GRANGEVILLE – Grangeville Elementary Middle School (GEMS) has a new captain at its helm this year, though he’s not a stranger to the Camas Prairie.
Adam Uptmor is the new GEMS principal.
Uptmor was born and raised in Cottonwood and graduated from Prairie High School in 2000.
“I started out at the University of Idaho in engineering,” he explained, saying he took several high level mathematics classes.
When he decided he wasn’t sure about engineering as a career, he took action to do what came naturally.
“I wanted to coach, so I thought the best way to do that was get into teaching,” he explained.
He got his secondary education degree and teaching certificate in math and history. His first job was at Clearwater Valley High School in Kooskia where he instructed both junior high and high school students. He was there nine years before moving to Lewiston and teaching at Lewiston High School. Throughout his career he was able to coach, as well.
“Being raised in a familiar small town, it was good to go to a larger school and see how things ran,” he said. “The truth is, though, kids are kids.”
He married Summit Academy (now St. John Bosco) graduate Kimberly Frei and moved back to the area after three years in Lewiston. He returned to CVHS, this time as principal, and served there until the GEMS principal job came open.
“It was a good opportunity to not have to commute as far – since our home is in Grangeville,” he said. He also said he appreciates there are not as many nighttime and weekend activities at the elementary level.
“I’m able to spend more time with my family,” he said, which now includes 2-year-old daughter, Jolee, and 5-month-old son, Colson.
GEMS has 573 students, and Uptmor is busy trying to learn everyone’s name.
“Until I do, I try to visit classrooms, walk around and just be present so the students at least know who I am and become familiar with me,” he said.
Uptmor said he’s excited about working with a “great staff and amazing teachers who are looking for new ways for kids to learn and succeed,” he said.
One of the challenges Uptmor sees in education now is the need to help students with not only their academic needs, but also their social and emotional development.
“Children are so into technology – which can be a great learning tool – but they also need to have conversations with each other and adults,” he said.
He said he likes the teaching values and skills he has seen within Mountain View School District 244, and is especially cognizant of the “growth verses fixed” mindsets and attitudes.
“When kids say, ‘I’m not good at math,’ that’s a fixed mindset,” he explained. “Our teachers are really good at helping change that to a growth mindset that says, ‘You may not be at your best today, but you can and will get better.’”
Uptmor said he is impressed with the parental involvement he has seen so far at GEMS.
“There are really good things happening and I’m excited to be here,” he said.
When he isn’t working, Uptmor said he enjoys spending time with his family, sports, golfing and other outdoor activities.