Summit Academy Principal Retires, Assistant To Take Helm
Summit Academy Principal Bob Zentner took the plunge in the dunk tank one last time on May 26. He served Summit Academy for more than eight years before he retired June 30. — Julie Slama
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By Julie Slama By Julie Slama | firstname.lastname@example.org
Draper, Utah - The principal who introduced and had Summit Academy community embrace “one heart, one mind, one purpose” officially retired June 30.
Principal Bob Zentner, fondly referred to by the community as “Mr. Z,” served the 12-year-old school for more than eight years. Summit Academy Assistant Principal Tyler Whittle, who took over July 1, will be the school’s third principal.
“I’ve done it all,” Zentner said. “I taught K (kindergarten) through 12 (grades) as well as introduction to education at a community college. Every year had its moments and every place I taught or was an administrator was good. I kept meeting people, learning programs and that’s why after 41 years of education, I still have had my energy and enthusiasm.”
Having been raised and played sports in Montana, he studied a the University of Montana. He earned his master’s degree in secondary education from Brigham Young University. His first teaching job was in Box Elder County.
It was a few years later when he was principal at Soda Springs Junior High in Idaho that his well-known reputation of “Dunkin’ with Mr. Z” was born — and it wasn’t for being basketball coach of the year, but rather dunking Oreo cookies into milk.
His son, Troy, remembers his seventh-grade year with his dad as principal.
“It was a horrible, long year,” he said. “The teachers knew my dad was principal and I was sent to my dad’s office several times. I thought it would be the worse. My dad seemed to understand and brought out a whole container of cookies and we dipped cookies into milk the entire lunch period so it was OK. It was the only year I had detention.”
Since then, school children who have been selected to receive some sort of recognition have the honor to dunk with Mr. Z.
“I’ve learned so many things about kids during ‘Dunkin with Mr. Z’ and I have laughed so hard at some of the cute things they’ve said, I could write a book. It’s been fun, but it’s also helped me keep a pulse on the school and I get feedback from school dress code to no bullying to how lunch and recess still are some of their favorite subjects,” he said.
“Dunkin’ with Mr. Z” was the theme of his surprise retirement reception May 19, which current and former students and their families as well as staff and faculty could attend.
“Every student wants to dunk with Mr. Z, to get that special recognition for kindness, good behavior and go into his office or teachers’ lounge to dunk Oreos with him,” parent Nikki Meehan said. “Mr. Z knows everyone’s name. He memorizes them in kindergarten and knows them the rest of their time at school so when he runs with them, attends a performance or goes into the classroom, he talks to them individually.”
At the reception, students created a memory box by filling out index cards saying “I remember my first day, I was nervous, but you gave me a high 5” to “you actually listened to me when I told you about my summer vacation” along with sentiments of not wanting him to retire.
A Power Point presentation of him growing up, his family, coaching, his education career including being an assistant principal at Whitefish High School in Montana and principal at Fox Creek Junior High in Arizona, including a sign showing “There’s No Need to Fear, Mr. Z is here.” Current students made homemade banners and messages on white boards saying they will miss him.
First-grader Danielle Parker said she’ll miss her principal’s morning joke.
“Every morning he talks to us and tells us a joke,” she said. “Then, he makes sure we know how to solve it.”
Her mother, Lori, appreciates his involvement.
“He always takes time to get involved in the kids, whether it’s celebrating Christmas, playing games, doing crafts,” she said. “He’s a hands-on principal.”
Rachel Mascaro, who was with kindergartner Autumn, at Zentner’s retirement said his focus is on the students.
“Autumn loves him; he’s always friendly and smiling,” she said. “He’s always interested in what they’re saying.”
Former student Abbey Kammerman attended third through eighth grade under Zentner’s reign.
“He’s such a great principal,” she said. “He’s so caring and always has us doing something fun with students. He will play kickball, eat ice cream, run with the students, get dunked in the dunk booth at Jogapooloza and wants to make sure everyone is included — when it’s BYU vs. Utah, he will wear half and half.”
Fifth-grade student Taylor Perry said that her principal helped her through a rough time.
“Mr. Z is awesome; he’s the best principal I’ve ever had,” Taylor said. “I was dealing with some problems, some bully issues at school and he immediately dealt with it and was really understanding.”
Physical education and health teacher and athletic director Kim Arminen said Zentner’s influence has been positive.
“He makes all the kids smile, does super fun things with them, knows their names, their names of their carpools and is super supportive of the school programs,” she said. “He has refereed and helped with the three-on-three, four-on-four basketball games and the charter school sports program.”
Before he left, Zentner bought 1,200 cookies and distributed them to students and staff during one of his last school days.
“I’ve had a super staff who have been supportive, wanting to try new things, use good teaching practices, always learning — and had great community and family support. There are so many great memories, but they are one of the highlights,” he said. “Tyler is bright and has good judgment and is tech savvy. He understands the whole gamut about education and the coordination and support needed with students, parents, teachers and the education team.”
The transition from Zentner to assistant principal Whittle will be relatively seamless, Summit Academy Independence Campus Principal Lisa Cutler said.
“It was perfect timing to bring in Mr. Z as we were one of the first charters in the state and he was perfect fit for the school, city and our community,” said the former fifth-grade teacher and literacy coach who had responsibilities at the Draper campus under Zentner. “It was a pretty tricky start at the early years of Summit. He has just been a fabulous principal. Tyler came on board as an assistant three years ago and he has been an easy fit. He has a natural vision and focus on individual students. He is very good at goal setting and seeing where we need to move forward with the future of Summit and putting that into action.”
Whittle, who grew up in north Spokane, Wash. as the son of a family grocer, had several family members in the education field. He earned his bachelor’s degree in French teaching with an English-as-a-second language endorsement from Brigham Young University. Whittle earned his master’s in education-leadership administration at Arizona State University. He taught in Houston and was an administrative intern in Arizona before joining Summit Academy in 2013.
As principal, Whittle will oversee 50 faculty, 95 staff members and 1,000 elementary and junior high students.
His praise for Zentner is high.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with someone who is passionate for children and it’s been a big help for me as I start my administrative duties at Summit,” Whittle said. “Our personalities compliment one another and I’ve learned to understand his relationship he has built between the community, teachers, parents and kids. I want to continue that and establish good leadership systems that fit my leadership style and have a pro-active communication”
Whittle wants his elementary teachers and secondary teachers to “bounce ideas from one another to make us stronger. Summit is a great place, it has positive programs and it doesn’t need an overhaul. We will continue to do what we do well, add in some new leadership pieces for our fantastic teachers and move the needle forward in student achievement. I’m really excited. Since I was a freshman in college, I’ve wanted to be a principal and I couldn’t ask for a better place to be one.”
Under Whittle will be Beth Steele, who has 15 years of education experience, most recently as achievement coach at Union Middle School in Sandy. She has her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Columbia College in South Carolina and her master’s degree in education — leadership and supervision from the University of Phoenix.