Two Utah County principals and one Davis County principal are Utah's 2008 Secondary Principals of the Year.

The winners, named by the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals, are:

* Alpine School District's Pleasant Grove High School principal Jess Christen, high school principal of the year;

* Davis School District's Syracuse Junior High School principal Robin Bowden, middle school principal of the year;

* Provo School District's Dixon Middle School assistant principal Taran Chun, assistant principal of the year.

The three state winners receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a national leadership workshop. They will be entered in the 2009 National Association of Secondary School Principals contest, which is sponsored by MetLife Inc.

Christen, Bowden and Chun were selected from nominees and chosen by a committee of administrators, parents and students.

Christen is in his fifth year as principal of Pleasant Grove High School.

"I'm humbled," Christen said of the award. "There are so many great principals out there doing so many great things."

He said he is looking forward to attending the national meeting in Washington, D.C., with the other educators and "seeing what I can learn from them."

Christen began his career as a biology teacher at Provo High School and served as an assistant principal at Centennial Middle School in Provo before being named principal at Pleasant Grove in 2003.

Entering the field of teaching was an opportunity to "help young people grow and improve themselves," he said.

Making a transition to education administration allowed for a bigger circle of influence, he said. "I can reach more people and help them achieve their goals," Christen said.

Alpine School District Superintendent Vernon Henshaw said Christen is a "strong advocate for students." Christen also "sets high standards for students, teachers and staff," he said.

At Syracuse Junior High, Bowden says working with the community, parents and teachers is what keeps her in education. The principal says she gets to serve people in one way or another all the time. "It's a good feeling to be in a service profession, and I enjoy that ... as well as the ability to use creativity to solve problems and issues," Bowden said.

She began her career as a math instructor at West High School in Salt Lake City and has taught at Logan High and at Northridge High and Central Davis Junior High in Layton.

Syracuse parent Gayla Hancock said Bowden is a "skillful, devoted leader who thoroughly understands the meaning of an education and effectively communicates with parents and the community on helping the students to maximize their potential in school and at home."

Bowden was an assistant principal at Mueller Park Junior High in Bountiful before being named Syracuse Junior High's principal. The school was named one of Utah's Schools to Watch in 2007.

Bowden has been in the education arena for 27 years and has been in Davis School District since 1987.

Spencer Hansen, assistant principal at Syracuse Junior High, said Bowden isn't the kind of principal to be satisfied with the status quo. "She likes to push and empower people to take on those active changes for kids," Hansen said.

Bowden has also led the school to win a number of awards based on innovation and achievement.

"She expects us to be the best and she gives us the tools we need to get there," Hansen said. "She leads us, and it's fitting for her to have this type of award and be recognized as a principal that is both innovative and well-known."

Dixon Middle School's Chun began his education career as an at-risk youth counselor before taking a job teaching physical education, health, science and math at Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, Hawaii.

Chun said of the honor, "It's a feather in my cap but also humbling as well. I'm supported by good people. The teachers at Dixon are just outstanding. The good things happening at our school are because of their great work."

After moving from Hawaii to complete a master's in degree at Brigham Young University, Chun took over as assistant principal at Dixon Middle School in 2004. Chun is also working on a doctoral degree at the University of Utah and is focusing on developing support networks for Hispanic students at Dixon.

"It's a growing population in Provo, and we need to be proactive in meeting their needs," Chun said.

Provo Superintendent Randall J. Merrill said Chun contributes to the global goals of the district. "He is active in advancing solutions to challenging education issues faced by our district, especially those related to limited English proficient students," Merrill said.

Dixon Middle School Principal Rosanna Ungerman has rave reviews on Chun. "As an assistant principal, I couldn't ask for a finer one."

E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]