Meet Greenwood Elementary School Principal Zac Stowell
PhinneyWood is full of wonderful people and great places that we all wish we knew more about. Resident Kevin Kozel periodically digs deeper to let us know more in a column we like to call … Hi Neighbor!
At the end of the 2018 school year, Greenwood Elementary School said goodbye to long time principal Dr. Walter Trotter. Changes are rarely easy, but bringing back a familiar face always helps. Enter Zachary Stowell, a previous mentor at Greenwood Elementary and now the new principal.
“Welcome to the best place on earth!” he said upon greeting us while sitting with some of his students during lunch in the cafeteria. Within minutes the whole room was dancing in their seats as music played throughout the room. Did I forget to mention they were also in pajamas as part of Spirit Week? I joined the pajama party for a bit to sit down with Stowell, as his students call him, to learn more about his new role, his instructional style, and what he loves most about the Greenwood community.
Kevin Kozel (KK): So Principal Stowell, how’s it going?
Principal Zachary Stowell (PS): It’s great. Organized chaos at times, but it’s Fun Friday. If it gets out of control we talk to them. We play music and recognize two kids from each class that are demonstrating the character traits of being a Greenwood Star. But when we think about big picture, we’re really focusing on teaching social emotional skills. How do kids know their emotions? If you can name your feelings, you can tame your feelings. But also intentionally teaching strategies. There are no good/bad feelings, they’re just real, so how do we navigate those? We find small times like these to do this work.
KK: Let’s take a step back and get to know more about you. Where does Principal Zac come from and how did he get here?
PS: Sure, I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My dad was in the Navy, born in Minnesota, and my mom was a kid from Brooklyn. We moved a lot; South Carolina, Chicago, Minneapolis, then here. I went to over 10 schools growing up. It wasn’t until middle school when I got into some trouble and one teacher recognized that my behaviors were indicative of need. So instead of suspending and pushing me out, he got me involved with the wrestling team. That really connected me with the school. Then going into high school there was one other teacher that got me interested in the Future Business Leaders of America and more involved in that school. Literally those two people put me on a different trajectory. They had this impact on me, now how can I have that impact on others? This launched me into wanting to get into education.
KK: Very good reason, so how did you go about it?
PS: So I went to Central Washington, got my B.A. and got a job right out of the gate at Northgate Elementary. We really helped to close gaps. My last year there we had a fundraiser and raised $30,000 to bring my class to the White House. Kids that have never left North Seattle.
PS: But, it wasn’t replicated in every classroom. It was very frustrating and I wanted to make greater changes than just this one classroom. That sparked my energy and made me realize that these teachers need more support and they’re not necessarily getting it. I wanted to shift and support teachers to help them do what they can for students.
KK: Right, the most important thing.
PS: Then I coached teachers. I worked at 40 different buildings all over the district as a STAR Mentor. I got to mentor, coach, and support all over the district. They thought I was coaching and mentoring them, but they were coaching and mentoring me too. I got so many good ideas. It was like going to every restaurant in Seattle and then opening your own. You got all these recipes and then you get to see which ones you want to put on the menu.
KK: And then the big transition…
PS: I went to Western (Washington University) to get my graduate degree. Then did my Principal Internship at Broadview Thomson, a K-8 school. After my internship I got a job at Catharine Blaine in Magnolia, another K-8. It’s a super, a wonderful community. Very, very hard to leave. But I only applied to one job-here.
KK: Why Greenwood Elementary?
PS: I only wanted to go someplace where I knew the school and I could be successful together. I had already mentored some of the teachers here. Then when I was interviewing I found I had all these little second-degree connections. It just felt like home. This school had some goals, I had some goals, and it’s a perfect marriage. The support of an active PTA, teachers that are hungry to learn and grow, and admin that are like the glue. This is a dream job for a first year.
KK: And what is about this neighborhood?
PS: I think the biggest thing is if you look at this neighborhood before and after school, it’s a community school, just look at the full playground. We’ve got parents filling potholes in the field. The kids are connected. There’s a rich history of events, the Jogathon, the dance, school happens here. It’s all hands-on-deck all the time! I feel so lucky to be a part of it. I couldn’t have asked for a better start, and I’m excited to continue to grow and learn more about this school community.
KK: So how can everyone, not just the parents, get involved and help you and the school?
PS: Well we have needs for volunteers at all times. We have over 150 volunteers and not all of them are part of the school community, but volunteering here and there helps. Supporting our auction is always great, and that’s coming up. I scooped at Nutty Squirrel Gelato after school and it rushes people over there and we get a percentage of the proceeds. I’d like to start a monthly Dine Out for Greenwood. Fundraising opportunities like that where we can pack the house and get a portion helps us fill the gaps we have. Events that offer mutual benefit where we can support your business and some proceeds come back to support our students. There’s not necessarily one clear answer, but the more I know about what’s in the community the more we can be creative and find solutions to support the challenges we have here.
If you’ve got some fundraising ideas you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206.252.1400. If you’d like to volunteer call 206-252-1410.
Any person, place, or thing you want to know more about in our neighborhood? Feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment and we’ll look into making it a future feature on Hi Neighbor!