YUMA, AZ, Feb. 12, 2021 – Laura Hurt, Principal at Gary A. Knox Elementary School, has received the Principal of the Month Award from Grand Canyon University. The Grand Canyon University Principal of the Month award – co-sponsored by Caroline Lobo from Suoll Architects – is presented to approximately 10 principals across Arizona annually, celebrating outstanding principals who have demonstrated impactful leadership in STEM, innovation, or trauma-informed practice. They are nominated by their districts and selected by a team at GCU who provides service and support to K-12 schools. Principal Hurt was selected for her work in trauma-informed programs at her school. This year marks her 36th year in education.
Prior to the pandemic, Principal Hurt established a social/emotional behavioral program designed to support students and staff in various ways. Students at Gary A. Knox Elementary can benefit from their very own zen garden where they can sit and reflect. They are encouraged to utilize the garden to help them when they need a quiet space.
Knox Elementary also makes use of a toolbox called “We Are Resilient”, which is a social and emotional learning program that fosters the development of resilience, self-mastery, and empathy for others in elementary students. The toolbox resources are designed to empower children to manage their own emotional, social, and academic success. The tools are as follow: breathing tool, quiet/safe place tool, listening tool, empathy tool, personal space tool, using our words tool, garbage can tool, taking time tool, please and thank you tool, apology and forgiveness tool, patience tool and the courage tool. Students are taught to use their emotional toolbox to help them manage and cope in any given situation.
Additionally, Knox utilizes a structured social and emotional recess program called Playworks, which creates safe play opportunities for students. The purpose of the program is to ensure that every student on the playground feels included, is active, and can build valuable social and emotional skills with peers.
Principal Hurt was recognized by Dr. Jennifer Johnson of Grand Canyon University in a surprise Zoom staff meeting with educators from Gary A. Knox Elementary and Crane District Superintendent Laurie Doering. According to Mrs. Hurt, "It is so special to be recognized by Grand Canyon University. We have been particularly sensitive to the needs of not only our students but also our parents during remote learning. We know how important it is to not have students on an iPad for an excessive amount of time each day and how important it is to include Art, PE and Ag Science (our special areas) in their daily learning. We also believe that AFTER school hours is family time.”
Dr. Johnson commended Principal Hurt for providing tools for students and staff to focus on social and emotional needs. Per Dr. Johnson, the GCU team looks for principals who have gone “above and beyond” in their leadership to build teamwork, creative solutions to challenges and to enhance opportunities their students experience that ultimately lead to increased student achievement. “We were impressed with Laura’s commitment to her students and staff, nurturing each of them to feel cared for, safe, successful, and inspired.”