The Spotlight: Ms. Owens

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The Spotlight: Ms. Owens

Grahm Tuohy-Gaydos, Staff Reporter

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(G: Newspaper is coming to a close, and before we end this school year, we wanted to get one final interview in. We have had a continued series throughout these past few weeks as we covered each of the assistant principals, interviewing them throughout this second semester. However, there is one person who brings together this group: The Principal. The leading figure at the school, this administrator is one of the most important at any school and it is with a great excitement that The Ram Page was able to sit down with Ms. Owens, the principal at Green Mountain High School. Please enjoy!)

Q. How long have you been at GMHS?

A: This is my 12th year at GMHS. I started out as an English teacher, then became an assistant principal, and this is now my 7th year as the principal at Green Mountain.

Q: How did you get into teaching?

A: I actually started my career as a paralegal at a law firm. Then, when I had my daughters, I chose to stay home with them for a while. I then started volunteering at Foothills Elementary, and I ended up becoming the PTA president there as well as the accountability chair. I started tutoring kids around this time as well as an ESL tutor at Wheat Ridge High School. While I was there, the district had a grant to help people get their bachelor’s degree, and so they actually ended up paying for that. I then worked as a tutor while I went to school at night, and when I got my degree, the hired me as an English teacher at Wheat Ridge. After that, I moved here, and have stayed at GMHS ever since.

Q: What are your roles and duties as the principal?

A: It is really a different job today than it was seven years ago. Principals are the main instructional leaders at a school, and that is our first and foremost goal, meaning that our role is to help make sure we are teaching students. In this day and age, we also have to be aware of technology and have a focus on school safety, meaning that another of my goals is keeping our students safe. I’m also in charge of a five million dollar budget here at GMHS, so it is really like having a CPA license to manage that budget. I also have to handle hiring; we have a staff here of 110 as well as a student base of around 1100 students. It has really become a diverse job, with every day being different.

Q: What is your favorite thing about GMHS?

A: of course you guys, the students. Things like yesterday, when we had our spring assembly, which featured Nicole Hensley, a former student at GMHS. (You can find that interview here) I really am proud of our students after hearing of all their accomplishments, from Mock Trial to sports. It amazes me just how awesome our students are. Our alumni also come back to GMHS. I believe that 14 of our staff members are alumni, and I believe 9 children of our staff go here. I myself am an alumni, and both of my children went here. Many of our families are also second or third generation Rams, which is special as well.

Q: How has the school changed since you became the Principal?

A: Green Mountain kinda went through some dark times a few years back. I would say around 12 years ago, things started shifting here. They built the new Lakewood High School, the new Bear Creek High School, then a new Golden High School, and people started leaving for those schools. We went through a six-year phase where we lost 130 kids a year to other schools. When I first got here, there were over 1600 kids at GMHS; our numbers dropped drastically. When I came in as principal, my first and foremost goal was to reinvigorate the picture of our school and raise morale. The situation was a little intense with the last principal, with staff going after students and not treating people with respect. It was textbook toxic. Every piece of a toxic environment was happening at the school. Our numbers are starting to go back up, however, and we are now actually gaining each year. I really want to keep our student base around 1200 though, as I believe that is really a good number for our school.

Q: Are there any Capital improvements coming in school’s future?

A: We hope so! We are pretty sure our school board is going to go for a bond this November. (a bond is what we ask voters to approve for facilities in Jefferson County) GMHS has been on the bond list for the past two years, but they have failed. If we can get the bond passed, we won’t be getting a new school, but we will be getting a massive renovation. That would include a new football field and track, fixing the tennis courts, adding a second floor, moving the offices over to D-Hall, create a new space for construction and a woodshop, which we are seeing an interest in as well as a new agriculture space. We would also redo the library as well as classes. It would be a huge project, but we believe that it is really needed.

Q: The School also started an Area Academy Program. What does that include?

A: Our GMHS Academy Program is technically in its tenth year. This will be our sixth graduating class. The Program has been extremely successful. We have seen so many great opportunities for our kids, what they do post-secondary, etc. One of our goals has always been how to incorporate our one middle school and ten elementary schools. For us, coming up with a K-12 option was really necessary. It gets the kids in class interested in what they are learning. If you are sitting in your third-grade class and learning about Colorado, it really adds relevance to it, allowing the kid to relate to the topic, and that is really the goal of this Area Academy Program. Another big piece will be us doing area-type activities. For example, one idea is to host an area STEM competition where students from all grades can compete and learn new things. We can have high school kids go down to the middle school and teach economics or art to those kids. We really want that connectivity between each school, and that is really the second goal of this Program.

Q: What do you think about the current workshop format? (What Changes?)

A: It has really been a learning experience. It seems to be one of those things that we will fail forward, for sure. When we decided to change our bell schedule a year ago, and we found time to do these workshops, we really wanted to bring in community partners to work with our students. We wanted to allow kids to interact with those who are involved in business, art, or engineering and really learn something new. This idea is awesome, and we’re going to keep it up. Where it failed was trying to offer workshops every week. To try to get 40-50 people every week was a challenge for us. What we learned was that we couldn’t do workshops every week, but rather every month. Our hope is that everything will be planned out at the beginning of the month, and our hope is that everything will be a little smoother.

Q: What is something you enjoy doing in your free time?

A: Golf! I love to play golf, but I also love to ride my bike as well. I also enjoy traveling.

Q: What is one thing that you would like the students to know about you?

A: That I am really honored to be able to work with all of you. I really feel that this is my calling, and it is my goal to help you become the best students and people you can be. We want you to know that we are here for you, and it is our goal to try to do what we believe is best for you. We want you to excel and grow, and we hope that can happen at GMHS.

(Thank you so much to Ms. Owens for willing to be interviewed. We at the newspaper are very thankful and hope that this piece can help students get to know Ms. Owens as well as all of the administration. Thank you for reading!)