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Canyon Springs principal recognized with Principal of the Year award


Elizabeth Medora

ANTHEM – Ask local parents and students about Canyon Springs STEM Academy Principal Tricia Graham, and you’ll get responses like, “Amazing”, “Hard-working”, and “Best principal ever!” Principal Graham has been recognized for her dedication to education and community with the Deer Valley Unified School District Principal of the Year Award for 2017.

This school year is Graham’s 22nd year working in education.

“I have taught special education and general education in Michigan, New Zealand, Cave Creek, and DVUSD,” Graham said in an email interview. In 2002, she began working as an assistant principal at Desert Mountain School, then worked as an AP at Gavilan Peak School. Graham started her first principalship at New River School in 2004, leaving New River for Canyon Springs seven years later.

“I am beginning my seventh year as principal at Canyon Springs,” Graham noted.

Graham was nominated for this award by her administrative peers. In a news release on, the Deer Valley Unified School District noted that Graham has helped her school provide “equity, quality, and choice for students and families.” The release noted Graham’s work in creating focus programs, including the expansion of the Renaissance Gifted Academy and ensuring students have Spanish instruction in all grades.

“In addition, through systemic change and a focus to improve STEM education school-wide, Canyon Springs is recognized as an Arizona STEM-focused school,” the release stated. “Students at Canyon Springs School saw increases in AzMERIT scores in both English Language Arts and Math this past spring.”

Canyon Springs, an A+ School of Excellence, is continuing its focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in the new school year.

“We are working towards becoming one of the first five schools in the state to be an Official Certified STEM School by the National AdvancED Accreditation organization,” Graham said.

Canyon Springs is also joining forces with awareness and outreach network MASK.

“We are excited to be partnering with MASK ( to bring awareness to our staff, students, and partner with parents regarding all of the issues our children face and how to help them be mindful and make positive decisions while giving the adults in their lives tools to have meaningful conversations with them,” Graham described.

Asked about goals for the upcoming school year, Graham noted, “Our goal every year is to make school a home and family environment. This way, our students know we believe in them and we can focus on their academic and socio-emotional progress.”

“A focus this year will be on ‘Grit,’” Graham continued. “Most of the students who have been with us for years are pretty good about setting goals for themselves, but we are going to have a laser focus on our older students, ensuring that "Grit" or perseverance, hard work, and accountability are incredibly important virtues to embrace as they begin to move out of adolescence and in to young adulthood.”

Being an educator is both a difficult job and an extremely rewarding job. Graham’s inspiration has always been helping kids learn in the best way possible for them.

“My focus is and always has been doing what is best for kids,” Graham said. “My best days are when I am out of my office interacting with students, building relationships and enjoying my time with them in class or around campus. My job is to make the job of my teachers easier while ensuring a safe and happy culture and focused learning environment for our students.”