Many milestones highlight Jordan's tenure

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CARNATION - Jim Jordan's final school pictures were taken last week, and as Carnation Elementary School's principal for the last six years, he will remember that moment as one of many memorable events during his last year at the school.

"You go through milestones as you go through the year, which is exciting," Jordan said. There was his last first day of school, his last parent-teacher conferences, his last ice-cream social and open house. In June, Jordan will go through his last day of school, then hand the torch over to Doug Poage, who was recently hired from the White River School District in Buckley.

After three decades in education, Jordan said that although he will miss the school, its students, teachers, staff and parents, it's time he did something new.

"I'd like to try something different while I'm still able," Jordan said. "I've got a great school here, but I just want to do something different. I would like to have a chance to work on my cars, fool around with hobbies, things like that."

The longtime principal was referring to his collection of 1955 to 1957 Chevrolets. Other items on Jordan's itinerary are traveling, reading and spending time with family - including his wife, Pat, who teaches first grade at Snoqualmie Elementary, and grown daughters Cynthia, Tiffany and Becky, a freshman at Western Washington University.

Jordan wants to visit Europe, where he hasn't been since he was in the Army for 16 months in the late 1960s. Also on his list is Australia, Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico, going on cruises and traveling across Canada and the United States by train.

Jordan would also like to get into another line of work, after he's had time to enjoy family and hobbies.

"I'd like to find a job where I walk out the door, and I don't have to take it home with me," he said. He hasn't selected a particular job at this time, but is open to anything that requires working with people.

Jordan started his 30-plus year career in education in 1970 as a sixth-grade teacher at Carnation after completing his bachelor of arts in education at Seattle University. After a year and a half, he went to Mark Twain Elementary in the Lake Washington School District to finish his principal internship.

The enthusiastic educator returned to Riverview in the mid-1970s to serve as part-time principal and head teacher at Carnation Elementary. In 1978, he was made full-time principal and served there until 1989, when he became principal of Stillwater Elementary for six years before returning to Carnation.

Jordan described the role of principal as both rewarding and challenging, with an average work week of 55 hours. During those hours, he's dealt with the pressures and demands of supervising an entire school with its students, teachers and staff. He's looked after the safety and security of these people, and strove to create the best possible learning environment for children. And although he has relished the job, it's time to find a new adventure.

"Both schools are just outstanding. I've been very fortunate in my career and have had excellent experiences at both schools," Jordan said. "I want to thank them for all the support over the years. I've enjoyed working with the students, staff and parents of both Carnation and Stillwater."

He said he enjoyed being a part of school remodeling projects, including the 1981 and 1989 additions to Carnation Elementary, and the 1989 wing in Stillwater. Most recently, the "millennium wing" was completed at Carnation.

Jordan switched from teaching to administration because, he thought, "Why not?"

"I felt I had my degree, my principal credentials, and if I didn't do it, I probably would've always wondered," Jordan said. "If you don't do it, you'll never know.

What Jordan likes best about being a principal is being part of the decision-making process. He was pleased to be nominated in 1999 as one of four finalists from Washington in the National Distinguished Principal Award.

"He's the most wonderful, wonderful man to work for," said Mary Balsiger, a Carnation fourth-grade elementary teacher who has worked with Jordan since 1982. "He's all for parents, all for kids, and he backs up his teachers. He's a very kind, very caring person, very competent and loving towards the children. He's just a person who has a great big heart and his number one priority is kids, making sure these kids get a good education.

"The bottom line is, he's a wonderful person to work for. We're going to miss him so much. We've taught at this school for so many years with him and it's like losing a family member," she added.

While many principals and teachers leave smaller school districts, such as Riverview, after they gain experience, Jordan stayed. He explained that many people have asked him over the years why he hasn't left the district for more money.

"I believe grass isn't always greener on the other side," Jordan said. "Just because you get more money doesn't mean you'll be happy. Money cannot buy someone coming in and saying, 'You have a nice school.' Money isn't necessarily a component of a place like this."

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