Meet an Administrator: Travis Holmgren
Position: Principal at Lake Louise Elementary
Years in Education: 15
Years at Clover Park: 3
Travis Holmgren is in his first year as principal at Lake Louise Elementary School. He previously served two years as the assistant principal at Lakeview Hope Academy. He began his education career in Tacoma Public Schools and spent some time teaching in Nigeria before landing in Clover Park in 2015.
What attracted you to a career in education?
My parents were both educators, so that was a big draw. My dad was a high school principal. After school, I’d walk over from my elementary school to the high school and hang out, watch after school baseball and basketball games… stuff like that. I just got immersed into a school life.
What did you see in your parents’ careers that pushed you toward education?
A lot of it was just the commitment and the passion they had for working with kids and working with the community. Also, getting to know people and making those lifelong friendships they still have. I really saw the influence, positivity and circular nature of working with kids and how it helps give back to people in education. You don’t always know when and how, but it makes a big difference in students’ lives down the road.
What was your college experience like?
Originally I went to Central Washington University to play basketball. I was the 12th man for a while, so that didn’t really work out. I transferred to the University of Redlands in California and graduated from there. Being a Washington guy, I just needed some warmer weather!
What did you learn during your time at Lakeview Hope Academy?
To always be ready and transparent with people. It’s important to talk to people and get to know them. I think those are all really strong qualities I saw and try to model in my work. I think it all starts with relationships and getting to know people, then going from there.
What has surprised you most about working in education?
How schools can be so different and similar at the same time. You can go 10 miles and the demographics of the school can be different; the staff at the school can be different; the physical appearance of the school can be different. I was a substitute teacher for a year and a half to get my toes wet and you really see the differences between schools. But in a lot of ways, they’re all the same. We keep our students first and do what’s best for them.
What motivates you to do what you do?
Knowing we’re making a strong difference in students’ lives. It’s funny because I think when I started with teaching middle school, it was kind of tough. I went, “Geez, am I really helping these kids? Am I making a difference?” Then six, seven years later they’ll come out of high school and tell me how I really helped them out and what they’re doing and that’s a great feeling. What’s neat about elementary school is you feel like you can really mold their educational experience and work with them as they’re growing through more formative years.
How can you help create promising futures from your position?
Students kind of have ideas that they want to be a truck driver or an astronaut, but getting them there starts with teaching basic skills. There seem to be a lot more opportunities for kids now than there were; however, you have to have skills that are relevant and useful. It’s important that we help students develop them.
What is the best part about your job?
I think the best part is probably just going around, giving high fives, talking to parents and getting to talk to students to see how they’re doing. I think that’s the most satisfying part. I also like going through and observing lessons, seeing how the teachers work with students and the learning that’s happening. That’s really rewarding and fun, to see that engagement that you hope is really high.
How does CPSD differ from any other districts you have worked in?
Clover Park is much more approachable. I was in Tacoma before and Clover Park is a much smaller district, so you can get to know people and actually get ahold of them. I think, in bigger districts, it’s tougher to connect with and get to know people. It’s been a fascinating eye opener for me, just to see how working as a team districtwide makes such a big difference on students’ lives. Just being a first year principal, I’ve had a lot of support from a lot of different people and it’s made a huge difference.
Can you talk about your time teaching in Nigeria?
My wife lived in Nigeria as a 2- and 3-year-old. We had a friend who had taught there, so we just applied and got a position. We ended up being there for three years. It was very different. We lived on compounds, which you see in a lot of developing countries, with walls with wire on top, gates with armed guards, army checkpoints and stuff like that everywhere. It was a different kind of lifestyle. We even had the president’s son at our school.
What did you learn there about education that was different than in the United States?
It was neat because it gave me this kind of greater sense of what’s out there and what education is like in different places. People are different, but they all want the same for their students. They all want an education and to make sure they’re learning, engaged and involved.