More than 40 decked-out vehicles were parked in front of Anasazi Elementary School in northern Scottsdale on Tuesday, packed with staff, students, and parents, some wearing costumes and others standing through sunroofs as they awaited the guest of honor.
And the second that Principal Jennifer Waldron and Dr. Ini Haghighat, Scottsdale Unified assistant superintendent of elementary education, stepped out, they were met by cheers and honking horns.
They were celebrating Waldron’s recent designation as Elementary Principal Rookie of the Year by the Arizona School Administrators – a deserving honor, according to Haghighat, who nominated her.
“Ms. Waldron has worked so hard to achieve so much, earning the trust and respect of her students, staff, parents and community,” Haghighat said.
The ASA award recognizes an outstanding new elementary principal who has been on the job less than three years and has demonstrated exemplary leadership to both the school and community.
Waldon became Anasazi’s principal in 2018 and the elementary school has since become an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Candidate School.
“She has raised academic expectations through the school’s IB pre-candidacy, while providing the needed support to all. Ms. Waldron is a strong communicator and empowers, motivates and inspires others to do their best,” Haghighat said.
A prestigious, internationally recognized pre-kindergarten through high school curriculum framework, the IB aims to create global student citizens who learn to think critically and creatively about the world and its issues and how they relate to them.
Anasazi joins nearby Mountainside Middle School, a Candidate School for the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the feeder middle school for Anasazi students, and Desert Mountain High School, which has offered the IB Diploma Programme since 1999.
Anasazi would be the sixth public school in Arizona with the IB designation.
“I am so proud of the culture of learning that helps define our school and the great lengths we have come this past school year in our International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme candidacy,” Waldron said.
In July, just before two dozen teachers at Anasazi Elementary took a two-day workshop for IB PYP training, SUSD Superintendent Dr. John Kriekard called Waldron “totally committed” to raising the bar for Anasazi students.
“It doesn’t surprise me that Principal Waldron is pursuing the IB’s rigorous requirements with determination,” Kriekard said.
“We are excited about what this opportunity offers Anasazi. These young leaders will have a clear path in front of them, from pre-kindergarten through high school, to pursue a global education, right here in Scottsdale, Arizona.”
Waldron said she was pleasantly surprised by both the award and the parade, which was organized by Anasazi Assistant Principal Andrea Martin.
“I go to Anasazi every day with the intent of serving the students, staff and community, so this honor isn’t just mine, but all of ours,” Waldron said.
Haghighat isn’t alone in calling Waldron’s award well-deserved.
“I find her motivating, creative, and always thinking out-of-the-box,” said Desert Mountain High School Principal Dr. Lisa Hirsch. “You can tell when you set foot on the Anasazi campus that the atmosphere is cohesive and inspiring, by design.”
And Mountainside Middle School Principal Adam Kohnen calls Waldron “one of the hardest-working, dedicated and driven principals” he knows.
“[Waldron] always keeps in mind what is best for her school, staff and, above all, her students. Anasazi is extremely lucky she is their leader,” Kohnen said.
Waldron will be formally recognized by the ASA in a virtual program on June 15.
“The outpouring of love was a wonderful way to close the 2019-2020 school year,” Waldron said.