It’s probably safe to assume that no young man — or young woman — has ever thought, “When I grow up, I want to be an assistant principal.”
And that never happened to Shawn Havill, who turned out to be one of the best — the Cleveland High assistant principal was recently named the Assistant Principal of the Year by the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals.
Each year NMASSP recognizes a secondary (middle or high school) assistant principal who has demonstrated outstanding success in leadership, curriculum and personalization.
Growing up in Peoria, Ariz., Havill thought about getting into the business world. After graduating from Peoria High, where he played three years of varsity football, he headed to Arizona State University to make that happen.
“I kinda grew into my role,” Havill recalled of those days in the Valley of the Sun. “During college I worked for the YMCA, ran some after-school programs — that’s how I got into the education field.
“(But) business was my field; I had all these business credits, and that’s when I switched to business ed and history.”
During his days at ASU, he met his future wife, Michelle, who was a native of Albuquerque.
Soon after graduation while in the Duke City, Havill visited a hiring fair at Rio Rancho High School.
“I started my career at Rio Rancho High School in 2007, and moved to Cleveland High when it opened in 2009,” he recalled. “As a teacher, I ran DECA at RRHS, then at Cleveland for a couple years. The first two years at Cleveland, I taught history and business.”
He also had taught social studies at CHS and was the social studies instructional leader there. He became assistant principal in 2017.
“Shawn was one of my unofficial mentors when I first started teaching,” CHS special education teacher Shayne Sawyer said. “As my instructional leader of the history department, he would walk around the history department to check on all the teachers, but he spent just that little extra bit of time in my classroom, checking on how I was doing.
“His suggestions, pointers and recommendations were invaluable, and his confidence in my ability helped me become a good teacher,” she added. “As an assistant principal, he is fair yet strong in dealing with my ninth-graders. He knows what it is to be a teacher, so he sees both sides of every issue that is presented to him. And he is always available to the teacher for questions or help in any of the situations we face in high school.
“Shawn absolutely deserves this award,” Sawyer said. “We are so happy for him and applaud his hard work.”
Needs in education
Havill enjoyed a recent visit to the nation’s capital, where he got to talk to some of New Mexico’s Congressional leaders.
“We talked about education, which we’re having difficulties in,” he said. “The (hiring) gap is not just in New Mexico; it’s a national problem.”
He hopes, thanks to recent $10,000 raises added to state teachers’ salaries, that more people will enter the profession — and have the same passion for education he has.
“I would like to congratulate (RRPS Superintendent) Sue Cleveland on a teacher basis, getting that $10,000 raise at each level,” he said. “It’s needed and deserved, when you look at other professions that need education; I think that will attract people into education.”
But Havill says that won’t happen overnight: The numbers he’s seen show 400 soon-to-be college graduates are headed to be teachers, but there are more than 1,000 vacancies in the state.
“It’s not gonna fill the need,” he said, hoping educational leaders will find a way to keep soon-to-retire educators around longer.
“In the long term, we need to get people back in the colleges, graduating with the ed degrees — because we have jobs for them,” he said. “We need an education pipeline to fill these positions we need.”
Meanwhile, Havill hopes to become a principal one day.
“I just really enjoy Cleveland High School; I’ve been here since the start of the school,” he said. “I like being part of the Cleveland community.”
He and Michelle, the principal at Maggie Cordova Elementary, have two children who attend MCE, but he assures us they won’t be Rams in the future.
“They’re gonna be Storm,” Havill, a big fan of Storm sports teams, affirmed. “They wear Storm gear.”
It’s not essential that the Havill kids, in second and fourth grade, play sports, their dad says.
“I’m a firm believer in kids gotta be involved in something — sports, band, clubs,” he said.
When they’re not in their respective schools, Havill said, the family enjoys fishing trips and relaxing.
“Seeing my kids fish makes me happy,” he added.