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South Jordan Journal

South Jordan Elementary’s new principal to focus on engaging all students

Feb 07, 2022 02:51PM ● By Julie Slama

New South Jordan Elementary Principal Bryce Eardley introduces himself to kindergartners during his first week at the school. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Bryce Eardley is OK to shave his head or ride around the school on a tricycle.

“I’m a principal that wants to be very interactive with the students as much as possible so I’m not afraid to do some silly things if it motivates them to read more minutes,” he said. “I really am all about building relationships, being a positive influence in the lives of students.”

The new South Jordan Elementary principal started in January, after former principal Bev Griffith moved to the Jordan School District office to become the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Specialist over federally allotted funding.

Eardley, who recently oversaw Dugway school, which served kindergarten through high school seniors, has 21 years in education, in Utah, Craig, Colorado, and his hometown of Baker, Oregon. 

He mostly taught his passion – history – which he also incorporates into his career by researching why history isn’t included in the testing of core curriculum standards.

“I really fell in love with history itself. When I was younger, I really loved reading a lot of nonfiction books, especially about history. I had a teacher in high school that I just loved going to his class, and he really made history come alive for me. Because of those reasons, I just wanted to become him and emulate him so much. That’s kind of what started me on the path. But once I got into it, I found that there was so much more to education than just history,” said Eardley, who roots for the Yankees because of their rich history.  

While he has taught in the middle school,  has experience as an administrator in primary and secondary levels and has been a district technology director,Eardley has a soft spot for the younger grades.

“They’re excited about their teachers and all the faculty so that’s always a fun thing. I have a love for the academic side of elementary level; I have a love of reading and literacy and helping students on the basic levels of literacy. Trying to get our students to be able to learn how to read is really something that’s a passion for me,” he said. “

Eardley said that reading is a basic necessity for life.

“It is the most essential building block of learning, that if we are not able to successfully read at just the basic level, especially once you get up to some of the higher levels, you’re going to struggle in so many other aspects. So making sure that a student starts off with a solid foundation of reading literacy, that they’re able to read at their grade level, they’re going to then find so much more success in the years to come,” he said. "I really love teaching students and helping them become successful.”

Eardley’s first impressions of South Jordan Elementary included noting “We have a very strong faculty who are very passionate about their students and about the learning that goes on here.”

After getting to meet students and learning about the school, he wants to celebrate what is going well and “then talk to them about some of the ideas that they have on what we can do to improve. I looked at (student) scores, they’re already doing well, but there’s always room for improvement. One of the things that I’ve always tried to do in every school that I’ve gone to as an administrator is to really focus on and make sure that we’re trying to reach every student and to look at the ways we teach, the way we interact, the way that we lesson plan, the way we ask questions, that we look for responses in which we are making sure that every student is learning and that we don’t have anyone that’s left behind, that we are checking for understanding from everybody. The more that we can do that, the more we’re going to find success.”

While Utah has been his home for quite a few years, it’s only recently he moved to the Salt Lake Valley. He often escapes on a mountain trail or heads off fishing when he isn’t cheering for Brigham Young University or the Utah Jazz. 

He’s finding his home now at South Jordan Elementary — somewhere Griffith has been fond of for the past two years.

Griffith’s first day at South Jordan Elementary was a rare snow day.

“The students loved me with the first day of school, but then that spring, the world shut down with COVID,” she said, then added “Students thought shutting down a school for one day is good, but shutting down for the rest of the school year was not so good.”

Even with the pandemic continuing through most of her tenure, the highlight of her time as South Jordan Elementary’s principal was the relationships and the impact she had on students and faculty.

“I’m missing the students – big time,” Griffith said. “One of the things I wanted to implement was Battle of the Books and the PTA saw the activity last year and loved it. They’ve taken over the activity, so it’s been really fun to see. I remember the kids were nervous about doing it at first. Then afterwards, some kids were telling me that they wouldn’t have read some of the books because they have boring covers or whatever, but now they love them. It’s been great to see kids learning and encouraging them to learn. The students are so involved in activities like the spelling bee, the musical, We the People, their recent experience to go to the legislature — all these experiences where they’re getting to be involved and learn.”

In addition to helping faculty roll out some new curriculum, she worked with teachers to identify how and why students struggle with their learning.

“Teachers would come and say the students are struggling and I would say, ‘Well, what specifically are they struggling in?' Then it was teaching them how to diagnose reading difficulties or math difficulties and what to do about that,” Griffith said. “I look back on the two years and think, ‘Wow, we did accomplish a lot.’”

Other administration mid-year changes in South Jordan public schools include Bingham High Assistant Principal James Groethe named as South Hills Middle principal; and Aspen Elementary and Terra Linda Elementary administrative intern April Thompson transferring to Elk Meadows Elementary and Monte Vista Elementary, replacing Assistant Principal Baylee Lansford, who is assuming those duties at Blackridge Elementary and Foothills Elementary.