Principals Share Their Principle Goals for Students — and Their Journeys to the Big Desk

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Left: Fidel Montero, principal of Timpview High School. Right: Bart Perry, principal of Salem Hills High School.

While the view from high school may not look like how Danny Zuko or Troy Bolton portrayed it, here’s what secondary education looks like in Utah. We interviewed Fidel Montero, principal of Timpview High School and Bart Peery, principal of Salem Hills High School for their journeys and take on education today.

Fidel Montero, principal of Timpview High School

Before becoming principal of Timpview High School, Fidel Montero worked as chief of staff at UVU for President Matt Holland. Fidel grew up in California and earned his undergraduate degree at BYU and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Colombia University. He became the principal of Timpview in 2015. “This is one of the best jobs in America. I get to see students grow from young 14-year-olds to mature 18-year-olds and build lifelong relationships,” he says.

Utah Valley Magazine: Why did you go into education?

Fidel Montero: I grew up in California in a farm-working family. Initially, I wanted to be a stock broker and make a lot of money in New York City. When I worked at an LA consulting firm doing reform work with education, I realized the impact I could have. I saw individuals transforming schools and therefore communities. That’s when I decided to shift career focus.

UV: Who do you look up to?

Fidel: My parents immigrated to the U.S. My mother was a school teacher in Mexico, but she gave up her career so her family could have the American dream. They are the hardest working people and incredible mentors.

UV: How has education in Utah changed in the last 10 years?

Fidel: Educators are asking hard questions — like if we are preparing students for life, college and career. I’m seeing education strive to align with where our economy is going. Our children are technologically literate. They’re also more open to being global citizens.

UV: What was your favorite subject as a kid?

Fidel: In high school, I fell in love with the way our economy works and how value is created.

UV: What’s a challenge unique to Utah Valley schools?

Fidel: We’re becoming a more diverse community, which I value. In education, we’re learning how to meet the needs of everyone on the demographic spectrum.

UV: What do you love about being a principal in Utah?

Fidel: The relationships I build with students, parents and community. Parents here see education as a bridge to happiness and learning. Because of that, we partner together to build something unique and magical. I’ve worked in a lot of communities — Los Angeles, Florida, New York. Utah Valley has a unique interest in learning.

UV: What goals do you have for Timpview?

Fidel: I want Timpview High School to be the best high school in America. We help every child achieve his or her aspirations. When people visit Utah and ask “Who’s leading the way?” we want people to say, “You’ve got to go see Timpview.”

Bart Peery, principal of Salem Hills High School

In 2017, the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals named Bart Peery Principal of the Year, and he traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Senator Orin Hatch. At Payson High School, Bart filled roles of teacher, coach, driver’s ed instructor, assistant principal and principal over the course of 25 years. Bart was the first in his family to graduate college and has been the principal of Salem Hills High School for nine years. In total, Bart has been in education for 35 years.

Utah Valley Magazine: What led you to your career as a high school principal?

Bart: When I had the opportunity to advance into administration, I turned to my 5th grade teacher, Tom Hudson, who had become an elementary principal. He said, “As a teacher, your circle of influence is only about 200 kids.” Now at Salem Hills, there are about 1,400 kids I interact with.

UV: How has education in Utah changed in the last 10 years?

Bart: There seems to be a lot more anxiety and depression. Social media is also challenging with the constant comparison. I’m a proponent of social media,and we try to do social media positively at the school. But technology has made some things easier and some things harder.

UV: What was your favorite subject in high school?

Bart: I had a connection with my math teachers, and they instilled in me a love for mathematics.

UV: What’s a challenge unique to Utah Valley schools?

Bart: Sometimes parents have higher expectations for students in Utah Valley than in other places. Also, I don’t think we provide all the resources we need for students to be successful. That’s why we are offering a class to our sophomores where we teach basic survival skills like time management, note taking, grit and growth mindset. We think these 14- to 18-year-old kids are adults and they are not. We have to teach them how to be successful.

UV: What do you love about being a principal in Utah?

Bart: We have wonderful kids. I love going out in the halls between classes and giving high fives to them and interacting. We have really smart kids. They want to learn and they want to be their best. We also have great teachers who care about their students. I don’t want to be anywhere else.

UV: What goals do you have for Salem Hills?

Bart: We have a school goal that 95 percent of students pass their classes. I want to help them learn to get back up. There’s a lot to learn from failure. I want my students to feel good about themselves and the future. I want them to leave school with a plan in place and the skills they need. I would hope they also come out feeling that I care about them.

Originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of Utah Valley Magazine.

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