Meet an Administrator: Holly Shaffer
Position: Director of Student Services
Years in Education: 31
Years at Clover Park: 25
Holly Shaffer has been the director of student services for the last seven years. She began her career as a teacher in Clover Park School District before spending six years as a principal in the Mossy Rock School District. She returned to CPSD as the principal at Evergreen Elementary School before moving into her current position.
What attracted you to a career in education?
Initially, I wanted to be an engineer. But in high school, I went to an international K-12 school. Sometimes there wasn’t a substitute teacher available in the school, so the head master would have me go in for the day to sub in the lower grades. I just really liked doing that and one time, I saw a movie where a college professor was connecting super hero comics to heroes in traditional literature and turned this kid around so he started reading better literature. It made me think, “I want to do that! I want to inspire kids some day!”
Where did you grow up and how did you end up here?
My dad worked in the oil industry and I lived all over the place. I was born in Wyoming, I lived in Utah, southern California, Great Britain and Dubai. I ended up at Clover Park because I came out here to go to school at Pacific Lutheran University and ended up getting married and starting a family here.
Where did you like living the most?
I really liked living in England. I went to high school there, and I loved my experience at my school. I liked the people — it was beautiful there. Unlike a lot of military families, we lived among the locals. England was a great place to be and it was pretty easy because they spoke the same language. It was also very close to the rest of Europe and it was no big deal to travel. That was a really happy time for me.
How did growing up in a lot of different places influence you as an educator?
As a teacher, whenever I had a new student, because I had been that new student so many times, I gave them the choice that I could introduce them to everyone, get another student to show them around or let them find their way on their own. Most kids just said “let me find my way.” Later, when I became the principal at Evergreen, with the military population, I really knew what it was like to be the new kid. It made me sensitive to the transition a lot of students there went through.
Where did you go to college and what did you get out of those experiences?
I went to PLU for my bachelor’s, Gonzaga University for my master’s, and I earned a superintendent’s credential from Washington State University (WSU). PLU had, and still continues to have, a great reputation for training teachers. I got a really great, solid foundation, and they focused time talking about child development. I think the best program I have ever been involved in is my superintendent’s program at WSU. I had some excellent mentors there, and while I never quite could come to root for the Cougars for football, I learned so much about the value of forming relationships and the notion of servant leadership.
What has surprised you most about working in education?
I think the biggest surprise has been about how much education is about the whole child and not just the academic piece. I think I knew that as a teacher and I think I knew more about that as a principal. I think working in this position, where we really focus on student support, it’s clear just how many supports we provide students for them to access education.
What do you do in your position?
Our department is focused on all-around student support, which includes supervising health services and counseling programs; helping provide access to homeschool families; online school and home hospital; dealing with out-of-district waivers and transfers; handling discipline hearings; Indian education; attendance; and homelessness. We also oversee parent and family engagement, translators and interpreters.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I have a sign in my office that says, “This is where I belong,’ and I think of all the jobs I've ever had, this is really where I belong. I grew up in a family of people who wanted to help others and I was the kid who always championed the underdog. So, in this position I get permission to do that every day. We are really lucky because we get to help people find a happy ending almost every day.
What is the best part of your job?
I work with some amazing people in my office and the best part of my job is when we’ve really been struggling with a complex problem and we know how we want it to be resolved, and then it actually gets resolved that way. That’s when we’re really happy, when everything falls in place for a student.
What are your hobbies?
Fun is my hobby. I think we work very hard, so I’m very good at working Monday through Friday and then finding something fun for Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes that fun is as simple as watching my beloved Seahawks play football. Something we do in our family is bucket-list vacations. For example, we have spent Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and run the Athens marathon on the original course.
What is the best travelling experience you’ve ever had?
I would have to say when I spent some time in South Africa. It was a bucket-list adventure and a service opportunity. My favorite animal is a giraffe, so I got to go on safari and see giraffes in the wild. I also got to work in schools and hospitals with children affected by AIDS. It opened my mind and helped me understand what real poverty looks like. That trip allowed me to combine both my desire for fun and my need to make a difference.