Welcome Back Mr. Warren
After 25 years away, Nick Warren returns to Ellsworth Elementary School to be the Principal for A Day
At 8:30 Friday morning, Nick Warren walked into the main office at Ellsworth Elementary School. Warren has visited this place dozens, maybe even hundreds of times in his life. So what made this particular visit so memorable? The last time he entered these walls was in the summer of 1993, when he was part of the Ellsworth Panthers 6th grade graduating class. Today, thanks to Evergreen Public Schools “Principal for a Day” program, the now 38-year-old was back in his childhood stomping grounds and set for a wonderful walk down memory lane.
“This office looks the same,” Warren tells Ellsworth Principal, Dave Schaefer, as he entered Schaefer’s office with a huge smile on his face.
Schaefer and Warren spent the next 15 minutes getting to know each other and discussing their history at the school. Schaefer tells Warren that he has been Principal at Ellsworth for three years. Warren then reminisces about how he rode his bike to school from his house on Nancy Road in fifth and sixth grade.
Then, Schaefer shares a couple of tidbits of information that really make this welcome back tour special for Warren.
“You know we’re getting a new school right?” Schaefer asks “No, really?” Warren responds.
The Ellsworth Principal goes on to explain that thanks to the recently passed bond measure, the new school is scheduled to open sometime in 2021.
“Well, I’m glad I’m here now,” Warren laughs.
The next surprise comes when he starts listing some of his teachers from back in the early 90s.
“I had Mr. Miller for P.E.,” says Warren.
“Mr. Miller is still here,” responds Schaefer.
When Warren enters the multi-purpose room used for P.E, Jerry Miller greets him with the same smiling face that put Warren through free throw drills 25 years ago. Miller, who stands about six and a half feet tall, leans in for one of his famous rock solid handshakes and asks about the rest of the Warren family. Warren shares with Mr. Miller that he is now living in Portland and working as Principal and Senior Account Executive for Parker, Smith & Feek, a commercial insurance brokerage firm.
The two take a few moments to check out the record boards that hang on the back wall of the room. The plaques list student records for everything from the most sit-ups in a minute to the most consecutive free throws made. Warren doesn’t hold any school record, but some of his classmates still have bragging rights and Mr. Miller remembers each and every one of them.
Warren smiles as about 20 fifth graders get a taste of the same Mr. Miller lessons he experienced over two decades earlier. When one student admits to misplacing his bowling scoresheet, Mr. Miller asks,
“What am I trying to teach you?”
“Responsibility,” the class responds in unison.
While some things remain the same at his old elementary school, Warren also notices what has changed. In one classroom, he sees a “Peace Corner,” where students can retreat if they think they need a break from the group. Warren mentions how this would have been great to have when he was in school.
After observing students in a first grade class give examples of how they can make others feel included, Warren mentions how he’s been impressed with a focus on kindness in the classroom.
In a fourth grade class, three students use a Google Chromebook to record themselves building a mini-rollercoaster with foam and other materials. The lesson is a fun way to learn about gravity.
“You could see the creativity,” Warren would recall later.
Warren was one of four community members invited on this day to shadow principals throughout the district. The events of the day are not scripted; the “Principal for the Day” gets to experience what a typical day looks like, though every principal will tell you, no day at school is typical. The group then meets back at Crestline Elementary School for a lunch and a group discussion that includes Superintendent John Steach and School Board members Julie Bocanegra, Victoria Bradford, Rob Perkins, Todd Yuzuriha and Ginny Gronwoldt.
For Evergreen Public Schools, this program is a vehicle to share the great things that are going on in our 37 schools. It’s also an excellent opportunity for District leadership to receive feedback from the community on what resonates with them.
For Warren, the day allowed him to reconnect with the school system that helped pave the way to a college degree at the University of Washington and a successful professional career. He also walks away with a sense of pride knowing that the children in the community where he grew up are in capable, caring hands.
His last words before leaving Principal Schaefer’s office were simply, “Thank you for keeping the Panther tradition alive.”