Introducing Amie Karkainen -
Tolt Middle School's New Principal
“I want to do something that leaves an impact when I’m gone, leaving a legacy. I want to inspire kids to discover their passions, pursue their dreams, try new things, and be the best they can be. There's nothing I'd rather do than invest in our future by investing in our kids."
Tolt Middle School’s new principal, Amie Karkainen, smiles widely when sharing this idea of what it means to make a mark in education. And, as a matter of fact, Amie smiles a lot of the time, enthusiastically, and with sincerity.
Joining Riverview from Canyon Park Junior High in the Northshore School District, and working more than 12 years in the Issaquah School District before that, Karkainen brings a vision for innovative thinking, clear communication, and the creating of authentic relationships, to the home of the Thunderbirds.
These ideologies define who she is, whether in time spent as a camp counselor in high school or in recognizing she prospers in the collaborative world of college. They were put to the test when, a short time after completing her student teaching, she joined Skyline High School, as a new math teacher midway through the year. Later, she would be hired as Dean of Students at Skyline, and, prior to coming to Tolt, she served as the Assistant Principal at Canyon Park for three years.
Karkainen grew up in “a family of teachers” and drew on experiences which guided her towards a career in teaching. Those moments led her to Wheaton College in Illinois, where she pursued both a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and her Masters of Arts in Teaching, as well as being a star player on the Wheaton women’s basketball team. The path was forming before her; a career where she could see herself collaborating, teaching, and finding a way to provide kids with every opportunity to be successful in life.
Karkainen shares that she was often told being a math major and an athlete would be too difficult, but she found a way to do both.
“During my sophomore year, I transitioned into a five-year Masters-in-Teaching program. I always took 18 credits and I was able to finish the program early. My mom had a connection back home, and Skyline needed a math teacher to begin in the spring after my basketball season concluded. And so, I came back home (Karkainen grew up in Bellevue) and got right to work,” Karkainen says.
Her dedication to achieving success not only in her school, but also throughout the district, is measured in a number of different ways. At Canyon Park, she worked with a district-wide committee which led to a decline in disciplinary incidents by approximately 40%, while student recognition increased more than 30%. She created connections between families and community organizations, and crafted professional learning opportunities for staff to better understand the social-emotional needs of students.
And rarely will you find her in her office. Instead, Karkainen is in classrooms, visiting and walking with students as they travel from class to class, and being present, visible, accessible, and available to students, staff, and parents, whenever possible. Building a sense of community and cultivating partnerships is, Karkainen believes, ingredients for a successful and thriving school environment.
“Every child comes through here and that’s so exciting to me. I remember talking with people I knew who were Riverview-connected in some way, or a part of the community, and I heard, over and over again, this a student-centered district. There is a collective focus on pursuing excellence, and Tolt is surrounded by, and benefits from, a strong and supportive community.”
Positivity. Open lines of communication. Sharing her story. Listening. Focusing on collaboration.
These are the skills and traits which have followed Karkainen everywhere she has traveled in her academic and professional career.
“I want to continue the great work that is happening here and keep improving and make it better. As educators, we can always find a way to improve and make the next day better than the day before.”
A new school year brings its own unique set of challenges. For Karkainen, she’s in a new place, in a new role, with new colleagues, and around 750 new faces and names to remember and learn. And she is ready.
“The students and families have been so supportive. I really want to let people know that when they see me, to please come up and say hello. I feel like I've found a home and am pouring myself into Tolt. I feel so fortunate to be in such a special place."