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South Valley Journal

Midas Creek Principal creates a collaborative culture of innovation

Mar 17, 2021 10:27AM ● By Jet Burnham

Principal Megan Cox reads an imaginative book to students last March. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Wood.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Adapting teaching methods for a virtual classroom has been a challenge for many teachers. But those fortunate enough to work with Midas Creek Elementary Principal Megan Cox, who was just named Innovator of the Year by the Jordan Association of Elementary School Principals, were equipped to meet the challenge.

“In the face of near panic for teachers, Megan was strong and confident; she faced the online issue straight on and had a ‘we can’ attitude that assured all of her teachers, even me,” said fourth grade teacher Ron Davidson, who claims he’s “an old goat” when it comes to change and technology. “Last spring, I was at the end of my rope with the idea of having to teach online. Megan encouraged me and showed me so many easy computer innovations, that by the end of the year I felt successful.”

The challenges of the spring shutdown pushed many teachers to innovate, to try new tools and to seek out new resources. Many who were nervous about teaching in front of a camera are now regularly recording lessons because they learned how easy and beneficial it is.

“I had a lot of teachers tell me that the silver lining of the shutdown is that it gave them time and it pushed them to do all of these lessons electronically that they never would have thought their kids could handle,” Cox said. “The closure really did push people out of their comfort zones. It was hard, but we got some good out of it.”

Cox believes innovation is part of an educator’s job.

“Education is constantly changing, technology is constantly changing, and the only way you can stay up on it is to continue learning,” she said. “If you become complacent, things are going to change and then that makes things difficult to navigate. It’s difficult to help other educators and students to continue learning if you're not with the most recent ways and methods to instruct.”

To keep the faculty in an innovative mindset, Cox keeps them informed of professional development opportunities and new technologies. She encourages forward-thinking, tweaking and keeping current with educational trends. When one of her staff members finds a new technology tool or a helpful online resource, Cox encourages them to share it with their colleagues.

Cox has created a collaborative culture of innovation at Midas Creek Elementary.

“I think the biggest skill [for a principal] is to be willing to continue to learn—whether that is from other administrators or teachers or support staff—by constantly asking questions as to why they're doing what they're doing and how they're doing it,” she said. “I can learn from people who have been in much longer than me and then I form it into my own idea.”

Cox’s colleagues said she is always willing to brainstorm ideas—about how to communicate with parents, motivate students, or help struggling learners—as well as troubleshoot technology issues or support them in new teaching methods. 

“Megan gives teachers guidance and flexibility to meet the needs of their students in a variety of ways,” kindergarten teacher Trish Calhoun said.

Cox also encourages students to be innovative. In past years, members of the student council have been responsible for planning school-wide activities, such as those during spirit week.

“This year we haven't been able to really do that, but I have told my sixth-graders if they have any great ideas, please send them my way,” Cox said. “And I had a sixth grader email me recently asking if we could do a school-wide challenge with Imagine Math.” Because of one student’s idea, the whole school participated in a month-long push of math skills to accrue a high number of minutes logged into the Imagine Math program. The developers had committed to make a donation to a charity in their name in an amount determined by the total minutes their students spent logged in to the program.

The restrictions due to COVID-19 have necessitated a reimagining of traditional school events using a virtual format. Cox put together a virtual orientation for parents of incoming kindergarten students. Because the virtual format is more efficient and can reach a larger number of parents, it will permanently replace the in-person format. Cox shared the idea with other administrators and now many in the district have adopted the virtual format as well.

Cox’s innovative use of technology to include in-person and virtual students in a virtual Halloween parade this year was a success because it allowed students and community members the opportunity to watch it.

Cox has also reworked the master schedule to meet the needs of teachers this year.

“This year, where teachers have had to teach both in-person and online simultaneously, she has found ways to free up teachers in the school schedule so they can work with their online quarantining students,” Davidson said. “I dare say it would be impossible to teach both online and in-person without her innovations.”

Cox appreciates the staff at Midas Creek.

“I wouldn't be able to do what I do, trying new things, if I didn't have a faculty and staff who were willing to jump on board and do it with me,” Cox said.

Cox was innovative as a teacher. She started recording her lessons several years ago to help parents understand how to help their students with homework, help substitute teachers feel less intimidated jumping into sixth grade math for a day and help special needs students focus better on instruction.

“It is really nice to have a principal that was in the classroom not that long ago,” said Shireen Larsen, BYU facilitator at Midas Creek. “I love that she is always able to share ideas from when she taught school. Her technology ideas work.”