Aaron Draganov

Tukwila educator goes from teacher to principal

The decision to transition from being a classroom teacher to a school administrator is a big one. Aaron Draganov, principal of Thorndyke Elementary School, was motivated to make that change by his desire to help more students.

“I taught for eight years and decided that I wanted to increase my impact on students by moving outside the classroom,” Aaron, a City University of Seattle alumnus, said. “[As a teacher], I believed everything happening in my room was the most important. It was an eye-opening experience realizing there are other challenges outside of the classroom.”

Now that he’s been a principal for a few years, he sees things differently.

“As an administrator, I realized I needed to access and triage the needs, and implement strategies on how to proceed and support students and staff,” Aaron said. “I learned how important it is to surround yourself with a great team. That has been the work of leading others – to be support – and do things for students.”

Being around students is still the highlight of his day.

“I enjoy being with the kids,” Aaron said. “I’m rarely sitting at my desk or computer. I meet the kids in the morning in the gym; that’s when I’m most happy.”

Becoming a principal

In addition to classroom experience, being an effective principal requires different tools and skill sets.

“It was a big shift to go into the leadership role,” Aaron said. “It was something I wanted to do, but I tend to observe and watch first – I’m a processor – and it took time to get there.”

Since he had a positive experience earning his Master in Teaching from CityU, he decided to return to the university to earn his administrator certification. The program’s structure was a good fit for him because it incorporated a lot of hands-on learning.

“CityU’s program is great because you get so much experience as you go,” Aaron said. “The internship is great for people who have a similar learning style [as me] because you can experience the work before you’re directly responsible.”

In addition to the practical experience, he was able to get feedback and insight from instructors who’d been in his shoes before.

“I had a field supervisor who had experience as a principal in the school setting,” Aaron said. “We were granted a lot of opportunities to work through on-the-job problems and then have reflective conversations about the experience with people who’d been in the same seat.”

Developing future school leaders

To help develop more educators and school leaders like Aaron, City University of Seattle recently began a partnership with his district, Tukwila School District.

When asked what he thinks of the new partnership as a principal, Aaron said:

“I think it’s great. The programs offer real-world experience through the coursework, so everything you’re going to do is applicable. It’s accessible with location and time, which is huge. CityU is local so they understand our demographic and needs, and they know what’s happening in our schools.”

In addition to the educational benefits, the partnership also supports something that is near and dear to his heart: Tukwila.

“I’m committed to Tukwila,” Aaron said. “I grew up here, started here in preschool and am happy to now be an educator and giving back to the community. I am thankful that CityU was able to be an accessible and strong program to help me do this work, and I hope other people take advantage of the opportunity.”

Learn more

To learn more about CityU’s Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership with Administrator Certification, please visit the CityU website or request more information.