Chandler principal named one of nation’s distinguished - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler principal named one of nation’s distinguished

October 25th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler principal named one of nation’s distinguished

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Andersen Elementary School Principal Kristin Kinghorn is not afraid to tackle big projects. In fact, she sought them out at the first two schools she has led.

“Go big or go home?” she asked with a smile. “I always say one of my core values is that I’m visionary. But I also believe that we can’t stay stagnant. The world is changing.

“We’re changing as humans, our kids have so much more than we ever had at that age. And so it would be against my core belief to not change.”

That willingness to adapt and to tackle really big projects is getting noticed. The National Association of Elementary School Principals awarded her one of its 41 National Distinguished Principals for this year.

Kinghorn first became a principal at Desert Canyon Elementary in Scottsdale, which had lagging enrollment because of competition from charter schools.

She led the school to becoming a first-of-its-kind dual language Mandarin immersion class. She later moved to Andersen in 2018 and is leading the way as the school tries to become the first in the Chandler Unified School District that is sanctioned by the International Baccalaureate program at the primary level.

Chandler High School has been an IB school since 1982.

An IB program requires a commitment to high-quality, challenging, and international education. Kinghorn said the conversion to an IB school is going well.

“I have an amazing IB coordinator,” Kinghorn said. “So we have a teacher that we’ve taken out of the classroom who is very much into inquiry-based learning, very well versed in our state standards and multitude of resources.

“She meets with the teachers and they come together and they are pulling up their plans of inquiry. They’re creating these transdisciplinary units that incorporate reading, writing math, our social sciences. The kids are starting to ask the questions, we’re bringing in more guest speakers, kindergarten just finished their whole first unit of inquiry on with their five senses.”

And they are encouraging students to apply critical thinking.

For example, they asked the children to debate the new VAI Resort being built in Glendale, which will include the Mattel Adventure Park amusement center and a massive lagoon with luxury hotels around it.

It’s expected to bring in about 1,800 jobs, but it is also being built in the middle of a drought that is impacting Arizona’s water supply.

“They saw that Glendale is building this big, huge, massive water park and how much water it’s going to take every single day,” Kinghorn said. “And so the teacher posed the question, is this a good thing or not a good thing?

The planned lagoon for the 60-acre project near State Farm Stadium would hold 36 acre feet of water, which is about 12 million gallons.

“It was great to hear that how the class started to divide. But it worked on their persuasive writing skills, their research skills, their collaboration, their critical thinking, all these different things. And they were so excited about it and that’s what school is. It’s so exciting to see that change.”

Some of the students argued the project would be good for the economy, bringing in tourists and their money.

Others said the state couldn’t afford to waste that much water and they should look for a different project that didn’t have a giant lagoon in the middle.

Kinghorn said just thinking through the different points of view was a win for all of the students.

“I really do believe that the job of the principal is to make sure that every child that walks through my doors, receives the best education possible,” said Kinghorn, who is mother to two children.

“If I want my kids to be challenged and pushed and excited about school, and realizing their future potential, and what the world can give them, and prepare them for that, I want that for every kid that walks through this door. And I want my teachers to want that for every kid who walks through this door.”