Chehalis Middle School’s Heidi Fagerness named Washington State Secondary Assistant Principal of The Year 


Chehalis Middle School Assistant Principal Heidi Fagerness thought she was going to a staff meeting when she entered the school’s library the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 26, so she was surprised to find the library packed with not just her coworkers, but friends and family members who don’t work at the district. 

“I think the first thing you said was ‘why is my dad here?’” Chehalis School District Public Information Officer Carrina Stanton recalled to Fagerness on Monday. 

Upon entering the library, Fagerness quickly learned the staff meeting was actually an award ceremony, where the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) formally named Fagerness the 2024 Washington State Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year. 

“It takes a lot to get me at a loss for words — I do not have a hard time talking — but I could not talk that day,” Fagerness said.

As part of the award, Fagerness will compete with winners from other states for the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ National Assistant Principal of the Year award, which will be announced in early April. 

Regardless of how she does in that competition, Fagerness will be honored alongside winners from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity and the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools at the National Principals Conference in July. 

“I know it’s a big deal. I know and appreciate that it’s a big deal. I just know that it’s not me, it’s us. I really, truly believe that,” Fagerness said of the award, adding that she believes the award is a recognition of the work her whole team in the Chehalis School District dedicates themselves to. 

“It’s heart work. It’s hard, heart work. That’s the work that needs to be done right now, and I’m not the only one doing it. We just do it really well in Chehalis,” she said.

Fagerness, who has a combined total of 32 years in education, is currently in her fifth year as Chehalis Middle School’s assistant principal. She previously worked in special education at W.F. West for about 25 years before leaving for another district, only to return in 2019 to take the assistant principal position at Chehalis Middle School. 

Chehalis Middle School Principal Chris Simpson nominated Fagerness for the award, without her knowledge, in the spring of the 2022-23 school year. 

In the application, Simpson described Fagerness as someone who “shows up every day with the ‘intention of serving others through my head, hands, and heart’” and as someone who is “highly effective in promoting and creating a positive culture at CMS (Chehalis Middle School),” AWSP said in a news release. 

While the winner for the 2024 award hadn’t been announced yet, a misunderstanding at the AWSP’s annual conference in Spokane over the summer led Simpson to believe Fagerness hadn’t won, he said. 

“So I said (to Fagerness), ‘Well, I have good news and bad news: I nominated you, but someone else won,’” Simpson recalled. 

Some time after that conference, AWSP sent Fagerness some questions to answer and send back; which, while odd, didn’t alert her to the possibility she was still in the running for the award. 

Then, on Monday, Oct. 23, Simpson got a call “out of the blue” from AWSP, he said. 

“They’re like ‘Hey, I have some good news … your nomination for Heidi Fagerness being Assistant Principal of the Year, she got it.’” 

Simpson recalled AWSP saying they had a lot of applicants for the award, but as the selection committee was sorting through them all, “there was just one that kept coming to the top, and that was Heidi’s.” 

Simpson was given strict instructions not to tell anyone about the award until an AWSP representative could present Fagerness with the award later that week, he said. 

“Kudos to her family as I’m trying to connect with them and friends without her knowing about it,” Simpson said. 

“It was a little overwhelming. Joyous (and) overwhelming,” Fagerness said of the award ceremony.