Principal Profile: Sid Rundle, Cresthill Middle School
HIGHLANDS RANCH – From the stage, to the pulpit, and finally into the classroom, Sid Rundle traveled a long, unique path only to find himself where fate would have it: as the principal of Cresthill Middle School.
While an education career seemed to fit in nicely with his teaching parents, sister, and stepmother, Rundle longed for a sense of individuality. He had also lived in Denver his whole life and attended the same Denver Public Schools as his parents; so upon graduation, he set out to find his identity.
“For college, I knew that I wanted to go away and figure out my life on my own so I picked the Pacific Northwest,” he explained. “I had never been there or seen the campus but I just hopped on a plane and left to the University of Puget Sound (UPS) in Washington.”
At first, finding a major was almost as blind as his voyage to UPS, but he eventually decided that he was going to be an actor. Four years later, he graduated with a theater arts degree, got married and returned back to Denver in hopes of becoming a “fabulously successful stage actor,” as he put it, playfully reminiscing about his early 20s mindset.
Unfortunately, his stint at the community theater wasn’t exactly paying the bills, so he accepted, and absolutely loved the job as a disabled children’s camp counselor.
“That was probably the initial hook that pulled me into my inevitable fate of returning to education,” Rundle admitted. “But I still had to travel that journey a little bit longer.”
And that journey took another interesting turn, as he enrolled himself in the Denver Theological Seminary for a pastoral degree. However, after a few classes of Hebrew, Greek, and the Old and New Testament, his wife had the opportunity to be a volunteer nurse at a men’s medical homeless shelter in Washington D.C. Rundle tagged along, putting some of his Christian understanding and beliefs into real world practice.
After a profound year of volunteering at the shelter, the couple returned to Denver—prompting Rundle to make another decision about whether or not he should return to seminary.
“I had a crisis of conscience” he explained, “I just didn’t see myself standing at a church Sunday mornings delivering sermons. That’s just not where my heart was.”
So, he took a job teaching at risk students at the mental health facility called Hampden Academy and low and behold, discovered his heart was truly happiest mentoring young adolescents.
“That really was the foundation for everything I believe and hold as a value inside of me in terms of an educator,” he professed. “It was a very raw experience of what it means to be a teacher in a system that’s simply trying to do it’s best to hold on to these kids and do what’s right by them.”
In order to continue working for the Academy; however, Rundle needed to be certified. He was offered a scholarship by the University of Colorado in Denver to achieve his general teaching degree and master’s, as long as he majored in the high demand field of Special Education.
“I loved working with the kids at the summer camp back when I was a counselor, and the students I was working with at Hampden were a very special education population also,” he said, “So the seed was there and I could see myself doing that.”
He continued to work for Hampden Academy as he pursued his Special Education degrees, until he left in order to complete the student teaching credit. As part of the government scholarship, he was placed in a low income and highly impacted community middle school in Commerce City, where he spent an entire year being student mentored. His love for middle-schoolers flourished.
“They have great spirit. They’re not jilted or tuned out, but are starting to come into their own with personality. They’re quirky and they’ve got great senses of humor and can make you laugh and can (also) make you cry.”
“And they smell a little bit,” he lightheartedly added. “I just fell in love with middle school kids.”
Upon accreditation, he went to Douglas County and accepted his first official special education teaching job at, coincidentally, Cresthill Middle School. From there, he helped open all four of the Highlands Ranch middle schools, helping to develop the special education department at each. He began to foster a sense of leadership and decided to try his hand at administration.
“That was sort of the move towards ‘I see things I would do differently and that I don’t think are congruent with my value system,’ he explained. “I would treat my people differently and wouldn’t allow certain things to happen in the culture of my building.”
After a little push from his colleagues to go out and do something about it, Rundle then returned to school and received his principals’ license. Three years later, after a brief stint as assistant principal for Mountain Ridge MS, his career came full circle and he accepted the principal position at Cresthill MS.
In January of next year, Rundle will be entering his 7th year as principal of Cresthill. He says being a school administrator is a bit like being a minister-- he is the shepherd of the community and building, just with a specific lens in education.
“It’s my dogged belief and my value system around developing sturdy human beings for a complicated world," he said. "It’s about their heart, soul, spirit and mind and my belief is that you cannot develop the mind of kids until you’ve captured their heart. It’s kind of glib but it’s true—kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Only then have you created the conditions where you can really ask them to develop their minds as thinkers, learners, mathematicians and scientists.”
He continued on saying, “As the great (William Butler) Yates puts it ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, it’s the lighting of a fire.’ Kids can find out whatever information that they want on their phones. What we need to do is develop human beings who know what to do with that information; and more importantly how do they act intellectually when they don’t know the information. That’s the type of human beings that are going to be needed for our very complex future.”
Rundle spreads that message even outside Cresthill’s walls, teaching recertification classes through a consulting firm that offers weekend workshops for teachers across the state.
“The reason why I teach these classes to teachers is first and foremost, I like to stay grounded,” he said. “The more pressure that gets added to high stakes testing the more thirsty teachers are to be reminded of the message that its all about relationships, relationships, relationships.”
Rundle also remains active in his church, even sometimes giving guest sermons. The rest of his limited spare time is usually spent gardening and riding motorcycles with his wife. His two sons attend college in the Northwest as well, and he enjoys visiting them and his wife’s family there as much as possible.