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Beloved Highland principal dies after courageous battle with cancer

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Published on Mon, May 24, 2010 by BY PAM STEVENS | MANAGING EDITOR

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Trudi Spierling, 58, loved children. It was evident in the way she smiled every time she saw the face of one of “her kids” coming down the hall at one of the three Lake Stevens schools where she dedicated her career.
Spierling passed away on Thursday, May 13 after battling cancer for the past four years. She leaves behind a legacy of strength, courage and love of children and teaching.

For the last 22 years, Spierling was with the Lake Stevens School District. During that time she served as a reading specialist, elementary school teacher at Hillcrest Elementary, principal at both Mt. Pilchuck Elementary (2002-2008) and Highland Elementary (2009-present) and also worked as an administrator within the district.
“Trudi has been a part of the Lake Stevens Schools’ family for the past 22 years.  She worked at three different elementary schools and the ESC—she touched the lives of an incredible number of children, families, and staff members,” Lake Stevens School District Superintendent David Burgess said. “Teaching children was her passion and she dedicated her life to igniting the fire of learning in a kind and patient manner.  She will indeed be missed, but remembered dearly by her colleagues.”

Spierling cared not only about her students but took a keen interest in the teachers and staff she worked with.
“We worked with Trudi as our principal for six years at Mt. Pilchuck.  Trudi set up a relaxed and comfortable working environment. She went beyond being a boss and genuinely cared about each of us and kept up on our own families,” teacher Brenda Dykgraaf said. “She loved being around the students at Mt. Pilchuck. She related to them in such a way that they all knew that she cared about them. She expressed many times how much she enjoyed being a principal. She encouraged students to do their best work and worked hard using the Love and Logic philosophy. She is greatly missed by our Mt. Pilchuck family.  We love you Trudi.”

Teaching and seeing kids read was a passion of Spierling’s. Even after leaving the classroom, she continued to be a part of the Literacy Leadership Team and continued educating herself and others on the benefits of reading.
“Trudi was inspiring to work with. She was passionate about learning, reading and educating children. She always read the latest publications on reading and shared what she learned with me,” friend and co-worker Susan Lee Ogden said. “As we talked about education, I could always hear the excitement in her voice. She would infect me with her enthusiasm. Then I’d be reading the publication, discussing it with her and using the ideas we liked. When she was a classroom teacher she loved her job. When she became a specialist she loved her job. Later she loved being the principal at Mt. Pilchuck and at Highland. The last time I saw her she told me her favorite part of her job was still being in classrooms with children.”

She was also a strong supporter of PTA and realized the success of a PTA depends on the backing of a school’s principal, not just its parents.

“I worked with Spierling when I served as co-PTA President at Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School six years ago. She supported everything we tried to accomplish and attended every PTA meeting we held. Spierling was always the first one on board for any type of incentives where the principal would have to do something for the kids if they participated.”

Students who knew her were saddened by the news of her death, many writing notes and shedding tears for the teacher or principal whom they loved.

Letters were sent home with students at both Highland, where she was currently principal and Mt. Pilchuck, where some of her students still attended, offering counseling to children and advice on what parents might expect from children during the grieving process.

Services were held last Friday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett with a reception at Lake Stevens High School immediately after the service.

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