Beloved principal says goodbye to his school but continues to champion mental health
Bart Peery, the beloved principal at Salem Hills High School for more than 10 years, is saying goodbye this year to the students he has come to love. He is going to the Advanced Learning Center, which is located two blocks from the high school.
The Advanced Learning Center is where students from five local high schools (Payson High School, Maple Mountain High School, Salem Hills High School, Springville High School, and Spanish Fork High School) can come to take specialized early college classes (such as robotics, aviation, and engineering).
Peery is excited about this new venture in his life but will surely look back with nostalgia at his time with the students and faculty at Salem Hills High School.
Peery initially had no desire to pursue administration.
But he discovered after getting administrative licensing through SUU and doing some internships that he loved it.
When he was still considering going into administration, his 5th-grade teacher told him something that would change his life: “As an [elementary school] teacher, I could influence 30 people, but as a principal I can influence the whole school.”
Peery realized that as a high school teacher, he could influence the lives of 200 kids, but as an administrator, he had the potential to influence the lives of 1,400 kids. That thought helped him make up his mind about becoming a principal.
Peery is known for his rigorous attention to the mental health of his students.
“We try to be very open about talking about mental wellness. When I first came here, we had a suicide about three years in and it rocked my world. So, we did some research and found some stuff from Shawn Achor who wrote The Happiness Advantage,” he said.
Pulling inspiration from Shawn Achor’s book, Peery helped implement an initiative in Salem Hills High School.
“We call it being positive in the present,” he said.
As part of the initiative, each student is given a handbook and encouraged to write down and do the following five things every day:
1-Write down three things they’re grateful for.
2-Write down one positive experience that happened in the last 24 hours.
5-Do a conscientious act of service.
Peery explained that doing these small things can make a big difference in mental health.
To help in this effort, Salem Hills High School has hosted some parent wellness nights over Zoom.
“I just think really it’s the culture that needs to change. If you break your leg, you don’t try to hide that. And if your mind is broken, we need to talk about that. I think we need to work to end the stigma of mental illness and just talk to people,” Perry said.
Peery encourages parents to talk to their kids about mental health. He also urges students who know someone who’s struggling with mental health or who are struggling themselves to talk to an adult.
Peery explains that although he’s not qualified to help someone with mental health challenges, he can serve as a liaison to get them the help they need.
As Peery closes out the school year and prepares to move on to the next opportunity in his life, he wants to thank the students and parents at Salem Hills High School.
“It’s been a marvelous journey these past 10 and a half years and they’ve helped me grow and I hope I’ve helped them grow and together we’re making the world a better place.
“I’m a firm believer that we can change the world, and I think we can do that one person, or one student at a time.” (Peterson is a Serve Daily contributor.)