On June 6, Meagan Dawson (EdD '15), principal of Kulshan Middle School in Bellingham, was recognized as the 2020 recipient of the Art of Leadership Award presented by the Danforth Educational Leadership Program at the University of Washington. 

The Art of Leadership Award honors a leader who exhibits creativity, interpretation and a balance of both imagination and technical ability, as well as recognizing that leader’s enactment of a bold vision through strong core values and perseverance — without losing sight of individual or community needs. 

Nominations are submitted by current Danforth students and alumni to recognize outstanding leadership. Dawson was nominated by Educational Technology Coach Tyler Dockins and she was unanimously selected by the awards selection committee members. 

“Meagan consistently leads with and for equity,” said Dockins in the nomination, “reshaping the landscape of Kulshan Middle School, working with others within and outside of the school district.” 

Dawson has served as principal at Kulshan Middle School since 2015. She received her Doctor of Education from the University of Washington, Master of Education and teaching certification in language arts from Western Washington University, and bachelor of arts from the University of Washington. Previously, she held director and principal roles with the Burlington-Edison School District overseeing multiple state and federal grant-funded programs and professional development while helping to create a positive school environment for culturally and linguistically diverse learners. Dawson has extensive experience with dual language and immersion programs, and equity work including supporting LGBTQ youth and building relationships with tribal neighbors.

"This award is a testament to Meagan’s commitment to inclusion and equity, and the many ways she leads Kulshan to live out our strategic plan, The Bellingham Promise," said Bellingham Public Schools deputy superintendent Mike Copland. "Meagan’s work to develop and support the student equity team at Kulshan is a great example for the rest of the district. This award is very well deserved."

The examples of Dawson’s innovations and initiatives are numerous. While at Burlington-Edison School District, she transformed the professional development model into a teacher-led learning cycle focused on student engagement, content integration and inquiry.

At Kulshan, Dawson has led the growth and development of certificated and classified staff members in socio-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum; culturally responsive teaching, and trauma-informed practices. She launched a student-led equity committee where students conduct an equity audit of the school landscape. 

“Meagan represents transformative leadership by building structures and ways of thinking that will last years beyond her time as a school leader,” said Dockins. “And that is the truest test of an effective leader.”

Dawson created more distributed leadership at Kulshan using grade-level chairs, building capacity in the work of grade-level teams, and creating a leadership team to give teachers input in the decisions of the school.

“It is an honor to receive a leadership award from the Danforth team,” said Dawson. “Danforth has such a strong reputation in our state and region in building leaders who maintain an equity focus. I am a strong advocate for raising up leaders into administration who have diverse stories to tell – stories of how the institution of education may have been oppressive or traumatizing to them. One of the most effective ways to improve public education is to see the value and gifts of every student and raise up their voices."

The Danforth Educational Leadership Program at the UW College of Education prepares experienced educators to take on prominent leadership roles in P–12 school systems. The competency-based program combines proven classroom instruction and research with intensive field-based learning experiences. In 2019, it received the Exemplary Educational Leadership Preparation Program Award presented by the University Council for Educational Administration.

Traditionally, the Art in Leadership Award is presented at the program’s graduation ceremony and the recipient speaks to the graduates providing “words of wisdom to consider on their journey as equity driven, learning focused, highly collaborative leaders.” Because of COVID-19, Dawson provided remarks via Zoom.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu