My name is Wendy Dau, and I am thrilled to be named the new Superintendent of Provo City School District! There are so many great things happening at the schools within Provo, and we want to expand these opportunities and make it an even better community than it already is. I think it might be helpful to share a little about my background so that you understand why education is such an important part of my identity and my life’s work.
I was raised in Bountiful, Utah, and both of my parents immigrated from Denmark in the 1950s. At a very young age, I remember my parents sharing some wise insight with me. First, my dad told me to obtain as much education as possible, for it was the only way to get ahead in society, especially as a daughter of immigrants. He told me to work hard in school so that my education could be paid for through scholarships. There was no understanding in my family of federal financial aid or student loans; you either worked to support yourself in college or you earned scholarships to have your schooling paid for. I took this advice to heart, and I loved school, mostly because I had incredible teachers who opened my eyes and believed in me even when I did not believe in myself. The second insight was from my mother, who taught me that I was just as capable of achieving and accomplishing whatever my heart desired, as long as I worked hard and was persistent. My mom told me never to shy away from a challenge, and if anyone suggested that a particular profession or course of study was not appropriate for a girl, she immediately dismissed that. Everyone can achieve, according to my mom, no matter their background, their race, their gender, if they had the right mentors fighting for them and if they were willing to work hard.
I was fortunate. I had incredible mentors in school, particularly in middle school and high school. My teachers taught me how to write and challenged me to read thought-provoking literature. In particular, I gained a great love of history. I was fortunate in that I had not just one, but several teachers who impacted my life for the better. Since I was in Kindergarten, I had always wanted to be a teacher, but it was during my high school years that I made the decision to become a high school teacher because I wanted to help students on their pathway towards graduation and college. Once that decision was made, there was no looking back.
After high school, I attended Brigham Young University and majored in history and English. I had great practicum experiences at Provo High, Timpview High, Independence High, and Dixon Middle Schools. With each opportunity, I realized more and more that this was the career that I wanted. After graduating from BYU, I accepted at job at Davis High School in Davis School District. I remember being disappointed that I was not hired at my alma mater of Bountiful High, but my experience at Davis High ended up being the very best! I met my husband at Davis High, and I taught a variety of classes over the next seventeen years, including A.P. European and U.S. History. Helping students think critically and teaching them to write well were important to me, no matter the age or skill level of the student. I love it when my former students come back and say, “Do you remember how many essays you made write?” Why yes! Do you remember how many essays I graded? Whew! So many! While teaching, I earned a Master’s Degree in History from the University of Utah, focusing primarily on 19th and 20th century women’s history.
My husband eventually became an elementary principal and later a junior high principal and high school assistant principal. I became very familiar with the world of administration, and I finally decided to pursue a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah. Needless to say, we talk A LOT about education in our home. While finishing this master’s degree, I accepted a part-time administrative internship at Clearfield High School. When I finished my degree, I was hired to be an assistant principal at Jordan High School in Canyons District. Jordan High is one of the oldest high schools in the state, rich in tradition. I had great mentors, both at the school and district level, as I learned what it took to support teachers in their great work. After two years at Jordan High, I was assigned to be the principal of Midvale Middle School, one of the most highly impacted middle schools in the state. I learned so much from the faculty of this school, as their dedication and perseverance were beyond any I had ever seen. We had students from the Road Home Shelter. We had gifted and talented students in our gifted program, a Dual Immersion Spanish Program, a special class for students with significant behavior challenges, and we had to work together as a faculty to meet the needs of a very diverse group of learners. This assignment was one of the most challenging and most rewarding ever. The teachers who could connect with students and build those relationships were magical, and I never grew tired of sitting in their classes and seeing how they could engage students. While serving as the principal, we built a brand new building for our students and community, which sent a great message that our district was invested in all kids to ensure that they had great learning spaces.
After two years at Midvale Middle, I returned to Jordan High School as the head principal. What a great honor to return to serve this incredible faculty and staff. I loved going to work every day, even with the stress that comes from being a high school principal. I had the best administrative teams who worked collaboratively with teacher leaders to build a great community. The students kept me young and full of energy, and I loved sitting in classrooms seeing teachers build great relationships with young people as they helped them finish out their path towards graduation. Few things are better than shaking the hand of every single senior as they walk across the graduation stage to earn their diploma. I am inspired every year when I see the extraordinary accomplishments of young people, and I see the obstacles they overcome to achieve their goals. Even during Covid, I watched us come together as a community, and the appreciation that students developed for simple things like a school dance or an assembly was fun to see. I know that the life of a high school principal is hectic, but I loved extracurricular activities from the performing arts to athletics to competitions of every kind. Seeing kids do something they were passionate about was a great reward. The happiest moments were when you asked students what they loved about Jordan High and they said, “I love the diversity here. Everyone is included. We’re a family.”
For the past two years, I have served as the Director of Federal and State Programs in the Canyons District Office. I have been part of the Superintendent’s Cabinet, and I also facilitate our District Case Management Team which oversees all of our safe schools violations so that we can formulate plans to re-integrate students and ensure they have the supports they need while keeping students safe. I have overseen our Title I schools, all of our funding for English learners, after school programming, and supports for Native American students. I also participated in the development of our district’s Strategic Plan, and I oversee the committee that supports one of our major pillars: Access and Opportunity. It is no secret that I am a fighter for all students to have what they need to take advantage of the opportunities we provide. And to do this, we have to fight for teachers and principals to have the support they need to be effective with all students. I am currently working on my doctorate at the University of Utah in Educational Leadership and Policy, with my research focused on the impact that positive relations between superintendents and school boards can have on student outcomes.
On a personal note, my husband, David Dau, is a retired principal and currently teaches at the alternative high school in Canyons District. I have three amazing children: Zach, who is married to my brilliant daughter-in-law Kari; Caleb who is a paraeducator for students with severe disabilities, and Sierra who works as an occupational therapist for the elderly. But clearly the most important person in my family is my beautiful grandson, Beau, who is 18 months old. Nothing is better than watching your children grow into incredible adults that you want to be around and spend time with. I am so lucky to have such an incredible and supportive family!
The diversity of the Provo City School District excites me, as I believe we can create great opportunities and meet the needs of all students and families. I assure you that I will work hard for our kids and our families and our employees, and I hope that the passion that I have for education will be contagious, for as my dad said, education has the ability to open up endless opportunities for all when we work together!