Helping students be successful

Washougal educator to retire after 42 years

"I love to walk down the halls and interact with the children."

-- Laura Bolt, Hathaway principal

“I love to walk down the halls and interact with the children.”

— Laura Bolt, Hathaway principal

After a career spent in elementary education, Laura Bolt, Hathaway Elementary School principal, will retire at the end of the year.

Bolt, 64, has been with the Washougal School District since 2003 as Hathaway’s principal, a capstone to her 42-year career.

Bolt brought to Washougal more than 29 years of experience as a teacher and instructional leader, having taught for the Tahoma, Battle Ground, and Vancouver school districts. Bolt also taught at a private parochial school, Our Lady of Lourdes School in Vancouver, for one year.

“I have come to know Laura as a person who cares deeply for the welfare of every child and every staff member,” said Dawn Tarzian, superintendent. “Her caring manifests itself in so many practical ways – from opening hundreds of milk cartons each day to working with a desperate mother to help her find the resources needed so her child can be successful in class the next day.”

Bolt noted that her relationships with students, staff and parents has been her favorite and proudest aspect of her career.

“I love to walk down the halls and interact with the children,” she said.

As an elementary school principal, one of Bolt’s duties is discipline, but she did not ever want to be known as a heavy-handed principal the children feared.

“I never wanted students to feel afraid to talk to me or to come in to my office,” Bolt said. “So my approach to discipline was to describe the problem as a mistake and that you can learn from mistakes. The kids trust me and know that I am fair. They need to learn how to approach problems in the future. I work to be a good adult role model for them.”

She added that some visitors to the school have commented how surprised they are by how “reasonable and calm,” the elementary students are.

“These are my expectations and the kids try hard to meet those expectations,” Bolt said. “I am so proud of them and all of their accomplishments.”

Early in her career, Bolt was given assignments to provide training and mentoring support to students and new teachers. She tries to continue this as principal, by providing support and coaching to her staff, and discussing how to improve instruction.

“I have a very good and wonderful staff,” she said. “I know they deal with a lot of different academic and emotional needs of children every day. Whenever I can I would try to lessen their load. I want their energy to go to the kids. If there is something I can help work out, I’ll do it.”

Kindergarten teachers Sue Conway and Emma Slabbert describe Bolt as hardworking and caring.

“Laura’s greatest strength is that she cares so much,” Conway said. “She makes sure that each and every child experiences success.”

“Laura is the hardest working principal I’ve ever worked for,” noted Slabbert. “She has the ability to see problems before they get too big. She’s one step ahead. She cares about the kids and I feel like she’s very fair.”

Upon retirement, Bolt plans to spend more time with her husband of 40 years, Ron, who semi-retired in December as a lumber broker.

She is also excited for more time with her grandchildren, Peter and Paige, in Boise, Idaho.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with friends, volunteering and even playing some pickleball,” she said. “I really love being a principal, but I need to enjoy my last 20 years in a different way.”

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