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Ryan Henderson takes helm as principal of Lakewood Elementary

Ryan Henderson - Adam Rudnick
Ryan Henderson
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Ryan Henderson received an escort from Lakewood Elementary School staff to his parking spot last month when they heard he would be staying on as principal.

“The staff here are really gracious,” said Henderson, who has been filling the position on an interim basis since October 2009. “I think it felt good from the beginning.”

Staff and students alike have seemingly embraced Henderson, and the Marysville resident was told Thursday, Feb. 18 that he had been chosen to be the school’s permanent principal.

Henderson faced a great deal of competition for the job.

Dennis Haddock, Lakewood Superintendent, said that the district received 42 applications for the open position. Of that initial candidate pool, seven applicants were interviewed and two finalists emerged.

“What set him apart was that he had a variety of experience working with literacy development,” Haddock said. “That fundamentally was a very strong aspect of his application and his candidacy. We’re looking for strong instructional leaders in our principal positions.”

Henderson had served as a literacy coach in the Highline School District from 2001-2006, teaching kindergarten, third and fourth grade. From 2006-2009, he worked as an assistant to two elementary school principals in the Lake Stevens School District.

Henderson received his master’s degree in educational administration from Western Washington University in 2009.

Henderson takes over for Sheila Woods, who at the beginning of the school year accepted a position as Assistant Director to Special Programs and Services for the Northwest Educational Service District 189.

To fill Woods’ open spot, district administrators decided to hire a principal on an interim basis, and selected Henderson. Haddock said the idea was to do a more thorough search for a permanent principal later in the school year.

“I feel honored to be selected for this job,” Henderson said. “I went against a lot of experienced people. It feels validating to me to have been selected.”

The new principal said he’s glad that he’ll be able to continue the work he’s started at Lakewood.

He said he’s currently working with teaching staff to implement a new math curriculum — a task that has required a number of hours and collaboration among teachers and administrators alike.

Henderson has also been working with staff on a new reading program called “The Daily 5,” which focuses on student reading habits.

“The staff is eager to take advantage of my background,” he said. “We were originally only going to do the new math curriculum this year.”

Since being brought on board, Henderson has his put his philosophy — “It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn” — to use with staff members and students.

The motto has taken new meaning as Henderson continues to learn the names of individual students at Lakewood.

He said he’s made an effort to visit each of the school’s 20 classrooms during his first few months on the job for that reason.

“The best way to get to know the kids is to be where they are in their own turf,” Henderson said.

Additionally, he occasionally selects five students at random to spend their lunch period in his office playing Connect 4 and eating Red Vines.

“It’s just another way to connect with kids,” he said.

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