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The City Journals

Bingham High welcomes back former student as new principal; former principal takes district position

Nov 04, 2019 02:54PM ● By Julie Slama

Former Bingham High Principal Christen Richards-Khong and incoming Principal Rodney Shaw pose for a photo together for the school yearbook. (Tyler Hoffmeyer/Bingham High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“It caught me as a surprise,” said Bingham High Principal Christen Richards-Khong after learning she would be moving to Jordan School District teaching and learning department after a restructuring by newly appointed Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. “The position is helping student programs; it’s looking at accreditation, STEM, concurrent enrollment, AP (advanced placement), IB (international baccalaureate which West Jordan plans to introduce), linguistics, ESL (English-as-a-second-language) and other programs. I’m excited about it, but I thought I’d be at Bingham this year.”

The move was on Sept. 13, about two weeks after she learned that Rodney Shaw would take her place at the helm of the 111-year-old school.

“I got to stay through homecoming, which is one of my favorite traditions, and ignite the B as my farewell. My son asked me to be his date for the dance, so it was a great way to say good-bye,” she said, adding that another special memory was to be on stage when her older son graduated.

Richards-Khong said that last year’s homecoming also was memorable, as they met on the site of the old Copperton campus, and together with some of the alumni who attended that school before the South Jordan campus was built, they witnessed the illumination of the 100-foot-by 8-foot letter B on the mountainside.

“We flipped the switch for the B for the first time,” she said. “It was a fun night, with the band playing, cheerleaders leading students in cheers and the old Bingham B lit so you could see it clearly. It was through our students and alumni and friends of the school that we were able to raise $20,000 to purchase the LED lights and wiring, and with the help of (Kennecott) Rio Tinto, we can light the B. Bingham really embraces the community.”

While she will miss white-washing the B on the mountain with students, family and alumni; traveling on school trips for debate, band, baseball, drill and theater where she got to know the families better; laughing at senior pranks; and attending the traditional Candlelight concert; she won’t miss the parking, especially as the 44-year-old building in South Jordan undergoes renovation.

“I won’t miss the parking shortage and students trying to get parking permits,” she said. 

Although she’s no longer principal, she will still have an active role as a volunteer, as her younger son still is a student — and is a phone call away, although Shaw, a 1988 Bingham graduate, already is familiar with many of the school programs.

“This was my dream job, and everybody knew it,” he said. “I didn’t ask to be principal, but I know the traditions of our academics, athletics, arts programs. Back when I was in school, we were the only school on the west side where everyone knew everyone. Even though it’s not that way now, there still is a small family feel, and the relationships with friends and teachers are important.”

Shaw admits as a Miner, he “was smart, but I wasn’t interested in being the best student.” He said he would coast through school and look at his time at Bingham as being more for “athletics and social.” He was a middle-linebacker and center for the football team, a member of the Prospector service club and a member of the Blue Knights, or mock Minerettes.

“I had Mr. (Jeff) Arbogast for sophomore English, and I bet he could come up with some doosies of stories about me,” he said about the teacher who instructs language arts and coaches boys golf. “But then, I fell in love with reading, and by my senior year, I took AP English comprehension and AP lit (literature).”

Back then, he had a goal of attending law school, following in the footsteps of his step-brother, who attended Harvard law school and introduced Shaw to his beloved Boston Red Sox. But it was through spending time as a tutor for his political science course that he “fell in love with the kids as their mentor.”

“Some of these kids had just horrific struggles to get to school every day, but when the light bulbs came on, they were excited,” he said. “It was so gratifying seeing them want to learn.” 

Since those days, Shaw earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and has his thesis to complete to earn his doctorate from the University of Utah.

He also student-taught at Bingham, coached football at Copper Hills, taught English at West Jordan and served as Crescent View Middle (Sandy)’s assistant principal for six years before being Fort Herriman Middle’s assistant principal for more than 14 years. In January, he moved to the district office where he was appointed to special assignments, including helping prepare to open Hidden Valley, the new middle school in Bluffdale.

For his first bit at his alma mater, he just wants to get to know students and build relationships with his staff.

“Back then, I didn’t understand how important those relationships were,” Shaw said. “I didn’t understand until I became a teacher and knew the impact I could have on students and how I could help them succeed. Now, as principal, that’s what I plan to continue to do.”