Las Vegas, N.M. – A Highlands University alumnus is the principal of an Arizona public school that was named an A+ School of Excellence.
Michael Crudder, B.A. 1986 and M.A. 1987, leads Copperwood Elementary School in Glendale, Arizona. The Arizona Educational Foundation tapped Copperwood for the A+ honor in May.
“Copperwood provides a rigorous learning environment for K-8 students who have advanced intellectual, academic or creative capabilities which cannot be successfully realized in a traditional setting,” Crudder said. “Copperwood offers a unique magnet gifted school within a school, providing the best innovative educational practices for all our students.”
Of the 870 students at Copperwood, Crudder said 225 are considered highly gifted.
“We treat all of our students as if they are gifted. They have high academic achievement because our expectations are high and we challenge them,” Crudder said.
He added that because Copperwood has a tradition of excellence, the school gets frequent visitors from Arizona and across the country to observe teaching practices.
“We charge these visitors to differentiate between the gifted and regular education classes, and they have a hard time doing this,” Crudder said.
He said that Copperwood has a stellar team of teachers and staff.
“Water is hot at 211 degrees, but at 212 degrees it boils. At Copperwood, we’re about that extra degree in pushing for academic excellence in our students, fostering their social growth and providing outstanding customer service to our community,” Crudder said.
Copperwood Elementary also earned the A + School of Excellence distinction in 2008 when Crudder was the assistant principal. The same year, the Peoria Unified School District school board named him principal at Copperwood – making him the first African-American principal in the district’s history.
“I’m here for all children, but for students of color, it’s good to see that they have a principal that looks like them. It sends the message than anything is possible,” Crudder said.
Crudder earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. He is an adjunct education faculty member at Rio Salado College, a community college system that serves Phoenix and the surrounding area.
In 2014, Rio Salado College named Crudder for its Outstanding Adjunct Faculty of the Year Award.
Crudder calls himself a U.S. Air Force brat who spent many of his early years in the Washington, D.C. area before graduating from the Bitburg American High School in Germany in 1981. He was playing basketball at New Mexico Junior College when the Highlands head men’s basketball coach Henry Sanchez recruited him.
“I got to be part of Coach Sanchez’ winning basketball legacy, but the number one thing for me was that I was at Highlands to get a good education. At the same time, the role that Coach Sanchez played in my life in both academics and personal development is immeasurable. It’s part and parcel of where I am today,” Crudder said.
Sanchez, who also taught at Highlands, posted record-breaking winning basketball seasons from 1983 – 1996. He is also credited with rebuilding the boy’s basketball program at Robertson High School in Las Vegas from 1996 – 2001.
After retiring, Sanchez served as the mayor of Las Vegas from 2002 – 2008. He died in 2011.