanying her had a second mission — to make sure they got her to the meeting on time.

At that Aug. 4 meeting, Shepherd was named the Utah Charter School Director of the Year.

“We wanted to make sure she was there for the award and asked that they step in to help,” Utah Charter Network executive director Kim Frank said.  “I think she was surprised and she certainly was gracious in accepting the award.  To be honest, she was probably tickled that someone recognized the long hours she puts in after a typical work day is over.”

Shepherd, who received a plaque for the award, said that she appreciated the recognition.

“It’s an honor and I certainly didn’t expect it,” she said.

Each year, the Utah Charter Network accepts nominations for the award from peers, principals of other schools, parents and students.  After consulting more than 30 other schools about the nominations, the final decision is left to the Network’s governing board.

“Heather has been in the charter world for years and has amazing leadership qualities.  She is open to suggestions, sees all sides, works well with parents, has complete support of her school’s governing board and makes everyone feel comfortable.  She just loves the kids, the parents, the faculty and staff and absolutely loves that school,” Frank said.

Parent Stephanie Frohman agrees.

“Her consistent leadership has been instrumental in keeping the school true to the Founders’ vision from inception through today,” Frohman said. “Heather has an open-door policy to students, teachers and parents. She works closely with the Utah State Office of Education, has the full trust and support of Channing Hall’s Board and puts her heart into everything she does for the school.”

Shepherd, who has been a part of Channing Hall since its beginnings 10 years ago, now finds herself mentoring and helping other charter schools get started.

“I help charter schools understand how to work with their boards and come up with policies.  I see our school as a big team, each with a strong part which they excel in, so we can be a successful team and share that with others getting started,” she said.

Channing Hall, which follows the international baccalaureate program, offers students a chance to learn open-mindedness and gives them a global perspective.

“It’s a lens on how we teach where students ask questions, research, reflect what is going on.  They’re asking questions, challenging themselves and aren’t being directed — it’s student-based learning,” she said.

Shepherd also acknowledged students usually are strong in reading and science, and recognized that often Channing Hall students are placed in honors classes after finishing their middle years program.

“The award is appreciated, but seeing how students are learning and becoming strong leaders is what it’s about,” she said.