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One of Truman Elementary’s original students returns to the school — as its principal

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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Principal Christine Christensen poses for a portrait at Truman Elementary in West Valley City Tuesday April 9, 2013.

By Jake Gordon

Special to The Tribune

First published Apr 22 2013 05:15PM
Updated Apr 23, 2013 11:53AM

It was an emotional experience when Christine Christensen was offered the job to be principal at Harry S. Truman Elementary in West Valley City.

Not only was it her first principal opportunity, but Truman Elementary was the school she attended for fifth and sixth grades when the school opened in 1978. That connection has given Christensen more of an attachment and pride toward Truman.

"When people talk to me here, I tell them that this is my school, and not only because I am the principal," she said. "I was here just like the students that are here. The parents that come in were my neighbors."

Having been on the job for only four months, Christensen is relatively new as an administrator at the school but is no stranger to the area.

Right now she is actively trying to connect with the kids and let them know that she was once in the same position as her students.

"I have gone into the fifth-grade classroom and told the kids I was you and I was sitting here," Christensen said. "I tell them that they can do what it is that they want to do."

Coming from a family where her father was an administrator and her mother and grandmother were teachers, Christensen has the education system deep in her blood.

Some things have changed, such as the colors in the school, but much has stayed the same, such as the school song. Christensen has surprised many students by singing it from memory. The song was composed in her first years as a student.

When Truman opened during Christensen’s fifth-grade year, she remembered that the school wasn’t quite finished, but that didn’t deter the students from making the best of the situation.

"We would have our lunches, and the cafeteria part of the school was done but the gym and the tables weren’t quite in," she said. "So we would go and get our lunch and go head back to class. It was a great bonding experience with our class and our teacher. We got to sit around and chat."

That experience helped Christensen form lifelong friendships with her classmates, and she hopes she can foster such relationships among her students.

"I want to have a school where students are leaders, where they are leaders in their own academic pursuits but they are also leaders socially within the community, where they feel empowered to be able to reach their goals," she said.

closeup@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sheena5427

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