Craig Middle School’s Sara Linsacum second to none as Assistant Principal of the Year
CRAIG — Though there may only be one recipient’s name engraved on a plaque or trophy, as with most awards, success comes only through a group effort.
Accordingly, even if she’s the one in the spotlight, Craig Middle School’s Sara Linsacum is the first to acknowledge teamwork is the key to progress.
Linsacum was recently named Assistant Principal of the Year by Colorado Association of School Executives, a Denver-based education group focused on enhancing leadership at schools across the state and recognizing superintendents, principals, and others who stand out in their career.
Linsacum was first notified in late September that she had been selected as a finalist. The next step involved a questionnaire about herself and the school she represents, as well as similar input from a student, a parent, or community member and a fellow teacher.
“It was kind of a full gamut of all the work we’ve done here,” she said.
Feedback from her boss was also part of the process, though it didn’t take much to get his participation. It was CMS Principal David Grabowski who nominated Linsacum for the award in the first place.
Grabowski said it was his time as a board member with CASE’s Colorado Association of Secondary School Principals that allowed him to glimpse the caliber of candidates who have received the honor in previous years.
“I thought she was just as good as, if not better, than a lot of the candidates that I’d seen come across there,” he said.
Grabowski cited a long list of qualifying traits his assistant principal has displayed during her time at CMS.
“She knows instruction, she knows how to build relationships with students, she knows technology,” he said. “She’s well-rounded in all the fields; she’s worked hard and shown she’s an outstanding candidate.”
After the initial stage, Linsacum traveled to Denver in early November for an interview with multiple administrators.
“I was pretty nervous going into it,” she said. “No one likes talking about themselves, so I just tried to showcase some of the beautiful things that we’ve done here.”
On Nov. 13, she was notified she was the winner of the honor, which she said does not belong to her, alone.
“They ask you a lot of questions about the work you personally do within the middle school. My answer to that was, ‘it’s never I; it’s always a ‘we effort’ here,” she said. “It’s the teachers and the paraprofessionals and the parents and community and administration. The great work we’re doing here is all about ‘we.'”
Linsacum — who also runs local workout spot LinsFITT with her husband, Travis — has been with Moffat County School District for the past decade, first as a kindergarten teacher at Sunset Elementary School beginning in 2008, then as instructional coach for the district from 2014 to 2016.
After that, she began her role as CMS’s assistant principal and athletics and activities director. A great deal falls under that umbrella, including overseeing teams and clubs, leading the school’s technology team and its iPad initiative, organizing curriculum for English and social studies, and evaluating staff members.
The first year at the middle school was largely about “sitting back and listening to what the staff’s needs were.”
“Dave (Grabowski) had been here for two years, but prior to that, they had had four different principals, so one thing I heard a lot of was that the staff needed some quality systems and structures in place,” she said. “They were also very nervous about someone coming in, changing everything, then leaving. That’s what they had gotten accustomed to.”
Linsacum said the aim in recent years has been to find the best ways to identify and enhance students’ strengths in the classroom and keep them on the best course.
“What we want is to ensure that every student has the right schedule, the right teachers, the right classes, the right support system, and the right plans to support their needs,” she said.
Likewise, determining the kinds of issues that could affect student performance is also an important part.
“A team of teachers is always meeting along with electives teachers,” she said. “We deep dive to find out who’s struggling, who’s doing well, who’s missing too much school, who needs extra support, who needs to have a conversation, who needs a parent meeting.”
Among CASE’s questions during the interview was what kind of obstacles she faces on the job, which she identified as difficulty in securing resources, especially for students in need of extra help.
“Behavioral health and mental health are huge,” she said. “We get students who come here from Denver or Grand Junction who were part of behavioral programs, and we don’t have those here. Teachers want to help students and be game-changers, but when kids don’t know where they’re sleeping at night or when they’re eating or how their home life is going to be, as a teacher, you feel like your hands are tied, and we can’t help with some of those services.”
The period between grades six and eight can be one of the toughest for kids to handle, Linsacum said.
“They need to have somebody there to have a quality relationship with,” she added.
Linsacum will attend a conference in February, at which she will accept the award, and a ceremony within CMS will also take place later in the school year. Sharing the honor is of the utmost importance to her.
“It’s not an award about me,” she said. “I wouldn’t be getting this award without the amazing people I work with day in and day out and the students and the families. I feel like I have been successful because of quality relationships and listening and caring for every kid that walks through my door. Like I said, it’s a ‘we effort.'”
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.