Wildcats@Work with Stephanie Silman

Aviva Doery,
Stephanie Silman
Stephanie Silman has risen from being a passionate student to a dedicated middle school principal. Hear what she has to say about her journey.

What has your career path from UA student to a high school principal?

I graduated summa cum laude from UA in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and Spanish. Working with outstanding professors during my time at the UA in both the College of Education and the College of Humanities prepared me to make networking connections and to be a successful professional. My professors always had time to meet during office hours or after class, and I developed the habit of reaching out, which has served me well in my career path.



Upon graduation, I taught Spanish for six years at Catalina Foothills High School. In 2004, I graduated with distinction from NAU with a master's degree in educational leadership. I soon began working at Sahuarita High School as the assistant principal. I later returned to the UA in 2014 to complete the certificate in the superintendency program. I am currently serving in my ninth year as principal of Sahuarita Middle School. I am proud to work with 80 staff members to provide outstanding service to meet the academic and social/emotional needs of over 830 students in the sixth through eighth grades.

I am happy to have worked in two school districts in many roles from a teacher to principal. I have also been very involved in the Arizona School Administrators Association which is the professional association for administrators at all levels in our state. I am serving in my first year of a two-year term as president of the Middle Level Division and have acted as president-elect and secretary.



What is the biggest lesson you learned while in school that you carry with you today?

I think one of the biggest lessons is that teachers are the lead learners, and that goes for administrators as well. Never stop learning! We are always trying to improve ourselves so we can improve our schools and provide the best opportunities for our students. We are always learners and we have never arrived, we are always on that path of learning just like we hope our students always are.



What are the most rewarding and challenging parts of your job?

That is so tough because there are so many rewarding parts of this job. I would say seeing the growth of our students over three years. They come in as sixth graders and this is their first experience outside of elementary school where they only have one teacher all day and now they have five or six teachers a day. Seeing them grow to when they become high schoolers is really rewarding.

I would say the most challenging side of the job is that there is always more to do than there are hours in the day. I would guess that’s probably true for a lot of people but I feel like in education it’s even more significant. Our school year is 180 days and we are trying to do a year of learning in a lot less time. There have also been shortages such as funding but you try to do the best job you can with the resources available.



How to you balance the needs of the students, the parents and the town?

In my school district, community partnerships and collaboration among different organizations has been integral to making sure that our students and teachers have what they need. Our superintendent does a wonderful job of collaborating with nonprofits, business leaders and other school districts so that we can offer the best opportunities for our students. It really shows when our students have more opportunities to explore because of these relationships.



What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

The best piece of career advice I have ever received was to be open to changing my opinion. I had a professor in one of my first education classes at the UA on the history of education in the United States. She asked the class to write our philosophy of education early on in the semester course. She then asked me to rewrite it at the end of the course to see if my philosophy had changed. While I did not expect it at the time, my philosophy changed quite a bit after her course, and I was a better teacher as a result.