Mindy Robison wears dark purple glasses and a bedazzled lanyard. As the bell rings at Midvale Middle School, students rush out of class, filling the hallways as they head to lunch.
Robison walks through the quickly filling cafeteria. As middle schoolers walk past her, she calls out to them, smiling at them and asking how they’re doing.
Robison is the middle school’s principal. A BYU alumna, she has been working as a math teacher and principal for 24 years. In January, Robison won Utah Middle School Principal of the Year for 2022.
“I think it’s exciting. But it’s also just really a tribute to the whole community and how hard we’ve worked at Midvale Middle School to really make it a great place for the students and teachers,” Robison said.
ConnieTrue Simons is an assistant principal at Midvale Middle School and said Robison builds a culture of collaboration and support.
“She’s really great at being inclusive and making sure that we keep our focus always on what’s best for students,” Simons said.
Robison’s journey as an educator
Robison did not grow up thinking she would go into education. When she started at BYU, she was going to study computer science and accounting.
“After my first semester, I quickly learned that I really liked people,” Robison said. “I remember actually being on the campus one day —walking by the library, I thought, ‘I really like kids,’ and I’ve helped people do math for the last decades. I’m gonna go into math teaching.”
Robison earned a degree in math and social studies teaching from BYU. After teaching for 11 years, she took a four-year break to have her three children.
She returned to education and later received her master’s degree and administrative degree. Robison worked as the principal at Creston Elementary for two years before becoming the principal for Midvale Middle School.
This is Robison’s sixth year as Midvale Middle School’s principal.
Robison’s father, Jerry Callister, has seen the impact Robison has made on students throughout the years.
“She focuses on individuals,” Callister said. “It was important for her when she started out that she knew each person in her class’s name, and that’s when you have what, seven periods and, I don’t know, hundreds of students, but she was determined to do that.”
Robison said that being an educator has helped her grow as a person.
“I think that education allows you to really become a more empathetic, compassionate and better person for me,” Robison said. “Teaching thousands of kids — I mean, having the opportunity to be an administrator for lots of kids — I think it really makes you better understand that each kid has unique challenges, but also unique gifts and they’re amazing.”
According to Robison, students at her school have faced many challenges, especially during COVID-19. With the pandemic, a lot of students have experienced poverty, and many need to take care of younger siblings.
Robison said Midvale Middle School has been focused on creating a culture and environment where all kids feel safe.
“We found out very quickly that a lot of students weren’t doing well academically because some of their other needs weren’t being met,” Robison said. “So we know the research says that when kids have one safe person at school, they’re more likely to come.”
Robison has increased emotional support resources at school. Midvale Middle School now has a full-time social worker, community members, and a greater number of mentors.
“It’s very humbling when you realize how much you can and can’t do,” Robison said. “There’s circumstances I can’t change. There’s things that have happened I know I can’t change, but what I do I know — the joy comes in knowing that each day they come to a safe place and that we care about them, we believe in them and we will do anything that’s in our power to (help) them.”
Portrait of a Graduate
Another initiative Robison is implementing is Utah’s Portrait of a Graduate. This initiative focuses on helping students not only be academically successful but develop important values and characteristics.
Robison explained that a lot of students do not always get recognition because they may be academically behind; however, those students demonstrate resilience, persistence and problem solving. Robison wants to put more of a focus on that.
She believes in helping students see possibilities and futures for themselves.
“I believe every kid will be successful. I just want them to understand all of the ways that they can be successful,” Robison said. “Whatever path the choose, we want to make sure that they can do whatever they want to do.”
According to Robison, being an educator is not without its challenges, but it is all worth it.
Robison encourages her staff to focus on the special moments.
“You have to be ready for the hard, but then that hard pays off,” Robinson said. “You really do … see kids’ lives change, because the adults and educators and, I mean, those educators I’m surrounded by daily — they make a huge difference in the lives of these kids, and I think if you’re willing to put in the energy and the stuff, it’s worth it.”