Skip to main content

Before ever meeting BJ Campbell, the Assistant Principal at Chinook Trail Elementary School (CTES), parents know her as the songstress who welcomes their children to school each morning. On Wednesdays, BJ welcomes this with extra spirit, chanting, “It’s Hump Day!” The Wednesday morning welcome has become a staple for students and parents, who sing along.

“I love to remind students; we’ve made it to the middle of the week. We’re almost there!” Campbell said. “Parents just love knowing there is someone out there greeting their children with joy.”

Campbell’s positive attitude is contagious. After 32 years in education, she’s known across the Pikes Peak Region for spreading her incredible kindness to everyone she encounters.

Jennifer Swan, a Special Education Program Facilitator at Academy District 20 (ASD20) and one of Campbell’s former staff members wrote in her nomination, “Campbell’s positivity is unmatched by anyone I have worked with in my 15-year career and that kind of positivity is what our world needs.”

At the end of this school year, Campbell is retiring. After 27 years with Academy District 20, Campbell calls this final hurrah, bittersweet.

“I’m not counting down the days, but I do have to catch myself sometimes around my students. I can’t let them know I’m sad to leave, because this really is a joyous time in my life,” Campbell explained.

Coming to ASD20

Campbell’s career in education began as a Principal’s Secretary. She worked at the same school she attended as a young girl, Helen Hunt Elementary School in Colorado Springs.

While there, the principal Dr. Maggie Lopez, encouraged her to take the next step, saying, “You need to become a teacher.” So, Campbell did just that.

In 1996, she started as kindergarten teacher at High Plains Elementary School. At the time, the school offered half-day kindergarten, meaning she was teaching 25 students in the morning and another 25 in the afternoon. Despite the chaos, Campbell remembers wanting to do more.

“I knew then, I wanted to be the principal one day.”

In 1998, she joined a group of ASD20 teachers aspiring to become school principals, called the “Administration Cohort.” This model allows district leaders to grow principals from its very own crop of employees. When Campbell joined, this structure of learning was new and led by district leader, Dr. Mary Thurman, an ASD20 Class of 2022 Hall of Excellence Inductee. At the end of the class, teachers receive their administrator’s license.

Campbell was quickly promoted to a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) at High Plains Elementary School, where she learned the ropes of being a principal. In 2004, Campbell moved to Frontier Elementary School and then officially became the Assistant School Principal at CTES in 2008. 

Why Education?

When Campbell graduated from high school, she joined the U.S. Army and earned a degree in Business Management, hoping to one day open a restaurant. She never envisioned herself becoming a teacher, let alone, a school administrator. But becoming a stellar educator runs in Campbell’s family.

One day her aunt, Dr. Barbara Swaby, a renowned educator, and advocate for literacy in Colorado told Campbell, “She would trust me to teach her kids.”

Campbell said Swaby’s words moved her and were the biggest influence in her life.

“She is somebody I put on the pedestal for education and education for all kids,” Campbell said.

In 2001, Campbell was named the Charles W. Tewell Elementary Educator of the Year. Throughout her career, she’s been asked to speak at the Colorado Association of School Executives Convention three times, most recently, at the 2022 Convention about Equity in Education.

Educating and Inspiring Students to Thrive

Campbell is the embodiment of the ASD20 mission statement, “We educate and inspire students to thrive.” Nearly 20 years ago, she was instructed to write three statements she’d carry through career.

Hanging on a board inside her office, visitors will find the words, “Have faith that their success is something you can inspire.”

She explained, “I believe I can make a difference for kids. I really believe that.”

During her entire career, making a difference for students has meant stepping outside of her comfort zone.

“Being a part of ASD20 as a black woman was a journey,” she said. “I had a parent who asked if their bi-racial student could be in the ‘colored teacher’s classroom, or if a family had adopted a black student, they’d come to me because I’m easy to ask any kind of questions.”

Campbell fiercely believes in a quality education for all students, no matter what they look like, where they come from, or their abilities. In her nomination submission, Swan wrote, “BJ makes it a point to get to know her neediest students in the building.  Those students range from students with special needs to those who may have a rough go at home.  She makes sure that everyone knows they are loved.”

Rapid Fire Questions

What is your why?
“God. I would have never picked this job without Him. He knew it would be the perfect fit.”

Tell me about a time a student made a lasting impact on you.
“I can’t pick just one. This year it seems like I’m closest with my fifth graders,” she said. After being a kindergarten teacher for several years, Campbell knows what it’s like to lose contact with your students when they grow up.

She fondly recounted a student she used to call “Smiley Boy.” He earned the nickname, ironically, because he didn’t smile very often. Years later, while at Pine Creek High School, she heard someone yell, “Mrs. Campbell, it’s me! Smiley Boy!” She said, “That moment melted my heart.”

 What do you do in your day to value all students?
Campbell emphasizes making a student feel seen. She said, “I just smile at them, love on them, speak to them, notice them, and make time to have a conversation with them.”

What keeps you going on the hard days?
“That’s an easy answer,” she said. “It’s my staff. Pat and I always say the best thing we do is hire the best people.”

If you could pick a superpower, which one would it be?
“I’d love to give joy. If someone is feeling down, I wish I could give them instant joy.”

When you were a student, what did you love to eat for lunch?
“I loved eating the cafeteria spaghetti, which is weird, because now I hate it!”

What is your favorite school supply?
“I love gel pens. They write nicely and they’re colorful.”

Is there a quote that inspires you?
“In an email from a teacher, she wrote a quote I’ve always kept with me. I don’t know if she’s the author, but it has stuck with me,” Campbell explained. It reads, “We believe God wants you to know people very important. They teach you tolerance, acceptance. If all was going your way all the time, you would become a spoiled child, wouldn’t everyone? Difficult people are one of the ways God teaches us to expand beyond our egos and accept other perspectives on life.”

We are honoring our people through sharing their unique stories. This regular new feature, aptly named “Our People,” will shine a light on who they are, their passions and their contributions. The people who uphold our traditions of excellence. We hope you enjoy these stories and will nominate someone to be highlighted in “Our People.”