Director of curriculum and instruction retires
She brought differentiated instruction to the district, helped with the middle school grade realignment and made literacy a priority. With a long list of accomplishments behind her, director of curriculum and instruction Merry Haugen is retiring on Aug. 15.
"It’s been a great ride," she said.
Like Superintendent Dave Adamson, whose retirement became effective on July 31, she has ailing parents that she would like to help care for. Haugen also said it was time to do something different.
"After 30 years in education, I was just ready for a change," she said.
In September Haugen plans to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico to pursue some of her hobbies that got neglected in the time it took for her to raise a family and work full time.
"I hope to become a connoisseur of dabbling for a while," Haugen said.
She plans to dip into herbal gardening and holistic health while trying her hand at writing children’s books.
Haugen’s story with the Park City School District began 22 years ago when she moved to the area from Los Angeles.
"I thought it was a great place to raise my children away from the craziness of L.A.," she said.
After holding several different positions throughout the district, from fifth- and sixth-grade teacher to the first principal at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, Haugen became director of curriculum and instruction. She has held the job since the 1998-1999 school year.
Cleaning out her desk has been a walk down memory lane through the past 8 years.
"As I’ve been going through things it has brought back lots of happy memories," she said.
Haugen’s job has included being a part of several pieces of the Park City School District, something she said has brought her a great deal of satisfaction.
"I’ve always felt like the juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air without letting any of them fall," she said.
One of the many balls Haugen has kept in the air is differentiated instruction, a program she brought to Park City.
"When I first came into this position we were just starting to have an influx of ESL kids," she said.
After doing some research she discovered the concept of customizing instruction in a classroom based on a student’s needs, differentiated instruction.
"It’s really a philosophy of believing that one size really doesn’t fit all," she said.
Her desire to meet the needs of all students was something that first endeared her to former superintendent Dave Adamson.
"As soon as she started talking about differentiated instruction, I was her ally right off the bat," he said.
Haugen is also a strong advocate of literacy and founded the Individualized Literacy Plan for students who struggle with reading.
"That’s been, I think, very important to get kids reading on grade level as soon as possible," she said.
Adamson hailed the ILP as one of her many successes.
"When a student is showing some difficulty with reading in the elementary schools, a team gets together and puts together an individualized plan to help the student improve," he said. "You don’t see that level of individual attention in many school districts."
Haugen also implemented the Teacher Induction Program, a three-year process that helps new teachers become familiar with the district, and includes differentiated instruction training.
She oversees a group of 25 teacher leaders, or liaisons between schools and the district, to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of curriculum and instruction. And in past years, Haugen organized an annual Park City School District Conference, or a symposium that offered teachers training and networking opportunities.
Currently one of her other responsibilities is to assemble what is called the Consolidated Utah Student Assesment Plan, which outlines the way the district meets the demands of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative.
"Over time, different responsibilities have come and gone out of this office," she said.
She said optimism has helped her to multi-task and meet the demands of her job.
"I think it takes a lot of perseverance, and I’m very positive. I always see the glass as half full," Haugen said, adding that determination plays a part too.
The interaction with people is something she miss most, from teachers and students to parents she said, "because that’s why we’re here."
Adamson acknowledged Haugen’s commitment to her job and the community.
"This district has gained tremendous student performance since she has been curriculum director," he said. "She is really a dedicated to the success of all children."
He added that Haugen’s absence will be felt.
"I’ll miss working with her, she’s become a not only a great colleague but a great friend," Adamson said.
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