A PASSION FOR COMPASSION

New principal puts students at the center

Laura Jean Schneider ljschneider@ptleader.com
Posted 9/1/21

Kim Kooistra makes being a principal sound downright enjoyable.

“Lifting up student voices,” she said, is an absolute priority.

Mentoring programs that pair older students with …

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A PASSION FOR COMPASSION

New principal puts students at the center

Posted

Kim Kooistra makes being a principal sound downright enjoyable.

“Lifting up student voices,” she said, is an absolute priority.

Mentoring programs that pair older students with younger mentees is on her to-do list, as are monthly coffees or forums where parents are encouraged to express their ideas and concerns. Values, flexibility, and adaptation are what she listed when asked about her approach to education. 

“I have a strong background in instructional leadership,” Kooistra said.

In her opinion, education is most successful with students at the center.

Kooistra has officially joined the staff at Chimacum schools as the new junior and high school principal, and she says seventh-  to 12th-graders energize her.

“I’m really excited,” she said of joining the school district.

“I want to build a system that will help students when they need support.”

A strong background in education, first in California (where she ended up teaching at the middle school she had attended) and then Virginia, gave her great experience for working at Bainbridge High School.

She taught English at Bainbridge High, then gathered further skills at Sakai Intermediate School, also on Bainbridge, and as assistant principal at Bellevue High School and Sammamish High before applying to work in Chimacum. 

A smaller school district such as Chimacum’s gives more opportunity for individualized attention, Kooistra said. She’s been angling for a locale closer to the Olympics for a while now, and her new home in Port Ludlow gives her the opportunity to go hiking on off days, one of her favorite activities outside of school.

But right now, Kooistra is smack-dab in organizing events and protocol for the upcoming school year, which for Chimacum, begins on Tuesday, Sept. 7. And before that, on Sept. 2, is Cowboy Day.

Traditionally, Cowboy Day has been the time when students can meet teachers, get their technology squared away in advance of classes, and express interests in clubs.

This year, for the first time ever, students are leading their own orientation group at noon before the event opens to everyone from 3 to 6 p.m. It’s a special orientation is for seventh- and ninth-graders (transition grades) and new students, and current students have had a hand in planning activities to build connection and will be responsible for leading the event.

As the semester progresses, Kooistra plans to implement place-based learning opportunities.

“They really draw in all students,” she explained, and the personalized nature of connection with place can grow a love of one’s environment.

Kooistra will work closely to monitor individual students as in-person classes start while introducing some single-focus point programs that will allow students at multiple education levels to complete the same assignment in different ways, adding a community approach to the classroom.

“I really love working with students and staff around place-based learning,” she shared. “I have a strong background in differentiated units.”

As a parent herself, Kooistra is sensitive to parental involvement in education.

She said she wants to know how to best support students, adding “strong schools are like family,” and welcomes invitations to local community groups or meetings in order to better hone her teaching approach in Chimacum.

“Passion and compassion are the root cause of anything you’re working with, with a student,” Kooistra added. “I believe in partnering with my community to serve the students.”

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