Henderson Named as 2023 Washington State Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year

Deborah Henderson Named as Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year


Authentic, relational, inclusive, communicative, community-building, empowering, and coach are hallmarks of a school leader who is able to make change and positively affect the lives of the students, parents, and teachers they serve. Aimed at developing these qualities in school leaders, the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) is a professional organization for K-12 school leaders that provides professional development, mentoring, and resources for this purpose. 

Knowing the importance of effective leadership in schools, AWSP also annually recognizes top tier Washington state school leaders by naming two Washington State Principals of the Year (one secondary and one elementary) and two Washington State Assistant Principals of the Year (one secondary and one elementary). With over 3,500 principals and assistant principals serving public schools in the state of Washington, being selected for this annual award is a tremendous honor.

This year, AWSP and the Monroe School District are thrilled to announce that Deborah Henderson, assistant principal at Frank Wagner Elementary School, was named the 2023 Washington State Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year! In addition, Henderson will represent Washington as our state’s winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals National (NAESP) Outstanding Assistant Principal award. 

In her fourth year as assistant principal at Frank Wagner Elementary, Henderson knows that empowering her staff means empowering her students. With a strong vision for both improving instruction and boosting school culture, she came into her role with a goal to increase professional development for staff in core subject areas. This resulted in happier staff and increased student test results.

Henderson worked with the school’s principal, an instructional coach from the district, and trainers from Columbia University to provide a research-based curriculum and job-embedded professional development. This resulted in teachers knowing what to teach and how to teach it. 

But she didn’t stop there. In her first year working with Principal Hugo Molina, she supported his vision of moving towards an all means all model by revamping the master schedule. Molina writes, “She moved us away from a schedule centered around adult needs and centered the master and daily schedule around student learning.”

Continuing on a path of improving culture and learning, Henderson implemented school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions & Support (PBIS) expectations and strategies that responded to the needs of their student population. Working with a trauma-informed leadership team, they increased staff knowledge and rolled out strategies to all teachers, giving them the support needed to implement them schoolwide consistently. Community satisfaction surveys during COVID showed that her efforts paid off.

Henderson’s dedication to her staff and vision for her school continue post-pandemic. Her relationships and communication with students, staff, families, and our community as a whole have given us the social capital to be able to move our work forward,” said principal Hugo Molina. 

Congratulations, Ms. Henderson! This recognition is much deserved and our students, families, staff, and community are so fortunate to have you as a school leader.