Luana Searle has spent decades influencing educators and education in Utah. At age 90, she has only recently stepped down from her work in education administration. Always a leader, Searle was one of Utah’s first female principals and an innovative administrator for a growing school district. She left retirement for a stunning 22 more years to serve as a state leader before retiring again in 2018.
Searle earned a bachelor’s degree in education from BYU in 1967, then taught at Greenwood Elementary in American Fork, Utah. The school was named after William Greenwood, her great-great-grandfather and the first teacher in the town. She earned her master’s degree in elementary curriculum and instruction in 1971 and her doctorate in public school administration in 1984—both from BYU’s college of education. Following her 1984 BYU graduation, Searle taught elementary education classes at BYU part-time until her schedule became too busy.
Ten years into her teaching career, Searle was contacted by the superintendent of Utah’s Alpine School District with a request to work as principal. Searle was puzzled because female principals were not common at the time. However, her work in this role paved the way for more women to enter administration. Her years as a principal also prepared her to serve on the district level. While there, Searle found ways to maximize the number of students in the few buildings available by implementing year-round and extended-day programs. She was eventually promoted to assistant superintendent, a position that allowed her to shape many more schools.
Following this influential career in Alpine School District, Searle decided to retire. However, only a few months later, she was asked to be the executive director of the Utah Association of Elementary School Principals. In that role Searle represented 95 percent of all Utah principals. She thought she would only work for another year but ended up staying for 22 years. In addition to her education administration work, Searle also devoted many hours to serving as chair of the American Fork City Hospital board and as a member of the Utah Valley Hospital and Intermountain Healthcare boards.
Searle retired for good in 2018 and continues to keep herself busy by managing apartments. She is still in contact with former coworkers and students she taught. She enjoys getting calls from people she used to work with. “I love people, and I love working with people,” Searle said. “Knowing that you make a little bit of a difference in their lives is the best.”
Writer: Sariah Farmer
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922