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Shane Farnsworth Credits EdLF Progam for Preparing Him to Serve as an Effective Administrator

Last month, Alpine School District board unanimously appointed Shane Farnsworth, EdD—a 2004 and 2015 McKay EdLF graduate—as the new district superintendent. Farnsworth will begin his new position on July 1, 2021. He considers his years at BYU in the EdLF program a key part of his preparation for administration.

Farnsworth has worked in a myriad of administrative positions (from principal to supervisor of secondary schools), but he never intended to work in education. Farnsworth graduated from BYU in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in Latin and classical studies. After some personal experiences inspired him to pursue teaching, he earned a teaching certificate in Latin and English teaching in 1999. 

Farnsworth feels that his unorthodox entry into education made all the difference to his career. Years of work in classical language and comparative literature helped him develop keen thinking and reasoning skills. “I was a generalist before I was a specialist, and I think it really helped prepare me well.”

After teaching English in Alpine School District for a few years, Farnsworth decided to pursue a career in administration; he joined the LPP program in the EdLF department and graduated in 2004. This degree helped him secure a position as an assistant principal at Timberline Middle School and as principal at American Fork Junior High. 

A few years later, still working as a principal, Farnsworth returned to the EdLF program to begin his doctoral studies, which became a pivotal part of his career. Farnsworth said that he now has “the disposition to seek out research, . . . and the tools and skills to be able to make sense of [research] and apply it in our day-to-day activities and decision-making for the district. This is a great benefit to me personally and to the furthering of my career.”

Besides empowering him to engage with and apply research in his work, Farnsworth said his EdLF education prepared him in ways that he never expected. “My capacity has been expanded because of my doctoral program, particularly working with Dr. Pam Hallam—she was my dissertation chair. The focus of my [dissertation] was on the trusting relationships between principals and teachers,” Farnsworth explained. 

Little did he know as a doctoral student just how much his studies would benefit his current leadership opportunities. “That is invaluable to me as a superintendent: to understand the role that trust plays in individual relationships and in organizations.” 

Farnsworth has relied on the results of his studies in trust and on the skills he gained through EdLF to serve the students in his district—for him, people are the reason he does what he does. “I think I knew I would love working with young people,” said Farnsworth. “[But] I had no idea it would be so rewarding working with other people who loved working in the service of young people.”

As Farnsworth prepares to serve as superintendent of Alpine School District, his focus is on the students. He has three main goals: (1) continue to set high standards for academic excellence and support students in meeting those standards; (2) work with the board of education to develop strategic plans for achieving their vision and goals; and (3) help the people he oversees embrace the principles of individual stewardship—for young people and for tax dollar funding. Each of these goals will help educators “develop in young people [the] knowledge, skills, and dispositions to prepare them for an ever-changing and complex world.” 

Alpine School District is already learning to adapt to the ever-changing world, thanks to COVID-19. “I think we've noticed [that] there's a greater appreciation for the human connection that occurs in education. In April and May when we went to on-line education, we lost that connection,” Farnsworth observed. Administrators and educators have had to adapt so that education can remain centered on the needs of the individual student. Farnsworth says that there are still opportunities to “affect high levels of learning, even when we don’t control . . . the setting in which it takes place.” After all, educators and administrators, in the end, are simply facilitators who “help [students] find ways to learn and grow and maximize [their] talents, abilities, and interests.” 

As he becomes superintendent next summer, Farnsworth will bring more than twenty years of experience as a student, teacher, and administrator to serve the students, teachers, and staff of Alpine School District. 

Writer: Hannah Mortenson
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922