RISE UP/GEAR UP
Toppenish High School’s Trevor Greene was named the 2013 National Principal of the Year at a surprise assembly on September 6th. Greene, 43, is the first high school principal in the Northwest to receive the award from MetLife Resources and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Toppenish HS is served by the UW GEAR UP grant and is making great strides in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) student achievement. Greene was noted for turning Toppenish HS, nestled on the Yakama reservation — where poverty is high and opportunity slim — into a high-performing institution offering 27 high-profile engineering and biomedical classes. The effort saw state science scores improve by 67 percent over three years.
Greene, who became principal of the high school in 2008, was selected from a large pool of principals, one from each state across the country. He was nominated for the national award by the state’s principals association. His school will receive a $5,000 school-improvement grant as part of the award.
“(You) have one of the most imaginative, enthusiastic principals in the country right here,” said NASSP President Denise Greene-Wilkinson of Anchorage, Alaska. “You have created a culture in which your teachers feel encouraged and challenged. Congratulations, Mr. Greene, for allowing people to become part of something greater than themselves.”
Two of Greene’s initiatives were noted as especially outstanding. Since taking over at Toppenish High School in 2008, Greene has developed a system of student-teacher mentorships, and guided the school’s effort to expand and improve its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula.
Greene, who has served as principal at Toppenish High since June 2008, has pulled all facets of the learning community together in support of increasing student achievement. The selection panel noted two practices that contributed toward personalizing the learning environment at Toppenish:
1. Implementation of grade-level cohorts. Greene assembled grade level cohorts with a teacher-mentor focus, which allows for rapid identification of academic, social or emotional challenges that require immediate attention. Connecting each student with a caring adult has been an effective technique in a school that has more than 99 percent of its student body qualifying for free and reduced lunch.
Each cohort of students meets daily for 24 minutes in an advisory class where a positive relationship can be established between the students and a teacher-mentor. Classes also focus on progress toward academic goals and achievement beyond high school. In addition, teacher- mentors make regular contact with parents regarding student performance, and they follow up with school personnel such as counselors and specialists.
“This deliberate placement of the student in the crosshairs of improvement has served to motivate all constituents,” said Greene
2.The full realization of engineering and biomedical programs. The introduction of STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes has positively changed the culture of the school and engaged students in reasoning, manipulating, testing, exploring, predicting, questioning, observing and making sense of the natural and physical world. Administrative research, input from parents and students, and CTE advisory board insight led to large-scale implementation of engineering and biomedical science classes.
Class sizes are deliberately kept small (21.438 average) and instructors attend advanced training. Furthermore, student interest is off the charts. Enrollment in chemistry has increased by 170 percent, in trigonometry by 71 percent and in the “University of Washington in the High School” program for pre-calculus for college credit by a whopping 226 percent.
Student achievement has followed. State science assessment scores grew 67 percent from 2008-2009 (pre-STEM) to 2010- 2011. STEM interest has even spread to other subjects as the Spanish department now offers a bilingual medical terminology course and the English department is looking to expand to offer technical writing.
Before becoming principal at the high school, Greene was principal at Toppenish Middle School for the 2007-2008 school year. Before that, he was principal for the 2006-2007 school year and vice principal for the 2005-2006 school year at Highland Junior High School in Cowiche (Highland SD). Greene began his career as a Spanish teacher in the early 1990s in Utah, then taught Spanish, English and PE in the Yakima School District. Greene earned his bachelor of arts degree in Spanish and English from Brigham Young University, his master of arts in education from Central Washington University and his superintendent certification from Washington State University.