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Davis Journal

Van Natter values her connection with others

Apr 29, 2021 12:44PM ● By Becky Ginos

FARMINGTON—Dr. Helene Van Natter always knew she wanted to become a teacher. So after spending her career in education, it’s time for the next chapter. Van Natter is currently an Elementary Director for the Davis School District and will be retiring at the end of the school year.

“I started at East Layton when it first opened,” she said. “I was pregnant and the plan was to continue working but when I had the baby I stayed home for 10 years with my children.”

When she returned, Van Natter went to Hill Field Elementary and taught second grade for four years. “Then I went to Layton Elementary where I worked half day as a teacher and half day as assistant principal while I got a master’s in administration at the U of U.”

Van Natter then got a doctorate at BYU. “My undergrad was at Weber State so I have all the colors,” she said. 

She spent two years as principal at Monte Vista then became principal at Cook Elementary. “I was there for nine years,” Van Natter said. “Then I was principal at Vae View for four years and became school director. I’ve been in that position for the last nine years.”

Van Natter attributes her decision to become a teacher to her mother. “I think when she became a teacher in the Davis School District I ended up here too and just loved it.”

It wasn’t long before she realized that administration was where she wanted to be. “I like being in on the decision making,” said Van Natter. “I hadn’t been a principal for long when I was involved in a boundary study and district level things. I knew I wanted to be a school director.”

It’s a job that is different every day, she said. “You have a whole list of to dos then you do what comes at you.”

Van Natter was named Principal of the Year in 2008 and represented the state at the national level. “It was fulfilling to be recognized by my peers,” she said. “I looked at all the other principals and thought ‘I wish I would have done that.’ There’s always so much to learn from other people.”

She completed her master’s and doctorate at night while working full time. “When I was an under graduate I took 21 hours a semester,” said Van Natter. “But in my graduate programs I had 10 or 12. Boy it’s harder once you have those children. But that’s the most important role I’ve had.”

Her family is all involved in the district as well. “My oldest is an elementary principal,” Van Natter said. “My daughter is a school psychologist and her husband is a teacher. He proposed to her in the classroom."

Another son is in construction management and works for the district and her daughter-in-law was teaching and working in the district. “When I preach that Davis School District is a great place to be I mean it. My husband says all we do is talk shop,” she said. “All my grandchildren are in Davis schools too. My heart will always stay in Davis.”

Van Natter said the highlight of her career has been the connection with people. “My first year as a principal I saw one of the children in the parking lot at Costco. He was waving and said ‘hi Mrs. Principal.’ We’re a rock star with these kids. We have to make things right for them.”

Teachers play such an important role, she said. “They’re a teacher to my 17 grandchildren — they’re everything.”