UW College of Education Home College of Education eNews

Retirement: Kathy Kimball

Since 1986, Kathy L. Kimball has been developing and implementing K-12 leadership programs in the College of Education.  She served as a leader and teacher in the Danforth Educational Leadership Program and the Leadership for Learning program and has helped prepare hundreds of leaders (principals, teacher leaders, program administrators, superintendents) in Washington State and the Puget Sound area. Her lengthy experience in school and district leadership roles grounds her work.

In her early career, Kimball worked in social services with juvenile delinquent youths and taught in a Yupik village in Alaska. She came to firmly believe that public schools were the answer to keeping children out of delinquency and providing rich life opportunities. This belief led her to a master’s in special education and slew of leadership roles in public schools, from teacher to special education director, to principal and assistant superintendent in Maine.

At every level of her ambitious career trajectory, Kimball learned more about how leaders create and enact policies. She began her work on a doctorate in leadership after two decades of service to the public schools. Although she planned to move back into the public school setting, it was the right time and the right place for the birth of the Danforth Educational Leadership Program.

At that time, the Puget Sound Education Consortium was a partnership of fourteen school districts, the University, and community organizations.  “We started talking about school leadership and quickly developed a program. With other faculty from the College and the schools and 14 students we implemented the prototype program in summer 1987. We’ve kept that spirit of equal partnership in our hearts and our heads so Danforth has always been evolving, always current.”

As Danforth interns “our students work every day with instructional leadership, student growth, parent involvement, partnering with the community, building a school culture that sustains and supports teachers so that they can support kids to become successful adults and productive citizens,”

One of the hallmarks of Danforth, which sets it apart from other programs, is the intensive internship. Principal candidates spend a minimum of 1,000 hours in schools over the yearlong program.  “They learn the emotional, hard part of the work by doing and learning alongside good mentors,” Kimball states. “We are preparing people who know how to empower others by distributing their leadership. If it’s all about book learning they miss out.”

Beginning in 1999 Kimball worked with an informal school/university partnership to create the Leadership for Learning EdD program. This program grew out of expressed need from school leaders in WA state. Prospective students became members of the program design team and worked alongside the faculty team to design the curriculum for the first cohort.

Faculty and alums agree with Kimball that the partnership between University and schools and a focus on enduring core values of leadership make these leadership programs work. Couple that with a mission that embraces constant improvement, that seeks to evolve, and you’ve got leadership-training programs that are responsive to the field.

Kimball glows when she talks about the students, her pride in their capable accomplishments is truly evident.  She has loved working in collaboration with students and faculty teams and is grateful to the College staff. “I’ve appreciated all the opportunities and kindness and open-mindedness that I’ve experienced at the College of Education and with school colleagues.” Kimball wishes to thank all of the faculty, staff and school partners involved in the leadership programs over the years.  “There’s nothing I have accomplished that was done alone. All of my work is built on relationships and in collaboration with others.”

After retirement, Kimball plans to work seriously on oil painting. She is part of an artist collective that contributes to group shows. The proceeds from her work benefit UW scholarships. Click here to donate to the Ken Sirotnik Equity in Education Fund or the Diversity Scholarship Fund. 

To read memories and tributes for Kathy Kimball or to add your own, click here.


College of Education, University of Washington
Box 353600 Seattle, WA 98195-3600
To ensure our newsletter always reaches your inbox, please add ecoe@u.washington.edu to your
address book.