Making sure that all students in his increasingly diverse school “reach their greatest potential” is the goal of new Edmonds-Woodway High School principal Terrance Mims.
“I haven’t had a chance to dig into all the data really closely, but I understand the demographics (of Edmonds-Woodway) are changing,” said Mims, who comes to Edmonds from Bellevue’s Interlake High School, where he served as an assistant principal. “We have to figure out how to serve students of diverse backgrounds.”
Like Edmonds-Woodway, Interlake High School houses an International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which involves rigorous coursework leading to an IB Diploma. Interlake, with a student population more diverse than Edmonds-Woodway’s, has also been consistently ranked in U.S. News and World Report magazine as one of the nation’s Best High Schools. “I know that this school, like Interlake, has a history of having a successful IB program, so you want to continue to build our IB program to help all the students who have been successful, continue to be successful,” Mims said.
The profile of an IB student “is what every parent would want for their kid…to be inquirers, to have strong communications skills, to ask smart questions,” he said. “One of the challenges that we have to figure out is, how do we expand this across our school? Whether it’s an IB class or not, how do we make sure every kid is getting the best quality education they can get?”
A California native who played college football at San Diego State, Mims didn’t start out as a teacher. In fact, his first job out of college in 1988 was in banking, working as a bank officer and project manager for Bank of America. But his mom was an elementary school principal and he was always drawn to the idea of teaching. So when his bank division was sold, Mims took a severance package and got his teaching credential through the urban teacher program at Holy Names College. He taught government, economics and history classes at public high schools in both Oakland and San Francisco.
He also ended up as a high school coach — not in football, but golf. “I just really wasn’t in love with football anymore, I’d had my fill,” Mims explained. “I wanted to be able to give kids a sport that they could play beyond college and high school.” So while in Oakland, he resurrected the school’s golf program, finding old clubs in the school gymnasium. “Most of the time it was teaching students how to hit a golf ball,” Mims said. “After school, I’d pile 15 kids into the car and go to the driving range and hit balls. It was a good way for me to spend time with kids.”
Mims and his wife Jennifer decided to move to Seattle in 2000 after a friend of Mims’ offered him a contract job at Microsoft. “We were looking for a place to relocate and raise kids out of San Francisco, which was a little too high-priced,” Mims said. After a year at Microsoft, Mims again decided the corporate world wasn’t for him. He began working at Seattle Public Schools in the finance department while completing his principal certification through the University of Washington’s Danforth Leadership Program, eventually also earning a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies.
He served as an assistant principal at Seattle’s Madison Middle School and Roosevelt High School before moving to Interlake.
“It’s a very good school,” Mims said of Interlake. “I was working on how to figure out how to serve all students well, which happens at IB schools. You have kids who are in the program, kids who aren’t in the program and sometimes schools can struggle with their identify. Is the school for me or is it for those other students? So what I’d like to see is if we can make every kid feel like they are getting the best educational experience they can get here and meet the needs of all kids.” Included in that mix is the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program, also housed at EWHS, he said.
Mims, who lives in northeast Seattle with his wife and their two teen-age sons (a 19-year-old daughter attends the University of California, Berkeley), says he looks forward to getting to know the Edmonds community better. He lists among his top priorities developing relationships with parents, especially those who are not native English speakers and may not be as experienced with the school system.
“We know that when families and parents are engaged in their kids’ schools, that achievement rates go up and that’s a way to serve all our students well,” Mims said. He noted that Interlake sponsored a Parent University, where families could participate in a series of workshops aimed at teaching parents “about how they can support their kids,” not only through school programs but through community services from outside agencies.
“My initial impressions are that (Edmonds-Woodway) is an excellent school with a can-do spirit, and teachers and staff that I’ve met have been very welcoming and supportive,” Mims said, adding that during community meetings this summer prior to his hiring, “I got the impression there was a great deal of support within the community for the school and that people want the best Edmonds-Woodway High School that they can have for their own kids and their kids’ kids.”
“I just feel like it’s an awesome responsibility to be principal of this school.”