St. Mary’s alumna LaShawanta Spears named Oregon Assistant Principal
of the Year
When Alice Ott Middle School Assistant Principal LaShawanta “Taye” Spears was asked to lead a Zoom staff meeting for her faculty and staff, she couldn’t understand why colleagues from the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators were also joining the meeting. It turns out they were guests at a surprise party, or as they are better known in this day and age, a “Zoom Bomb,” and the occasion was to announce and honor Taye with being named Oregon’s Assistant Principal of the year for 2021.
Taye is a 1995 St. Mary’s graduate and started on the path to her current role as a volunteer for AmeriCorps but not in a pursuit of a career as an educator. She studied speech communications at Portland State, and a senior year professor suggested the volunteer organization. As a volunteer, Taye was placed at Gilbert Heights Elementary in the David Douglas school district and fell in love with the educational setting. “I particularly loved being in a problem-solver role,” she shares.
After a year, she was hired as a reading specialist and moved to the high school’s Fir Ridge campus the following year. Soon after, the principal at Fir Ridge saw in Taye a gift and encouraged her to go back to school for her master’s degree. Taye secured her master’s degree in school counseling and school administrator license at George Fox University. Upon completion, she was hired as a licensed counselor at Fir Ridge and went on to become Assistant Principal. After 14 years at Fir Ridge, Taye has found a home at Alice Ott for the past 4 years.
One of the key differentiators that Taye brings to her role is a particular focus on incorporating conflict resolution for students. “It’s a life skill”, she says. “I don’t prefer out-of-school suspension because it is simply a punishment” she adds. “Instead, we can use these opportunities to provide a tool that can be utilized well beyond the four years of high school.”
As Taye reflects on her years at St. Mary’s, she remembers a school in which the teachers did a great job connecting with students, especially students of color. Taye shares “They made me feel that as an African American woman, I was included.” She also offers a bit of perspective to current students. “When I was a student at St. Mary’s, I didn’t have a clear vision of a future career. But, through the cloudiness, there is always something on the other side. Pursue excellence,” she shares, “and the rest will become clear to you.”