District confident new principal Chelsea Gallagher will bring 'stellar leadership' to Mt. Spokane High School

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Jun. 23—She's walked in their shoes, and now Chelsea Gallagher is ready to lead the students of Mt. Spokane High School.

Raised in Spokane by a single mom, encouraged by her teachers and coaches, Gallagher knew at an early age that she wanted to be an educator.

By the time that dream was realized, she knew how hard the journey can be, but also how rewarding.

"I've known since the third grade that I wanted to be a teacher and go into education," said Gallagher, who credits the high school teachers and coaches at Shadle Park High School "for telling me that I can be anything I want to be, and help me find my path."

After graduating from Shadle in 2001, Gallagher earned her teaching degree at Eastern Washington University.

She worked in Las Vegas, then Gallagher returned to Washington in 2008 as an English teacher at Federal Way High School. There, she taught for five years before becoming the dean of students, a principal assistant and, finally, assistant principal at Sumner High School from 2015 to 2020.

Gallagher also earned master's degrees in Art of Teaching and Educational Leadership, both from Grand Canyon University.

The district held a rigorous interview process with staff, community members and student committees before finalists were interviewed in a public forum.

Mead Superintendent Shawn Woodward interviewed the finalists before choosing Gallagher to replace Darren Nelson, who is taking a job with the district administration.

"She had just stellar leadership at two large high schools," Woodward said of Gallagher. "Chelsea is also an outstanding teacher — she really checked all the boxes."

Gallagher spent the past year as an administrator who took a year to work with CharacterStrong, a national organization that builds curriculums and offers training to more than 2,500 schools in all 50 states.

"It's a great program that takes so many ideas and strategies to help students, particularly with social-emotional learning," Gallagher said.

That additional perspective will be useful this fall, said Gallagher, as students attempt to move on from the still-lingering pandemic.

"I think the biggest thing I expect to see is the need for empathy and grace for staff and students, whatever the new normal turns out to be," Gallagher said.

"We're looking at putting COVID in the rear-view mirror and implementing our strategies," said Gallagher, who said Mt. Spokane benefited being on a hybrid learning model while most large districts spent the bulk of the year in distance learning only.

"We had a nice upward trajectory," said Gallagher, who plans to emphasize professional development to continue that trend.

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