As he steps into his new role as Thorndyke Elementary School principal, Aaron Draganov hopes to inspire students and give back to the community where he grew up.
The 34-year-old Draganov, who attended preschool through high school in the Tukwila School District, credits his fourth-grade teacher at Cascade View Elementary, Mary Pirnie, for sparking his passion for education.
“She just made learning so enjoyable,” he said. “I was always very excited to come to school. I remember that feeling, just coming and always being welcome and remember thinking, ‘I want to be able to do this for kids as well in the future.’ “
After graduating from Foster High School in 2000, Draganov attended South Seattle Community College and earned his teaching certificate from City University of Seattle, where he later obtained his principal certification.
In 2006, Draganov did his student teaching with Pirnie, who pushed him to think about things from a student’s point of view.
“As a kid, if you were a student, would this fit your learning style? If you were a student, would this hold your attention? As a 10-year-old would this interest you? She really challenged me to think about it from that perspective,” Draganov said. “This is something I carry with me to this day, not just thinking about it in terms of kids’ hats but also just other cultures, other backgrounds and other perspectives.”
Draganov taught fifth grade at Tukwila Elementary before serving as dean of students at Showalter Middle School for a year. He was an assistant principal at Tukwila Elementary until taking over at Thorndyke for principal Kathy Page, who took a job in another school district.
Draganov enjoys working in the district where he grew up. He had a couple of internships in the Seattle School District.
“It was good to see another district, but I had my eyes set on coming back to Tukwila and teaching in Tukwila,” he said. “I wanted to broaden my experience and get out of Tukwila for a little bit.”
Being a Tukwila graduate gives him a unique insight into the district.
“It challenges me to really want to work harder for our students here because I see their situations are very similar to where I was at that point,” he said. “With inspiring adults in the system they really can go far and make their dreams come true, so I want to help them do that.”
Sara Niegowski, the school district’s director of communication, said it’s great to have former students work in the district.
Pat Larson, the principal at Foster High, is also a Tukwila graduate, as are a number of district teachers, including two of Draganov’s former classmates, second-grade teacher Michelle Graves and librarian Yvonne Chesak, both of whom work at Tukwila Elementary.
“It’s an awesome example to students when they see how successful a Foster High graduate can be, and it shows them the impact they can have by coming back and serving in their home community,” Neigowski said in an email. “We’d love many more students to consider going into the education profession and returning to our schools.”
As a principal, Dragonov looks forward to having a broader influence on students.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to impact my class but if I am managing a building, running a building, leading a building, I can impact an entire school,” he said. “I have this vision for helping students learn, grow and really catch up to grade level. I just felt that calling to do that.”
Draganov plans to lead approximately 400 students and 38 teachers and staff at Thorndyke with a growth mindset.
“Everyone can improve. Everyone can learn. Everyone can get better,” he said. “It is about this mindset that we have and this belief in ourselves and others to grow and get better. That is something I want to share with the staff and share with the students at Thorndyke and make sure we are all approaching problems and situations from that lens that we can grow and get better and improve.”
He also wants to embrace the diversity of Thorndyke.
“I think what makes Thorndyke and Tukwila so amazing is the diversity and just the different backgrounds,” he said. “I think building on that and celebrating on that, there’s an opportunity to always be positive and always be celebrating and having conversations about our backgrounds and really taking advantage of those opportunities as a building leader and making sure families feel welcome in the school and their ideas, traditions and holidays have a place in our school. They are our school.”
Thorndyke hosts back-to-school ice cream social
The community is invited to attend a back-to-school ice cream social Wednesday, Aug. 31, at Thorndyke Elementary.
The event kicks off at 5 p.m in the school’s cafeteria, 4415 S. 150th St.
The annual ice cream social is when students find out who their teachers will be for the upcoming school year, which begins Tuesday, Sept. 6.