Every Role Part of the Preparation for Principal Suiter
New Junior High Principal Michele Suiter remembers exactly where she sitting was when she felt the Lord reveal Himself to her regarding the next phase of her life. After teaching at Cascade Christian High School for several years, she was in a staff meeting when she knew that “now was the time” to move into administration.
She said the path to administration was a slow one, but all orchestrated by God in His perfect timing.
“Every teaching job I have had, there has been some sort of leadership role which prepared me for my current job here at Cascade Christian,” she said.
After graduating from college with a degree in psychology, Suiter was planning to return to get her Masters in psychology. Her sister suggested she try teaching, and because there was a need for bilingual teachers in California at the time, she jumped in as an elementary bilingual teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in East LA. After teaching fourth grade there for three years, she and her husband, Steve, moved to Ohio where her husband attended graduate school, and Suiter got a job as the administrative assistant for an insurance company.
“I soon realized I missed the kids and I missed teaching,” she reflected. “When Steve completed his graduate work and we relocated to Washington, I immediately went back to teaching and found my way into Christian education.”
She began teaching in Southwest Washington, and eventually made her way to Cascade Christian Schools. “When I came to Cascade Christian, I was working on my Master’s degree. At that time I felt the Lord telling me I would not be in a classroom that much longer. But I had no idea what that would look like.” In her time here, she said she began taking on more and more leadership roles about which she was passionate.
In the Fall of 2014, CCS went through an accreditation renewal with the Association of Christian Schools International. Suiter remembers sitting in an ASCI meeting with other teachers when one of the board members took the time to “speak into our lives and bless us as a staff. It was in that moment I literally heard the Lord say, 'now is the time!' That meeting was in November, and by December I had applied to the University of Washington Tacoma for my administrative credentials.”
She met with Dr. Glenna Frederick, the junior high principal at the time, and high school principal Dr. Ken Friesen, and asked if she could complete her internship at Cascade Christian. They agreed. She did not at the time know Dr. Frederick would be retiring soon, but she was trusting in the Lord.
When Dr. Frederick announced her retirement, Suiter applied for the position, putting her faith in the Lord for whatever doors He would open.
Ironically, many of Suiter's leadership roles during her time as a high school teacher play an integral part of her days as principal now. Prior leadership roles, including overseeing the Impact-term program and establishing the Leadership Development and Effective Communication courses for the High School, were a perfect training ground for her new role. As junior high principal, Suiter currently oversees all junior high curriculum, faculty, and student learning.
She loves being directly involved in planning and executing on behalf of the staff and students of CCS, however, when asked her favorite part of Cascade Christian she narrows it to three things – students, staff, and calling.
“I can teach history, but that is second to me being able to directly disciple students,” she said. “That is huge for me. The staff includes everyone from the teachers to the administrative assistants to the leadership at the district office. I feel like we are an amazing family and we get to do this amazing work together. Lastly, it is the calling. I am called by God. This isn’t my work - it is His work!”
Her motivations are clear when she outlines the best part of her new job title. She explained that being able to help teachers to be their best, and engaging with students to help them be successful, is paramount. Working with the district administrative team on the vision for the school is an awesome privilege.
While her new role might not directly be in the classroom, Suiter said the transition from high school teacher to junior high principal is like a great marriage of both worlds. She explained that she is still able to see the high school students with whom she has built relationships, and at the same time she enjoys the energy of the younger students.
“Truly, the junior high students are a blast,” she said. “They are adventure-bound and they are fragile and they are beautiful.”
When she speaks about the impact she desires to have on the school and the community, she explains, “For me, my impact is pointing people to the Kingdom. I am all about God’s kingdom work and, ultimately, I want kids to be successful in academics, and I want all that teaching stuff to be amazing and awesome, but it means nothing to me if at the end of the day these people do not see Jesus in me.”
As the year progresses, Suiter is enjoying each day as it comes. “I have found if I am fully present in my day then God has some amazing sweet little gifts all along my way. It is like every day I am looking forward to the next! Everywhere I go I am amazed what God is doing in this place!”