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New district superintendent settling in

SNOQUALMIE - Only two weeks into his new position as superintendent, Joel Aune is already handling the reins of the Snoqualmie Valley School District with ease.

But who is the district's new top dog, chosen from scores of worthy applicants?

Aune, 45, was born and raised in Woodland County and spent his entire career in Washington. The Aunes have always lived among the rolling hills and wheat fields of southeastern Washington, so getting used to the amenities in the western part of the state has been a slow process.

"We've done some hiking. We're really interested in doing more of that," said Aune, who noted the weather will be a bit of an adjustment as well.

Aune has been married to his wife Dory for 25 years. The two have three children: Seth, 24, Cara, 20, and Jordan, a fifth-grader to-be at Opstad Elementary.

"We're pretty typical in that we're into family activities," Aune said. "Even though we have just one kid at home, we do a lot of chasing him around as far as his activities - sports and music."

The family is made up of diehard Cougar fans, never missing a football game. Aune, his brothers, sister, their spouses and kids meet up and tailgate on game days. "It's a tradition of ours we've been doing for years."

The Aunes just moved to North Bend from Colfax where Aune was superintendent of the Colfax School District. Dory Aune is a registered nurse, but is taking the summer off to unpack and help Jordan prepare for school. She will start looking for a job in the fall.

"People in Colfax miss her more than they miss me," Joel said. "As a nurse, they got to know her really well."

The Aunes have been grateful for the warm reception they've received upon moving to the Valley. Aune was particularly impressed with Opstad Elementary School for inviting his son to spend a full day in class on June 20 to get a feel for his new school.

The Aune family is presently without pets, besides a temperamental Siamese cat belonging to Cara, which has yet to make the "big transport" from Colfax. "We're very concerned about the cat making the big adjustment this summer," Aune joked, noting the family is actually in the market for a dog, which was promised to Jordan before the move.

The Aunes had never spent much time in the Valley before last January when Joel began his candidacy for superintendent. He and his wife then took a lot of time out to explore the community and research the school district.

"To change jobs and move your family, that's a big deal," he said. "We wanted to be sure this was the right place for us because we were happy in Colfax and not in a hurry to leave."

It wasn't until his sophomore year in college that Aune decided he wanted to go into education. In high school Aune worked with kids coaching basketball and baseball, and his first teaching job was as a fourth-grade teacher in the Cashmere School District.

"I was always interested in working with younger kids. When I first started, there were not a lot of male elementary-school teachers," Aune said.

After he moved on to a principalship at Cashmere Middle School, Aune discovered he also really enjoyed working with preteen students.

"They make you smile and they make you laugh," Aune said.

Aune's talent with kids may stem from the fact that he's never forgotten what it was like to be one. As a "typical student" who did well but could have always done better, Aune said he didn't take academics very seriously until college.

"School was pretty easy for me. I think my parents probably thought I could do a little better, though. I enjoyed the social interaction with friends and classmates, that was probably my favorite part about school," Aune said.

School didn't really click for him until he discovered what he wanted to do as a career during his sophomore year of college. That's when school became "more meaningful" for him.

"All kids are different. Some know at 15, but for others it's 23 or 24 before things come together for them. I'm one that took a little longer. I think that's made me a good teacher and school administrator. I don't think you can judge kids based on what they're doing today because every child is different. They're not all at point 'A' at the same time. I think I have a good appreciation for that."

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