Blending the best of 2 worlds
New Churchill County High School Principal Scott Winter has the best of two worlds.
He has a love for music, something he nurtured as a student at the University of Wyoming in the 1990s. Second, as an educator whose career has taken him to a handful of states, he loves to see students grow and reach their potential.
Until July, Winter had been principal at JG Johnson Elementary School in Pahrump, but because of family circumstances, he wanted his family to be together and not scattered between two states. Winter’s journey, though, has been an enriching one.
Winter grew up near the North Platte River in the small eastern Wyoming town of Guernsey, where he graduated from high school in 1989. During the summers he worked on the area ranches to earn extra money before attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie where he majored in secondary education and social studies.
“While there, one of the biggest impacts was in a musical group called the Centennial Singers,” Winter said. “We toured 22 states while I was in there performing.”
He also met his future wife, Amelda, who equally shared his passion for music and education. Winter said they met lifelong friends when touring the country, and as a result, friends from the Centennial Singers have been involved in each other’s weddings.
Performing before a live audience prepared Winter, though, for his life as an educator.
“They had such strong impacts,” he pointed out. “There’s the soft skills, how to present yourself and promote yourself. Performing can be brutal, but it took me all over the country. In education is the ability to lead.”
After graduation from the University of Wyoming, both Scott and Amelda accepted teaching positions in Farson, a small town of about 315 people 40 miles north of Rock Springs in the western part of the state. Winter said they were young college graduates not knowing what to expect in the agricultural community. The music bug, though, was difficult to push away, and they decided to head east to attend the Boston Conservatory for additional training.
“We were gypsy-like chasing the theater life,” Winter said. “Even while performing from show to show, I would do workshops or help out with dance choreography.”
Still, the other passion persisted. They moved to Lubbock, Texas, for a year because his brother lived there. Scott Winter taught theater arts at a grades 7-9 magnet school while finishing his administrative degree. His first offer to enter the administrative side of education came at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, Wyoming, a “short” 100 miles northwest of his hometown of Guernsey.
“I was getting order and in doing so, exploring the administration side. School improvement was a big passion of mine, and it was a way to use data to make things better,” Winter said. “My mentor, principal Brad Dillar, let me explore the things I was passionate about.”
In comes Winter’s second life and another opportunity to become involved with the theater.
The Winters relocated to Durango, Colo., near the Four Corners region where a friend from the Centennial Singers owned a live theater not too far from there. The Winters, though, needed jobs to support their stay, so Scott became assistant principal at Durango High School, and Almeda was hired as a counselor.
“We wanted to get to the musical side,” he said. “We took a chance. My oldest daughter was doing theater at the time and getting performances under her belt. I was a founding board member.”
Durango High School focused on small learning environments, and Scott Winter was in charge of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), an area that gave him much experience.
“It was right up my alley with that art component,” he added.
The Winters had no plan in leaving Durango until the school district cut Almeda’s counseling position. They returned to Wyoming where Scott became the assistant principal at Rock Springs High School, and Western Wyoming Community College hired Almeda. Scott’s new assignment, however, took him further away from the arts and landed him with the role of monitoring discipline and attendance. He was not deterred, though.
“You gain different experiences from all that,” he said. “You use data and find the most efficient way to make things work.”
Winter, though, said administering discipline and attendance policies gave him a better insight into knowing students better and the social issues that affected them. For years, Winter served as an assistant principal, but he wanted to continue his climb to become a principal. The first break occurred two years when the Nye County School District hired him to become principal of a Title I school for grades Pre K-5. Almeda, though, couldn’t find a counseling position — school district or private — in the area, so she opted to return to Western Wyoming where she could practice, and they resorted to a long-distance relationship for seven months.
For years, however, the Winters enjoyed the rugged scenery of Nevada and had hiked in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and explored other areas. They felt Nevada could be a good fit. That being said, they didn’t want to continue with the long-distance relationship, either. They saw an announcement for Churchill County High School principal in June, and Scott took a chance and inquired. Scott looked into the Fallon opening, and Kevin Lords, now CCSD’s Human Resource director but former CCHS principal, set up an interview. Almeda is currently following up on her own job search in the Fallon area. They have a son, who will enter fourth grade, and a daughter who’s a sophomore. Their oldest daughter, the one who learned about live theater in Colorado, is attending the American Music and Dramatic Academy in New York City and will transfer to the academy’s Los Angeles campus in October. In less than a year, she will finish her requirements for a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts degree.
Scott Winter said he’s impressed with the school district and what the high school offers. During the past three years, Gov. Brian Sandoval has visited Fallon’s STEM labs at the elementary and middle-school levels, and CCSD has been recognized as one of the top districts in the state for advancing the sciences. The emphasis is also including Career and Technical Education.
“We do need to prepare students for life,” he said, explaining how skills students learn are all related and transferable.
The first-year principal said Almeda is excited to be a part of Fallon and they both look forward to community service.
“Honestly, for my family, Fallon feels like home,” he said. “There are many aspects from Wyoming that are here. This is a smaller town with a lot of opportunity to do different things and to explore.”