The kid in the candy store
Stephen Rushing talks COVID, kids, and connecting with others
“The last year and a half has shown us how delicate and unique it is to have real, face-to-face interactions with others,” said North Star Elementary’s Stephen Rushing. “There’s no substitute for relating to others in a personal way. That is why having students back at school has been a blessing.”
Though we’re all going through the COVID-19 pandemic together, it has been impacting everyone differently. Rushing said this school year is no exception.
“I would say the greatest challenge has been the frequent uncertainty that the pandemic has presented us. The level of seriousness at keeping everyone safe caused us to make plans and change plans often. This has been taxing on everyone no matter what role you serve — student, parent, teacher, and support staff alike.”
Rushing grew up in Germany from kindergarten to 11th grade. “My dad was in the Army and my mom is German, so it felt like home to me,” he said. “When I moved here in 12th Grade, it was a real culture shock.”
Rushing has been the principal at North Star since 2014. But his career started back in 1988, when he taught at Camas Prairie the year it opened. In his seven years there he taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade, as well as a brief stint as a general music specialist.
“I love music. All kinds of music. So much so that I spent many years playing percussion, from junior high school into my teaching career.”
“A highlight came just a few years ago when a friend invited me to play a 4th of July show with a local concert band. What I didn’t know when I agreed to the gig was that we would be playing at Benaroya Hall, the home of the Seattle Symphony. It was such a treat and honor to play there.”
Rushing began his path to becoming a principal after a move to the Olympia School District and some thoughtful words from his brother.
“Two specific events brought me to becoming a principal,” Rushing said. “One was when a colleague asked, ‘You want to be a principal one day, don’t you?’ It had never occurred to me at that point so I said no. The next was when my brother and I were talking about something related to education and he asked me, ‘What would it take to make the change you want happen?’ I responded, ‘Be a principal.’ Not long after I was enrolled at the WWU school administrator program.”
Rushing returned to our district in 2000 as the principal of Pioneer Valley Elementary where he led the team for 14 years before moving to North Star, where he is today.
“When I became an educator I felt like a kid in a candy store. I loved everything about it. It was intellectually stimulating, I got to work with lots of different people in different capacities, and, most importantly, I got to help students grow and develop.”
This year, getting students back into the rhythm of being in school full time so they can grow and develop has been tough. “COVID created a lot of restrictions as you know,” said Rushing. “When people are working so hard to motivate students and get them engaged, it can be difficult to be told that COVID wins out yet again. But, in spite of those restrictions, there has been one thing that keeps us hopeful and positive — and that is seeing all students in-person.”