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New Tahoma assistant principal finds calling at high school
Doug Burnham is on his second stint working in the Tahoma School District, this time as an assistant principal at Tahoma High School.
Burnham, who has spent 15 years in education working at middle schools, including teaching technology classes at Tahoma Middle School and Cedar River Middle School, said in his first few weeks at Tahoma High he’s fitting right in.
“I’m a little unique in that all my experience has been at the middle school level, but my first few weeks here I feel like I’ve missed my calling,” Burnham said. “I love it here. I love the conversations you can have with kids, they get my jokes.”
When Burnham started college at Central Washington University in Ellensburg he wasn’t sure what he wanted to get a degree in but found what he loved when he took an elective.
“When I started my college career I took an education course, and part of that course was — it was just kind of random that I even tried it — part of that course was to get out into schools for a certain number of hours, and I just fell in love with it from the get go,” Burnham said.
What Burnham said he loves most about being in education is helping kids.
“Just seeing that lightbulb go off in a kid’s head and you know that they got something and you are able to make a difference in their life,” Burnham said. “Just helping kids, in general, succeed makes me really happy.”
Burnham taught in the Tahoma School District for five years, during which time he earned his masters degree in educational administration from Central. After that Burnham worked in the Enumclaw School District as dean of students and most recently as an assistant principal at Rainier Middle School in the Auburn School District.
“I kind of feel like I get to come home, after teaching here for a few years,” Burnham said of coming back to Tahoma. “Couldn’t pick a better district to come back to. I was beyond excited when I saw the opening … I already taught here, I was already familiar with the high expectations of the district and the mission of the district. Overall it’s an outstanding school district and when there was an opportunity it was automatic that I had to apply. The way that I think falls right in line with their beliefs and core systems.”
Outside of school Burnham developed a passion for photography, something he taught himself in order to teach his technology students.
“I was teaching a computer class and one of the things they wanted me to teach was Photoshop and I thought, ‘man, this would be a cool thing the kids would enjoy learning,’ but the only problem was that I didn’t know how to use it,” Burnham said. “So that’s when I got started and taught myself photography. I got started kind of backwards.”
Burnham also said he enjoys traveling and coaching wrestling.
He cited his favorite books as “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson and “Influencer” by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.
“’A Walk in the Woods’ reminds me that I need to get out and enjoy life,” Burnham said. “’Influencer’ allows you to understand change and affect change.”
This year Burnham will be overseeing sophomore students as well as the math, special education, art, and music departments at Tahoma High.
Burnham said that this year he’ll be focusing on the shift from middle school to high school and on getting to know people in the district and the district’s systems and how change happens in those systems.
For Burnham it’s the desire to help kids that motivates him to be an educator and administrator.
“The ability to affect more kids is the main reason behind it (to become an administrator),” Burnham said. “As a teacher you’re going to be connecting with the kids in our class, but as an administration there’s an opportunity, at some point, to help every kid.”