GBE Welcomes Principal Anderson

Gold Bar Elementary Welcomes Principal Heather Anderson
Posted on 09/24/2019
End of the Day High 5. Photo by Kathleen Kohler

Gold Bar Elementary Welcomes Principal Heather Anderson 

Article and Photos by Kathleen Kohler

“Believe in the Power of Yet!” That’s the motto printed on Gold Bar Elementary (GBE) staff T-shirts this school year. The motto invites people to reframe their thinking when faced with a challenging task.

Heather Anderson, the school’s new principal explains, instead of saying, “I don’t know how to do this, say I don’t know how to do this, yet.”

A firm believer that everyone has the capacity to learn Anderson says a mindset of growth is very important to her. Whether kids or adults she points out that sometimes people get stuck in an attitude that they either already know how to do something so they don’t feel they need to try to learn anything new, or they feel they will never be able to reach their goals, so they simply give up. As a life-long learner she encourages people to approach life with a broader view. “I’m open to learning new things, and just because I’m not where I think I should be doesn’t mean I can’t get there.” A truth that harkens to the wise saying, never give up.

Anderson herself has faced and overcome many challenges. The oldest girl of six siblings, three boys and three girls, Anderson says her family moved often throughout her childhood. Her dad, a long-haul truck driver and a bit of a nomad, sometimes moved the family two to three times a year. As Anderson reached her teens she told her parents, “I want to establish roots somewhere. Can we please just stop moving and settle somewhere?”

Enrolled at Cascade High School in Everett, Anderson’s driver education instructor brought students out Highway 2 to perfect their driving skills. “We drove past the Wayside Chapel and the Coop & Cone,” she recalls. “I just fell in love with the town. It was so cute, it made me feel like I was driving through Mayberry.”

Not long after she discovered the town of Sultan, she attended a friend’s wedding in Texas, where her family had lived before relocating to Washington. When she was due to return home, Anderson told her parents, “I’m not coming home unless you move to that little town that has that little church. I want to be a name, not a number. I want to go to school where the teachers know who I am. And I want to make a difference where I live.” Laughing, she admits she was a bit stubborn. But her ultimatum grabbed her parents’ attention, and in 1993 they moved their family to Sultan where Anderson attended her senior year of high school.

History teacher Susan Olson made a lasting impression on Anderson, who says, “She brought history to life, and took the time to get to know you as an individual.”

Being the first in her family to graduate from high school, she determined to go to college but needed someone to guide her through the application process. “Vicki Phebus took me under her wing, and helped me write my college entrance essays.” Accepted to Gonzaga University in Spokane, she credits Phebus for the scholarships she received.

On campus at Gonzaga she worked in the school’s law library with plans to be an attorney. After one semester she decided law didn’t match her personality. When she left Gonzaga, she returned to Sultan, married a local man and started a family. Kids, life, and caring for her family took precedence.

Heather & daughter, Faith, Run 5K for Autism Awareness. Photo by Kathleen Kohler.While raising her children she worked various jobs that enabled her to spend as much time with them as possible. She worked for the state as a 911 dispatcher, sold real estate, and worked as a Para-educator at GBE and Sultan Elementary School (SES). Pursuing a degree in early childhood education, she operated a home daycare which provided childcare for many local teachers and families.

Whether tending to family, answering 911 calls, or teaching, at her core she says, “I’ve really got a servants heart.”

No matter what her job she realized everything kept calling her back to working with kids. Even as a child she thought of being a teacher. “I was always the teacher’s assistant.” She laughs. “The one who stayed in at recess to clean the erasers. I was that kid.”  

When her youngest child entered kindergarten she decided, “This is my time. I went back to school to finish up my degree, and get myself into the classroom where I belonged.” She attended Western Washington University where she graduated Magna Cum Laude (Latin term meaning “with great honor”) with a degree in elementary education majoring in special education.

SES Principal Van Orden & Anderson Sport Tutus for a Fun Student Challenge. Photo by Kathleen Kohler.Since earning her degree Anderson has taught both in Granite Falls, and at SES as a fulltime fourth and fifth grade teacher. Desiring to have a greater impact, she returned to school to earn her Master degree in Educational Leadership and her administrative cre


Along the journey

, she married into the family who owns Anderson’s Bambooland located west of Sultan on highway 2. They lease out part of the 112-acre property to flower growers who sell to loc

al farmers markets, such as Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Outside of school much of her time is spent working on the farm or attending her daughter’s sporting events at Sultan High. Anderson also has two grown sons. A self-ascribed outdoorsy person, when she finds the time she loves to spend time with her family and dogs floa

ting on the river, or going four-wheeling with the family on their ATV’s.

Those roots she so longed for as a young teen have found their home in the Sky Valley. “I’m very rooted here now on a hundred-acre bamboo farm.” She laughs. “This Valley for whatever reason has called my name, and I am seemingly here to stay.”   

Beginning the 2019/2020 school year as new principal of Gold Bar Elementary, she steps into the position of former Principal Keith Buechler, who she notes was well loved by staff and community. “I knew I had big shoes to fill.” And while she didn’t plan to make such a quick transition into administration that path worked out. “I’m lucky to be here,” she says. “Happy to be here. Meant to be here.”

That same enthusiasm and passion for education was evident before the first day of school when she started posting short videos on Facebook, as GBE Principal, to connect with parents and students. You can visit the school’s Facebook page to view more GBE news, and stay connected. 

To create a warm environment for students to learn Anderson plans to greet students as they enter school in the morning, and say goodbye to them at the end of the day as much as possible. Another priority is to visit classrooms on a regular basis to support students and teachers in their learning goals.

GBE Book Fair with Principal Anderson & Pete the Cat. Photo by Kathleen Kohler. Like the women who influenced her life she recognizes she is a role model for students. And while she admits it’s taboo for an administrator to say so, she knows education isn’t all about test scores. “We’re raising human beings,” she says. “That responsibility is really important to me. These people will grow up to be my neighbors. I want them to feel loved, and I want this to be a positive place to be.”