By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities
RICHLAND, Wash. – Don Rumsey has dedicated his life to serving others through careers in the military, law enforcement, as a paramedic and now as a science teacher at Enterprise Middle School. Through his pursuit of a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Washington State University Tri-Cities, he hopes to expand his scope for making a difference in the lives of his students as a future school principal.
“It’s hard to explain, but mostly everything I have done has been service related,” he said. “It is not what I do, it is who I am. It is my nature to want to help others.”
Mentoring and leading
Rumsey served in Air Force logistics 1982-87; as a City of Lake Forest Park Police Department and Chelan County Sheriff’s officer 1988-2001 and as a paramedic 2001-09. He became a teacher because he enjoyed the mentoring aspect of all his service-based careers and hoped to use that to positively impact local youth.
“I enjoy helping kids prepare for their future,” he said.
Becoming a principal represents a new career challenge and greater leadership role.
“When you’re in the classroom, you are directly involved with educating and helping your students,” he said. “As an administrator, you have the privilege of doing the same thing with your fellow teachers.”
Sharing personal growth with students
Rumsey is completing a principal internship at Enterprise, where he is co-chair of the Action Team for Partnerships (ATP). The team organized a career night where parents recruited local businesses and organizations to speak with students about careers.
The ATP then asked teachers to identify students who do not typically engage in extracurricular activities. Those students were personally invited to attend the event.
Rumsey summarized the success of the event in an essay in “Promising Partnership Practices 2015,” a publication of the Johns Hopkins University National Network of Partnership Schools.
“It was clear that students were excited about exploring careers and learning about the education needed for different professions,” he wrote in the essay. “They received advice from experienced presenters who willingly answered students’ and families’ questions about their work.”
Research findings for future application
In his WSU Tri-Cities doctoral research, Rumsey is studying the reasons and solutions for teacher attrition – why teachers leave their positions and the profession. As a future principal, he said, he wants to ensure that teachers have what they need to be happy and efficient both inside and outside the classroom.
“I like the research end of it – finding why things occurred in the past and how we can improve them for the future,” he said. “The things that you do in the classroom should be data-driven and research-based.”
In his future administrative role, Rumsey said he hopes to begin small.
“I want to start off as an assistant principal,” he said. “I want to make sure I’ve done and learned all I can to ensure I can successfully lead my own building.”