Magdalena’s new high school principal Chris Backstrom will be a familiar face around campus. He spent the last three years teaching middle school math in Magdalena. Photo by Cathy Cook.

Magdalena’s new high school principal will be a familiar face on campus. Chris Backstrom has spent the last three years teaching middle school math in Magdalena.

Backstrom has been an educator for 15 years, including two years as an administrator. In the 2014 to 2015 school year and the 15 to 16 school year, he worked as assistant principal and athletic director at Socorro High School. He also taught at Sarracino Middle School for six years. He stepped into the role of Magdalena principal in early July.

“I love my job teaching,” said Backstrom. “I know it’s going to be hard for me this year to not have that all day social interaction with my kids in class.

“That’s going to be the hardest thing for me as principal is dealing with that loss of interaction with the kids, but that’s another goal, is I’m going to try to be as visible as I can so I don’t lose that relationship with the kids, so I don’t lose that bond I had with them in the classroom.”

Some of the biggest challenges this school year will be getting the school fully staffed with certified qualified staff members in the midst of a national teacher shortage. Improving student attendance will also be a challenge.

“Attendance is probably my biggest worry going forward, because it just seems after COVID, attendance has probably dropped a little bit in terms of students getting up on time and getting to school or missing more days than usual that they did pre COVID.”

One of his goals is to create an AVID culture on campus. AVID is a program that promotes college and career readiness. The school has an AVID elective class already, which focuses on teaching students organizational skills, college preparedness and critical thinking.

For Backstrom the next step is making sure that kids who are not in the AVID class are still aware of college opportunities. The program also has strategies teachers can use to help with high rigor lessons and student engagement in other classes.

Staff members went to an AVID Summer Institute in San Antonio when Backstrom first started to help accomplish this goal. Two staff members are able to train staff on the strategies.

“The thing is, we know not everybody is going to go to college,” said Backstrom. “But you never know who is going to change their mind down the road, so you don’t want to leave anybody out in case they do change their mind.”

The strategies also encourage student collaboration, which is important especially after the pandemic.

“We focus a lot on collaboration in there, so they get to learn how to converse with each other and talk with each other because kids today, they have a hard time communicating with each other. They’re not good at oral communication anymore.”

Backstrom’s other goals include keeping a strong interaction with kids and teachers, maintaining the school’s focus on short cycle assessment data and keeping a positive school climate. The school already has a data driven approach, where regular language arts and math testing is used to make sure students are on track and provide interventions when needed.

“We have a good collaborative staff that’s all in for the kids and always willing to do what’s best for them. That’s what I’m excited about, just continuing that community we have here,” said Backstrom.