DAYTON — In her last week of teaching before she retires, Dayton Elementary Principal Katie Leid made the most of it.
Finding ways to keep learning fun for students, after all, is something she’s been doing for the nine years she’s been at Dayton.
“Just last week, I was book-napped!” she said. She had been sequestered in her office and could only be set free if her students read enough books.
A large sign inside the school’s main entrance served as a ransom note. If the entire school could read for 16,800 minutes (an average of two hours per student) by 1:13 p.m., their principal would go free. Once her students succeeded, she danced around the school, thanking each classroom for her rescue.
Inspired ideas like this have made Leid’s career in Dayton so rewarding. Between her commitment to students and her involvement with other educators across the state, you’d think she’d been teaching all her life.
But education is actually her second career — she was working as a secretary in accounting and business programs at Washington State University while taking one class toward her teaching degree each semester. Leid earned her bachelor’s in elementary education in 1991.
“I always wanted to teach,” she said.
Her first job was in Pullman, where she started with fourth grade, then fifth. In 2004, her niece, who lived in Dayton, called to tell her a principal job was open.
“I said, ‘Nope, I love what I’m doing,’” Leid recalled. But after a weekend with her kids, she reconsidered.
“I said, ‘Oh, what do I have to lose?’ I’ve always been a bit of a risk-taker.”
While many principals would be content to stay involved in their school district, Leid has been active in the Elementary Principals Association of Washington and served as its president from 2011-12.
Leid approached it the same way she approaches the rest of her job, by asking, “Why not?”
As president, she traveled to Washington, D.C., four times to lobby for education on Capitol Hill, stressing the importance of funding education mandates.
In Dayton, Leid loves spending time with students. She has especially enjoyed staffing the district’s middle school lock-ins, where students spend a night in the gym watching movies and having fun.
She’s also climbed onto the school roof to motivate students in another reading challenge, and fondly recalls throwing balls down to kids at recess.
“I just think (these ideas) up. I think, what would the kids like? What would make them excited?”
Over the decade she’s been at Dayton, Leid said she’s seen technology play an increasing role in the lives of students. She’s worked to keep Dayton moving forward, and said education needs to head in the direction of incorporating more technology.
“It’s not the end-all-be-all,” she said. “They still need to know the multiplication tables. They still need to know how to read and write.”
“But the world is flat,” she added, referring to an idiom for how technology has leveled the playing field in global commerce.
Teaching elementary school gives her a chance to see students all the way through their education.
“Lots of times I lose track of kids as they move up into high school, but through sports and other activities, I keep up with them,” she said.
In her retirement, Leid plans to travel, including a return trip to the Netherlands, where she spent time during her husband’s sabbaticals from WSU.
“I’ve put my heart and soul into education for the last 20 years ... it’s time for family to take first place again,” she said.
Rachel Alexander can be reached at email@example.com or 509-526-8363.