Dr. Kyle Kinoshita, recipient of the 2023 UCEA Excellence in Educational Leadership Award

The University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) Excellence in Educational Leadership Award recognizes a practicing school administrator who has made a significant contribution to the improvement of leadership preparation and development. This year’s recipient is Dr. Kyle Kinoshita, alum of the UW College of Education, who previously received this award for the first time in 2004.

Dr. Anthony Craig, director of the Leadership for Learning (L4L) program, who was part of the team that nominated Dr. Kinoshita for this award said, “Throughout his extensive career in the field of education, Dr. Kinoshita has served as an equity-driven, learning focused leader who remains committed to the development of other educational leaders. In his retirement he has continued to work in service of P-12 students through continued involvement with principal and superintendent preparation programs in both formal and informal mentoring roles for educational leaders across the region.”

Dr. Kinoshita is the current co-president of the Seattle Chapter Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and is a career educator and affiliate faculty member in the University of Washington L4L doctoral program. In 2019, he retired from Seattle Public Schools, where he was Chief of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction. Prior to his time at Seattle Public Schools, he was Executive Director of Teaching and Learning in the Marysville School District and principal in the Edmonds and Highline School Districts. Dr. Kinoshita earned a B.A.Ed. in Ethnic Studies from Western Washington University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in Educational Leadership from the University of Washington, focusing on equity in schools.

Congratulations Dr. Kinoshita!

Learn more about Dr. Kinoshita’s career and educational experiences at the UW College of Education, and what the 2023 UCEA Excellence in Educational Leadership Award means to him. Please note that responses have been edited for length and clarity.


What is your history with the UW College of Education and the Leadership for Learning program?

Although I received an undergraduate degree in education and ethnic studies from Western Washington University, all my subsequent certification — elementary teacher, principal and superintendent — and graduate degrees — master’s and doctorate — have been from the UW College of Education.

I was a member of Leadership for Learning cohort 2, earning my doctorate in 2007.  I then became an adjunct faculty member for cohort 5 (graduated in 2015) and now am the faculty lead for internships for the current cohort 8, who will graduate in 2024.

I have also been a faculty member in the Leadership Development for Educators (LEDE) principal preparation program at the UW Bothell School of Educational Studies since 2011.

How have your studies and work with the UW College of Education influenced your professional career?

What I owe the College for growing my professional knowledge in areas of education and leadership over the years is immeasurable. Outside of my formal degrees, I would turn to the College of Education to deepen my understanding of areas such as literacy and mathematics instruction, and the intersections of race, culture and justice and education. The nationally regarded expertise I’ve had the good fortune to learn from supported me in every role over three decades, from teacher and principal to senior district-level leader.

The College has always been at the forefront of defining what it means to pursue educational justice.  This meaning has continuously evolved and deepened over the decades, and I’ve grown with it.  From the beginning of my initial studies of leadership for principal certification in the early ’90’s, I was unsure if I even wanted to take this path. But working with nationally known College of Education faculty convinced me it was the right thing to do to make a difference with children in education. This was significant, as at the time, there were not many educational leaders that looked like me — I didn’t ‘look like’ a typical principal, or for that matter a typical elementary teacher.  But the College constantly nurtured the motivation I had that came from growing up in Seattle neighborhoods predominantly populated by communities of color to support students and communities who have been marginalized and harmed by the system.  And to take on career moves where I might have opportunities to serve a bigger population of students. 

What does receiving the 2023 UCEA Excellence in Educational Leadership Award (twice) mean to you?

I also received this award in 2004 as a school principal just beginning doctoral work in the L4L program, after participating in numerous mentor and facilitator roles led by the UW Center for Educational Leadership. Both then and now, the awards have been a surprise, because to me, following a passion for supporting both new and experienced leaders in the incredibly complex and challenging work of leadership is tremendously fulfilling and just seems like the right thing to do. And ultimately, it impacts the students who mean a lot to me, who have been least served by the institution of education. I’m just grateful that I’ve found opportunities to participate in leadership development over my career.

What would your advice or guidance be for UW College of Education graduates entering careers in school administration?

Each one of us has a ‘story’ that compelled us to go into education. For most of us, it was some form of “I want to make a difference.”  It’s essential that you find and hold onto that story as you enter leadership. For leaders of color, the story nearly always connects deeply to one’s identity and community. In my case, it’s being from a family and community that survived endemic racism, survived and became resilient after a devastating and traumatic incarceration in World War II and [being] the son of a mom who as an activist, achieved a measure of justice for that historical wrong. For leaders of color, it’s vital, as we often face pressure to detach ourselves from these identities, bury them and swallow whole injustices and microaggressions we experience for the sake of maintaining equilibrium of the status quo. On the other hand, being in touch with one’s ‘story’ is a source of the deep roots that allow us to weather stormy challenges, and to have the source of energy and growth for the hard work of striving toward educational justice.

And secondly, you’ll always be a learner — you’ll never be done growing.  After all these years, I’m still recasting what leadership means to me. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m incredibly grateful to be able to work with Dr. Anthony Craig and Dr. Ann Ishimaru, the Leadership for Learning faculty members who nominated me. They are doing the work to transform L4L to be a place where I and all the students can use what we learn about our identities and stories as a source of teaching and learning.