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  • Andrea Foster

Craig Miller - 2020 Assistant Principal of the Year

Craig Miller, Asst. Principal - Thunder Ridge High School in Idaho Falls

IASSP has selected Craig Miller to receive the Assistant Principal of the Year Award for 2020. Over his 17 years in school administration Mr. Miller has worked in traditional, alternative, charter and career-technical schools. When the Bonneville School District opened Thunder Ridge High School two years ago, Mr. Miller came on board to serve as assistant principal. There he has assisted in creating and implementing several components of high quality education, student success, leadership among students and staff and positive school culture.

Promoting Equity, Individualized, High Quality Education

Craig Miller has drawn from his breadth of experience in various types of schools to implement equitable, individualized education at Thunder Ridge. For example, his past experience as an ELL coordinator helps him maintain open lines of communication with his school's Hispanic students and parents.

Mr. Miller and a group of teachers created Titan Think Tank, a program where student teams engage in problem-solving in the areas of English, mathematics, science and social studies. Students collaborate, push each other to succeed and gain deeper understanding of benchmark concepts in these academic disciplines.

He has also worked with specially trained teachers to identify freshman students with severe behavioral and academic needs and to provide them with the support and guidance necessary to get them back on track to graduate high school on time. These freshman intervention teams have significantly reduced dropout rates among sophomores.

Lisa Olsen, a teacher at Thunder Ridge, appreciates how willing Mr. Miller is to, "...discuss team dynamics, standards-based grading and scheduling until we have the best educational plan for the department. Craig's candor ...and his willingness to share research material helps me to stay current in my field and make educated decisions for my students."

Leading Learning for Student Success in a Globally Competitive Society

Within his school and even at the district level, Craig Miller is a prominent advocate for career-technical learning programs and the technical, creative, problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership and collaborative skills they offer.

Through his service on the board of College of Eastern Idaho Mr. Miller gleans insight and data from college instructors, industry representatives and political figures about what students need to succeed beyond high school. He shares this information with teachers at Thunder Ridge in order to develop more effective curricula and with parents in order to understand what is happening in their students' classrooms.

Thunder Ridge Principal Doug McLaren confirms that, "Mr. Miller truly makes decisions based on what is best for students. He understands that rigor is important regardless of the field, school or university they plan to attend after their high school careers. Mr. Miller has conducted training with our staff to help them identify instructional methods that will help students translate what they are learning to how it is applied in the real world."

Empowering Students and Staff to Assume Roles of Leadership

One of Craig Miller's assignments is to oversee Thunder Ridge High School's student council. In developing the new school's method of selecting council members, he and his staff decided to go beyond traditional elections. A committee of adults and students interviews each of the elected to identify their personal qualities, leadership styles and how they would like to serve. Based on those interviews the elected students are then appointed to offices where they will best serve and grow. Thunder Ridge student council member Reagan Grover points out, "...the support from Mr. Miller and other staff members to make decisions that make our school the best one out there."

Mr. Miller is conscientious about providing his staff various roles of leadership. He does so with an eye toward improving educational quality and giving teachers more ownership of their profession -whether through creating professional development plans, leading grade level teams to develop assessments or establishing academic standards.

Fostering a Safe, Productive, Positive School Culture

Rather than call teachers in to meet with him in his office, Mr. Miller does more visiting with them in their classrooms during prep periods, lunch or before/after school. This practice has helped him and his staff establish greater trust and more willingness to communicate and try new things together.

Craig Miller is deliberate about being present in his school's hallways and gathering places when students are on breaks. This has allowed him to build more positive relationships with them in their spaces, on their terms. Miller is also deliberate about implementing restorative practices when handling student discipline matters. His goal is to conduct a positive, productive interaction even in the most negative instances so that students learn from their mistakes, correct inappropriate behaviors and feel empowered to make better decisions.

Hayley Potter, a Thunder Ridge parent, notes Miller's "...keen ability to interact with students. He demonstrates a selfless attitude and is willing to help those in need. He shows his students and fellow educators equal respect regardless of gender, race, religion or background. This trait is invaluable. I know that his primary objectives are their [students'] safety and the quality of their education. It gives me great comfort to know that my children are attending a school with someone like Craig Miller as their assistant principal."

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