Alumnus William Jackson, Ed.D. '21 named 2024 Washington State Secondary Principal of the Year

November 28, 2023

Alumnus William Jackson, Ed.D. '21 has been recognized as the 2024 Washington State Secondary Principal of the Year by the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP). AWSP is a K-12 organization and each year recognizes two winners, one elementary and one secondary principal, as its Washington State Principals of the Year. Jackson will also be recognized nationally by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) in Washington, D.C. next year where he will compete with winners from other states for the NASSP’s National Principal of the Year award.

Jackson is a graduate of the College of Education's Leadership for Learning (L4L) program and currently serves as principal of Nathan Hale High School in Seattle Public Schools. He has been a school leader for seven years and leads with his strong belief that “honoring the brilliance of [his] students by centering their voice in curricular and school design is the justice-centered approach that leads to high engagement in learning and strong academic outcomes.” He received a record-breaking number of nominations from colleagues for this recognition. Nominations included phrases such as “transformational leadership,” “connector of people,” “loved and admired” and “deserves to be recognized with this great honor.” Brent Jones, Ph.D., superintendent of Seattle Public Schools and Jackson's supervisor, affirmed Jackson “has a clear vision of how to systemically build climate for equity, justice and academic outcomes” and that he leads with humbleness, intentionality and steadfastness resulting in “bold outcomes.”

In addition to his leadership at Nathan Hale High School, Jackson serves as an instructor in the L4L and Danforth Educational Leadership programs.

Learn more about Jackson's leadership journey in our Q&A with him. Please note that responses have been lighted edited for length and clarity.

How do you aim to show up in your role? What have you learned is important about how you support your school, staff and students and cultivate a community of learning?

For my daily sustenance, I focus each day on fulfilling my “why”— advancing equity, access, justice and service through radical love. Moreover, my goal is to be consistent every day with the small things, such as greetings and my presence in the community. I have learned that being visible and present goes a long way in creating a community that is belonging and safe, which ultimately will lead to high academic outcomes. For example, each student I see I make sure to stop and say “Good morning, have a great day” or “How was your learning for the day?” and “Have a great afternoon, looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.” If I am observing a class, I like to ask students how they are experiencing the learning, what they are learning and how they are being graded. For educators, similarly, I like to ask questions like “How was that last class for you?” and “How is your morning?”

I have learned that the most important part of my community for students, educators and families is collaboration. Furthermore, centering student voice in decisions, collaborating with educators to make consensus-based decisions and centering family and community voice in hiring, staffing, budgeting and scheduling have all represented the justice-centered approach that I see has had the strongest impact on academic outcomes.

How did your experiences at the UW — and specifically your experience in the L4L program — shape your work and/or outlook today? Was there a specific experience, course or assignment that sparked something important for you or otherwise supported your leadership journey?

My experience as a student in our Leadership For Learning program was life changing. Any course with Drs. Anthony Craig and Ann Ishimaru really pushed me and my cohort (L4L 7) to take justice-centered risks, but also to understand our movement within our decisions and risks. For example, in taking a justice-centered approach to a school or district budget, I learned from Dr. Craig and Dr. Ishimaru how to slow down, take a cycle of inquiry approach where I learned to listen to students furthest from educational justice about what their academic needs are, listen to family and community about what their academic needs are, then take steps to collaborate with my staff focused on the data that students and families shared in order to make justice-centered decisions. Moreover, I learned from Dr. Craig and Dr. Ishimaru how to leverage tension and hold angst while fighting for justice and futurity, regardless of the current climate. I learned deeply that this learning was to understand where I was situated in my decisions, in how my leadership moves impacted others. Was I a passive onlooker as a leader while hoping for justice to happen? Or was I active in taking a stance to address inequities?  I hold this learning consistently as I lead, teach and mentor. I am privileged to have the opportunity to come back and teach for the Leadership for Learning program with these principles centered in my teaching. I also teach for the Danforth program as well, so what I learned from Dr. Craig and Dr. Ishimaru is how to show up in all my areas of leadership and growth.

What do you enjoy most about your role as a principal and leader in your community?

First, I find the most joy in bonding with my administrative team, Makela Steward-Monroe and Jessica Proctor. They are lightning rods in education and make the job fun and engaging. Secondly, I enjoy learning and growing with students, learning about the new challenges faced by each class and generation, and supporting them as they push me to be a better educator and leader. Lastly, I enjoy learning from our Nathan Hale educators. The ideas and challenges they bring always keeps me inspired and on my toes.

Is there anything that has stood out to you about returning to the College as an instructor in the L4L and Danforth programs? What has that experience been like for you to return and partner with your former faculty mentors in a new capacity?

This has been inspiring. Specifically, what has stood out to me in returning to the College as an instructor in the L4L and Danforth programs is the mentorship and support I have received from my colleagues, former professors and now peers. Being in faculty meetings with my former teachers has been fun and exciting, especially as they see me as their peer. It is really affirming. Lastly, I am always inspired by educators continuing their education, so having an opportunity to teach courses that school and district leaders are inspired by lifts me and motivates me to continue to learn and grow.


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