Glenwood High’s loss is elementary school’s gain
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – When Glenwood Springs Elementary School principal Jim Phillips announced his retirement in December, the school’s search committee began looking far and wide for his replacement.
Little did they know she was right under their noses.
After interviewing dozens of applicants from as far away as Kansas, the search committee selected Sonya Hemmen, the assistant principal at Glenwood Springs High School.
“I love it here,” Hemmen said on Tuesday afternoon, at her Glenwood Springs High School office. “But I felt it was time to step out.”
Hemmen is almost shy about admitting her age – 32 – out of respect for those older than her. But Hemmen is confident she has the experience and education necessary to take the reins at Glenwood Springs Elementary.
“I’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” she said. “I can run a building. I love to organize and problem solve.”
Even Hemmen’s mom agrees. When Hemmen told her mother she got the principal’s job at Glenwood Elementary, her mom wasn’t surprised.
“She said, `You’ve been running our family since the day you were born,'” Hemmen said with a smile.
Hemmen earned a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
She taught high school and college Spanish, and bilingual education at an elementary school in Edwards. Her first administrative job was in Boulder, working as an assistant principal at Fairview High School, where she dealt with maintenance, attendance and discipline.
Glenwood Springs High School is much more to Hemmen’s liking. Working with principal Mike Wells, she has been able to be “a lot more hands-on” working on “bigger stuff.” Hemmen said that gave her the background she needs to run a school on her own.
“Thanks to Mike,” she said, “I’ve been able to get my hands into a lot of different kinds of pies like staff development, curriculum development and hiring – all aspects of my new job.”
Hemmen said the kids are a big differences between serving as assistant principal at a high school and taking the principal’s job at an elementary school.
“I enjoy working with high school students, because for the most part they’re already who they are,” she said. “Elementary-aged kids are, what’s the word, more malleable. They’re flexible. They’re spongy. You can impress them, and help them make changes.”
Now that she’s been officially hired, Hemmen is spending one day a week at Glenwood Elementary so the transition from Phillips to her will be as seamless as possible.
“I’ve already spent about 55 hours at the school meeting teachers, administrators and working with Jim Phillips,” she said.
Phillips, who’s retiring after 23 years in education, said he is excited about Hemmen’s appointment.
“She’s very aware of what’s happening here with the kids and teachers,” he said.
“I’m delighted for her,” said high school principal Mike Wells. “This is a great thing for Glenwood Springs Elementary School and for Sonya. She’ll be able to pick up the baton from Jim Phillips and continue the school’s good work.
“But it leaves us looking for an assistant principal. We’re not looking for another Sonya because she’s impossible to replace,” Wells said. “But we are looking for the best we can find.”
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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