Each day before school begins, Castagno, greets all 196 of the school’s 7th through 12th-grade students by name.
Because she puts such a high emphasis on students graduating high school, she refers to herself not as a godmother but as a ‘grad-mother.’ The WHS Principal often jokes with students about being a ‘motivational speaker’ as opposed to a nag.
“I love being with the kids,” said Castagno. “I love guiding them and encouraging them to ‘make good choices, do your best, and don’t fail your classes.’ I tell them, ‘I will not give up on you. Don’t give up on yourself.’”
The genuine interest she has in the wellbeing of each student and staff member is just one of the reasons why the Tooele County School District Superintendent’s Executive selected her as the 2019 TCSD Administrator of the Year.
Mark Ernst, TCSD Grantsville Area Director, has known Castagno for more than eight years and has been her supervisor for the past two and a half years. He describes her as a true professional who always takes care of whatever she is tasked with.
“She is easy to work with and is a master at creating a good climate and culture at her school,” said Ernst. “She went into Wendover High and found out what was good and made it even better. She is very deserving of the award. She didn’t anticipate it, but she definitely appreciated it.”
Ernst added that because Castagno lives in Wendover, she has a good understanding of many unique challenges the community faces.
“She not only wants students to succeed but the whole community to thrive,” he said.
Doelene Pitt, TCSD assistant superintendent, who has also known Castagno for many years, agreed.
“She always looking for new ways to improve not only herself but her staff, students and community. She is an amazing administrator and a shining example of life-long learning. It has been a joy to work closely with her. She is a very talented lady and well-deserving of this award,” said Pitt.
Castagno described receiving the award as overwhelming.
“There are a lot of awesome principals across the District, both those who have many years of experience and those who are new and up and coming. Many of them are truly deserving of the award but it was validating for me to be recognized for everything I put into this job.”
Castagno has been working in education for 20 years. She has taught kindergarten, first grade, worked as a Title I Specialist and served as principal of Anna Smith and Ibapah Elementary as well as WHS.
Growing up in Milford, Utah with a mother and father who taught school, Castagno always dreamed of becoming a teacher herself.
“I really enjoyed helping my mom in her first-grade classroom and also watching her teach adults how to read,” said Castagno. “She was a really good example of service and still is.”
After completing high school, Castagno attended Southern Utah University to earn a degree in Elementary Education. She received a minor in Early Childhood Development with an emphasis in Special Education. She later went on to earn a master’s degree from Western Governors University in Learning and Technology as well as a leadership endorsement.
Castagno said she has been able to make it to this point in her life thanks to the help of her parents and husband.
“I had good parents who really encouraged me to go after what I wanted. Even though they couldn’t always help me monetarily, they were always there to support me.”
She said her husband has always told her that if she really wants something then she should go for it. They share a daughter who is a senior at WHS and boy and girl twins who are in 5th Grade.
Castagno loves to help students and families in the Wendover community. She has an open-door policy to help with whatever she can.