Leslie McCourt-Nussman will begin working as Grand County Middle School’s new principal on Aug. 1. [Photo courtesy of Leslie McCourt-Nussman]

Leslie McCourt-Nussman’s official first day as Grand County Middle School’s new principal is Aug. 1. With 28 years of experience in education, McCourt-Nussman is leaving her position as a teacher specialist in Jordan School District and said she looks forward to starting a new school year on Aug. 16 with the 7th and 8th grade students at Grand County Middle School.

McCourt-Nussman recently talked with the Moab Sun News about her experience and knowledge in education.

Where did you grow up?

“I grew up in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia. I have always loved the outdoors. I spent most of days playing and hiking in the mountains of Virginia. I also loved the beaches, and collecting sea shells with my children and family members.”

Which schools did you attend and what did you study?

“I earned a bachelor’s of science degree, with an endorsement in secondary education and an emphasis in family consumer sciences, through the career and technical education (CTE) program from Virginia State University. I earned a master’s of education in administration and leadership, K-12, from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.”

In your early years, who was a figure or role model in your community or school who may have planted a seed of inspiration in you to become interested in working in education?

“I recollect being inspired by my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wheeler. She truly inspired me to love reading and learning. I remember wanting to be just like her one day.”

How long have you been working in education? What has your experience in education been like so far?

“I have worked in education for a combination of about 28 years. These positions include a preschool teacher, bus driver, middle school teacher, high school teacher, CTE teacher, CTE coordinator, an administrative position, health education teacher, district curriculum and instruction specialist for 24 schools, and district instructional coach and mentor for elementary, middle and high schools.”

What is the current position that you are leaving?

“I relocated to Utah from Virginia, and I have been working as a teacher specialist in curriculum and instruction with Jordan School District. I am fortunate to have worked with wonderful teachers and colleagues. I am excited to work alongside teachers and staff here in Moab.”

What do you enjoy most about education?

“I began a career in education because I loved children. My first position was as a preschool teacher. My love for education and students still holds true. I am thrilled to be the Grand County Middle School principal. I enjoy being with children, and getting to know them. I truly care that each student becomes the very best person that they can be.”

The late educator Maria Montessori is quoted as saying, “Education today, in this particular social period, is assuming truly unlimited importance. And the increased emphasis on its practical value can be summed up in one sentence: education is the best weapon for peace.” What do you see as some of the ways to promote peace at Grand County Middle School?

“It is about relationships first. As a staff and faculty, along with students, we will listen, learn and have positive, crucial conversations. I will focus on building relationships with students, parents, faculty, staff and the community as a whole. We will work collaboratively as a faculty and staff to create and maintain a vision for the school.”

As you know, school safety has been a big issue in the news lately, and it appears that violent acts are on the rise against school children across the country. What do you think can be done about the state of school safety today?

“There are many ways we as a staff can address making a school environment safer. Training, being willing to have crucial conversations, and implementing measures takes time. We as a staff and faculty will address these issues as we collaboratively create a vision for the school.”

Bullying is another issue that frequently gets brought up when people talk about the state of schools today. What do you think are some of the solutions to bullying?

“Bullying can threaten students’ and staff members’ physical, and emotional, abilities to learn. We need to feel safe to learn and function while at school. The best way to prevent bullying is to stop it before it starts. This happens when we are kind, we accept others and we build relationships.”

Schools are often ranked by state, or overall in the nation. But, how can schools and educators help to prepare students to compete in the global marketplace of ideas?

“The best way to prepare students for competing in a global economy today is to strengthen education. We as a staff and faculty are always learning ourselves; we encourage students to learn alongside with us, increasing rigor and efficacy. Other countries make strong investments in their schools by volunteering and donating to the schools. These same countries make improvements to the delivery of education — with retention, professional development and support for the teachers. When you support the learning of your teachers, you in turn create an environment where students want to be and they will rise to the expectations of the rigor. Partnerships within the community, and a nation at large, will help our students compete as we add programs aligned with the district’s vision. I am excited to work with the school board and the superintendent as we implement cutting-edge curriculum and programs for our students.”

What message do you want to give students (and their parents) entering the new school year?

“We will celebrate all of their accomplishments together as a community. Grand County Middle School students can be full of pride and school spirit because they are the best. The panel interviews I participated in had parents, PTA, community members, teachers and staff — I want to thank everyone who has been involved so far. The outpouring of support that I have received since the announcement has been wonderful. It truly is my honor and privilege to work with your children this year. I look forward to meeting and working with each of you this year. Don’t hesitate to come by the school, visit and volunteer here with us. Help make it an unforgettable year.”

What is your favorite beverage?

“My favorite drink is water. I enjoy many different drinks, however. I think that all drinks are created equal. All drinks can be enjoyed at the same table if served with kindness, acceptance, understanding and genuine hospitality.”

Do you have a motto, slogan or quote that you live by, or are often reminded of?

“One of my favorite quotes to live by is from Henry David Thoreau. He said, “The only way to tell the truth is to speak with kindness.”

Which books have you read recently?

“Books I have read recently include “Better Conversations”; “High Impact”; “Visible Learning for Literacy”; “Before We Were Yours”; “Mindset”; “The Soul of America”; and “Breaking Night.”


JT Stroder, Grand County School District superintendent, said McCourt-Nussman was selected as the top choice for the principal position after a lengthy application review process by a middle school committee made up of teachers and parents.

“McCourt-Nussman is genuine, and she is knowledgeable in regards to curriculum and instruction,” Stroder said. “She has a strong knowledge of at-risk populations. She understands students that may not be the average student.”

McCourt-Nussman fills the principal position following the school district’s decision to relocate longtime principal Melinda Snow, Stroder told the Moab Sun News.

“The former principal, Melinda Snow, is currently filling another administrative position within the school district,” Stroder said. Stroder said the school district moved Snow in order to fill the administrative position and said employees are moved to fill different roles within the school district on an as-needed basis.

Stroder said two new positions are being added at Grand County Middle School: a full-time school-based therapist, and an academic behavior specialist.

“We believe that the school-based therapy is extremely valuable in what we do. We have had one at the elementary school, and we have split one at the middle and high school. We feel that with the positive efforts they bring to the school district, we need a full-time therapist at each campus,” Stroder said.

Stroder said is an average of about 230 students in the middle school.

The Grand County School District’s next board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 18, at 5:15 p.m. For more information, contact the school district at 435-259-5317.

Leslie McCourt-Nussman discusses life, teaching, peace and building relationships

“It is about relationships first. As a staff and faculty, along with students, we will listen, learn and have positive, crucial conversations. I will focus on building relationships with students, parents, faculty, staff and the community as a whole. We will work collaboratively as a faculty and staff to create and maintain a vision for the school.”