If there were any need to convince a crowd that Lindsey Drake, the soon-to-be Emerson Elementary School principal, is the perfect fit for the position, all they would need to do is talk with her.
Little more than a week away from having her first baby, Drake — a 34-year-old, petite blonde — is smiling and filled with as much energy as a first-grader. There is barely any indication of stress on her face, which is strange because there is no doubt her schedule accounts for some.
For the past two years, Drake has taken on what most would call an aggressive timeline, even aside from the average stresses of a soon-to-be mom.
She has worked hard to finish her master’s in educational leadership with principal certification at Seattle Pacific University within the year, all while working hard at her lead teacher role in which she supervises day-to-day operations at Emerson Elementary. The Hoquiam School Board approved the hiring of Drake as Emerson’s principal this coming fall, contingent upon the successful completion of her very last class.
Both Hoquiam Superintendent Mike Parker and Assistant Superintendent Shannon Webster calmed any worries within the board of a possibility she may not finish the class, saying her dedication is obvious in that the amount of classwork she completed in the past year was “unheard-of.”
“Even my SPU supervisor thought it was a bit much,” Drake said of her workload, which even took her to Seattle four days a week this past summer where she lived with her sister while completing classes that were not available online. “It’s been quite an exciting year.”
Drake grabbed an opportunity extended to her by Parker who said he, along with Webster, and others, saw her potential for a number of years while she worked for the district. It was first evident in work she did as a 4th-grade classroom teacher at the now-closed Washington Elementary School back in 2007, he said, where she demonstrated her “can-do” attitude in collaberating with another teacher to create a walk-to model for reading.
“It was nice to see she was thinking outside the box,” said Parker of Drake. “She struck us as being insightful and articulate, some of the traits we look for in a principal’s position.”
Parents were teachers
Drake learned of the value of education long before she ever thought about entering the profession.
Growing up, both of Drake’s parents were not only teachers, but also popular ones.
“They always had young adults talking with them, thanking them and letting them know how their connection made a positive difference in their lives,” she said, adding the impact of such encounters made a strong impression on her as a child.
Her dad still coaches sports and her mom is on the School Board in Chehalis, where they raised Drake and her sister and are now retired after 30-plus years as educators. Her dad taught high school and her mom taught “just about everything” — elementary, middle and high school.
“It’s hard to walk away when you’re that passionate,” she said.
Despite a brief time as a freshman in college where she tried to deny — as many do — that she may end up on the same path as her parents, Drake has been just as dedicated to education ever since.
After graduating from Western Washington University in 2002 with a degree in interdisciplinary childhood development with an elementary education teaching certificate, she has since worked as a teacher starting off in Yelm and Vancouver.
She feels at home on Grays Harbor where she has worked the past six years at both Emerson and Lincoln elementary schools due to the fact that her husband, Tyler, who is a State Patrol sergeant on Grays Harbor, is originally from Hoquiam as are both of her parents.
“The Harbor is a second home for me,” she said. She and Tyler currently reside in Montesano.
Taking the lead
It was her work as a “Title 1” teacher — or one who assists students who struggle to keep up with their grade- level peers in reading and math due to stresses of low-income life or other factors — at Lincoln Elementary that solidified Parker’s decision to recruit Drake and encourage her to enroll in a principal certification class.
“She demonstrated there her ability to organize, schedule, to look down the road,” he said, adding it was then he decided to have her prove her ability to work administratively by working as lead teacher at Emerson.
“It was definitely a little nerve-racking,” said Drake, adding she took the risk because of a long-time interest in administration and because she wanted to help out the school. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to work or play out.”
After the school board agreed, Drake started in the position, where she has worked alongside Rainer Houser, who was originally hired by the district as a consultant regarding high-poverty, high-performing schools and has since worked as a district facilitator. (He also just happened to have been the principal at W.F. West High School in Chehalis while both of Drake’s parents worked there.)
For any “official” things Drake has been unable to do in the past two years because of her lack of a certificate, Houser has been there to assist.
“He is amazing. I have learned so much and feel so very fortunate to have worked with him,” she said, adding she will likely still communicate with him with questions through email or by phone once she begins in the position this fall. Houser will take over as lead teacher three days a week during Drake’s maternity leave, and the other spots will be filled by former Aberdeen School District Superintendent Marty Kay.
The past two years have been a great learning experience and have prepared Drake for what is to come, she said, adding that Houser is “always looking to improve instruction in meaningful ways.” The two recently worked to help the special education instructors and para-educators set up the needed time for communication they had been lacking.
“That confidence is really beneficial,” she said, adding a lot of what is important to her in a leadership position is working out day-to-day scheduling, observing instruction, as well as looking at student assessments and data.
Under her leadership, Emerson will continue to do things to “improve whatever they can for kids and families, to engage families as much as possible,” Drake said.
“A lot of work has been done creatively in ways it hasn’t before,” said Drake, adding input from a couple of consultants who specialize in high-performing, high-poverty schools has been successful. She wants to continue gathering community input as to how they may like to be involved.
Being the child of two educators who were extremely involved in her schools and community was a “great way to grow up,” Drake said, with role models constantly in her line of vision. It is likely a factor in how she sees the impact of early education and parental involvement as being so central to the learning process of the students at Emerson. She said she is determined to work to improve it.
“Most parents do want to be involved, they’re just unsure or scared or nervous about how to do it,” she said, adding one of her biggest goals is to make Emerson as inviting for parents as possible.
She could not be happier with how things have fallen into place, much of it guided along by helpful staff who believe in her work and have been helpful to Drake throughout the transition process.
“Everything at work is amazing,” she said, adding the staff gives “110 percent” all the time and shares in each other’s successes and experiences.
She also thanks her best friend, her husband Tyler, for being “incredibly supporting.”
Rightfully so, Drake says she feels an immense sense of accomplishment for what she has worked to achieve over the past few years. Her sentiment is echoed by Parker, who said he is very proud of her and her work.
“She has shown us years ago that she is a very effective teacher and I know she will continue to be effective in her new role,” he said.