Sunlight filters through the enormous redwood trees at Sequoia National Park as Dr. Andria Schur treks along the worn hiking trail. She pauses and takes a moment to appreciate the beauty of the American wilderness, and a sense of peace and comfort falls over her. Then, she continues on her hike, more than eager to see what the remainder of the park has to offer.
Not only is Schur an avid adventure seeker, she is also the new principal at MHS. With 22 years of education experience under her belt, Schur is beginning her eighth year as a high school principal, but the start of this year looks much different
“Being a principal during a pandemic is different because the students aren’t physically here,” Schur said. “What I think rejuvenates us to do what we do is that opening of the first day of school. But this kind of gradual opening of the school could cause some disengagement or cause the high school experience to lose its luster, and that’s been a challenge. Finding ways to motivate students and make it fun. It’s been very different.”
In 2018, Schur received the opportunity to present at the National Academy Career Conference. There, she and her team presented the idea of the progression to a Capstone project within high school. Starting with freshmen year, students would learn valuable problem solving skills and progress to senior year, where they would use their skills to solve a real world problem.
“I think it is something we can do here,” Schur said. “The Capstone project is something that should be a part of all high schools because it teaches a lot of skill sets around how to talk to people, how to ask questions, and how to be solution oriented. It just creates the mindset in students that they’re contributing to society, that they’re playing a very important role.”
In her time outside work, Schur said she enjoys spending time in nature and listening to music. Schur enjoys camping and hiking in National Parks with her family. Schur said that every year she picks a song for the senior class that she believes fits the class’s personality.
“When my boys were little, the three of us went in my tahoe to all the National Parks, the Grand Canyon, Sequoia, and so many more,” Schur said. “Music is really big in my life. I could take a roadtrip every day with music, sit outside listening to music, that’s my thing.”
Schur said she never really enjoyed school growing up and didn’t plan on attending college. She switched schools nearly every year and said she never learned the true value of education. Her parents lacked a steady flow of income but still worked hard to raise her well. Later, Schur said her father pursued higher education and improved his way of life, which provided a “whole new layer of support” later in her life.
“I realized a college degree is a game changer for me, for my family and for what I can provide for my family,” Schur said. “When I was in high school, I thought college was just for the smart people, the kids that were all AP, and that it wasn’t for me because I was a worker. However, college was a shift in life for me because I was very poor growing up. I realized college is for students that need a change in their life, or need to change a generation of poverty. That’s what inspired me to say, ‘No, I need to be in school to tell kids this. This is what needs to happen. This is the gamechanger.’ So here I am.”
As the principal, Schur explained that her job is to define and enforce school policies that support the campus mission, vision, and culture. One of Schur’s biggest challenges going into the school year is managing the COVID-19 situation.
“My biggest concern going forward with COVID is keeping everybody healthy, both on the teacher side and the student side,” Schur said. “The uniqueness of this pandemic causes a lot of stress so trying to make sure that everybody stays both mentally and physically healthy on both sides is probably my biggest angst.”
Schur said that the key to success at her past schools was having a really strong team surrounding her. She said it’s important to have the shared philosophy of students coming first in order to effectively run the school. According to Schur, MHS is, “the best of all worlds.”
“I love my job,” Schur said. “I truly enjoy interacting and seeing you guys do what you are passionate about. Then there’s the challenge of those who haven’t found their niche. That’s a challenge for me, to help them find their way and to see that change in them.”