A Life of Change

Jim Groethe has lived a life of change, both in his own life and in students’ lives through education.

After spending ten years pursuing a career in finance, Jim Groethe decided to completely change career paths. With the constant encouragement and support of his wife, Groethe quit his job, signed up for classes at Weber State University, and earned a degree in teaching. 

“I love teaching and always have. It cost us nearly everything,” Groethe shared. “For all of my hard work, there would have been no chance of success without the tireless work of my wife and the sacrifices she made for us.”jim 

Groethe is currently the assistant principal at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah. Copper Hills is the second-largest 10th–12th grade high school in the state, with a student population of over 2,800. Groethe’s assignments include overseeing the athletics department and professional learning communities.

“My highlights have been my efforts to turn PLCs into learning-inspired, teacher-innovated processes rather than the data-driven, compliance-motivated approach that seems all too easy and prevalent in high schools,” Groethe said. “Today, there is such an emphasis on data, outcomes, and goals that human nature will dictate doing whatever is necessary to stay out of trouble—compliance. There are so many unique programs, classes, and other challenges that face high schools that, I believe, there is no school-wide formula that will work more than surface-level change.”

On top of implementing change within PLCs, Groethe is also seeking cultural change. He is attempting to structure small teams of teachers to create and facilitate the standards and information which will improve student learning and drive instructional practice. 

“My guiding philosophies are ‘compliance stifles innovation’ and ‘losers have goals; winners have systems,’” Groethe explained. “I believe that school leaders need to change their perspectives on goals and data. . . . These are formative outcomes and results, which should merely inform our instruction and leadership and not be final or fatal. When we focus on the processes of learning and the structures of improvement, outcomes will generally reflect our efforts.”

Groethe has felt the impact of BYU’s EdLF program in his career from the people he has met through it. 

“I still keep in touch with [my EdLF cohort, my professors, and the office administrative assistants],” Groethe said. “They know me and my weaknesses. I know them and rely upon their strengths, their knowledge, and their character. I need them.” 

Some of Groethe’s biggest life inspirations have been his parents. Neither attained higher education degrees, and yet Groethe and his siblings have all obtained advanced degrees. 

“[My parents] work hard and serve others every day. I learned more by watching their examples of selflessness and finding joy in the simple and good things in life than anywhere else,” Groethe shared. “We all live in Utah now and enjoy getting our families together regularly. I am extremely proud of my brothers: who they are, how hard they have worked, and the lives they lead.” 

Some valuable advice that Groethe has learned is to “learn as much as you can and never stop. Add that component to just being you. You have a unique combination of experiences and perspectives to those experiences, which no one else has. There is nothing more powerful that being authentic, genuine, honest, and candid.” 

Groethe received his master’s from the EdLF program at Brigham Young University. He hopes to be a part of the educational doctorate program cohort in 2018. Groethe currently resides in Riverton, Utah, with his wife and three children. 

Writer: Janine Swart
Contact: Cynthia Glad, (801) 422-1922