In a surprise announcement last week, Horizon Honors Secondary Principal Cynthia Shaheen retired from the position she has held since 2015, but said she would continue as a part-time “Administrator on Special Assignment” to assure a smooth transition for her successor.
“The losses I have experienced in this last year, including the unexpected passing of my husband, have taken a toll on me; however, my commitment to Horizon Honors remains, I just need to take a step back and shift my role,” she told parents and colleagues in her announcement last week.
Shaheen had been teaching at Horizon for 19 years when she was appointed ion 2015 to succeed former principal Nancy Emmons.
Prior to that appointment, she helped start Horizon Honors’ elementary program and was a K2 team leader. Shaheen also took the school through its first North Central Accreditation process, which got the secondary school accredited.
She then helped develop Horizon Honors’ intermediate school, where she became a mentor teacher. Shaheen continued to improve the school by developing Horizon Honors’ Performing Arts classes. Then, she was asked to become a master teacher; at first for K-12 and then for secondary school, where she has been up until her selection as principal.
She told the campus paper in 2015, that she always found teaching to be rewarding, stating she enjoyed “just watching lightbulbs go on in a student’s mind; that moment when I see them understand. And that pride and ownership to learning is absolutely where I see joy and satisfaction.”
Prior to arriving at Horizon, Shaheen held various positions, including director of education for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center and supervising student teachers at the University of Idaho.
“I first came to Horizon not seeking employment but to find more information about the school for my daughters at their first parent meeting,” Shaheen told the campus paper.
“I was not satisfied with the education they were receiving, and I was working as a special education director for another school at that time. I introduced myself to the founders, and asked them if I could assist, not for employment, but in collaboration. They wanted to continue our discussion, and ultimately I decided to come back to the classroom.”
She was instrumental shortly after she became principal in advancing Horizon Honors into the digital world, implementing Google Classroom in all classrooms – which ultimately helped the school transition smoothly to all-virtual learning last March when the pandemic forced campuses in Arizona to close.
“I also really want to hear what our students want, and a reflection of that would be the student focus group we held last winter,” she told the campus paper. “I want to be accessible, and I want them to know what they think matters.”
In her retirement announcement, Shaheen said leaving her position was “bittersweet” and said it had been “a tremendous honor” to have served the school.
“It is with a bittersweet heart that I write to inform you that I am retiring from my position as the Secondary School Principal. I would like to express that it has been a tremendous honor to be your Principal and to have served the Horizon Honors community in many different capacities since 1996.
“To my staff at Horizon Honors, there are few words that will do to express my gratitude to each and every one of you,” she wrote. “Your commitment to educating and caring for every child is apparent each day and it has been a privilege to call you my team. Great educators make an imprint on their students and help them to realize what they are capable of as students and as people, and I am grateful for the impact you make on the lives of our students.”
She also said she treasured the fact she spent her days “striving to create a school where students can find their passions, express themselves, and grow intellectually and personally. As I make this transition, I remain dedicated to these ideals and am grateful to every Horizon Honors family who has allowed me to Learn, Believe, Dream, and Dare alongside their children.”