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Longtime teacher Barbi Riggs named principal at Hawthorne School


August 22, 2017

AFTER 13 YEARS of teaching at Hawthorne School, Barbi Riggs has been named principal.

Barbi Riggs, a veteran of the Hawthorne Elementary School teaching staff, has been named the new principal at Hawthorne Elementary School.

Riggs, 51, takes over the position from Terry Augustadt, who will be the new vice principal and athletic director at Sweet Home Junior High, where Andy Price has resigned to take a position in Springfield, his hometown.

“This is a dream come true,” Riggs said.

Supt. Tom Yahraes said Riggs has a long, rich history in the Sweet Home community.

“Barbi has all the attributes and characteristics that you want to find in a building principal,” Yahraes said. “She has an incredible background in ele-mentary curriculum and instruction. She has an incredible ability to build a positive culture and positive relationships with parents and kids and staff.

“It’s one of the great honors and privileges I have as superintendent to be a small part of something somebody has earned, helping that person achieve their dreams.”

Riggs has spent 18 years in education in Sweet Home, five years as a teaching assistant at Foster School and 13 years teaching the first and second grades at Hawthorne.

In that time, upholding her firm belief that every child can be successful, she has made it her mission to make a difference in her classroom.

“I know I’ve made a difference in the lives of many children in the classroom setting,” Riggs said, adding that she has long wanted to make that difference a school-wide basis, involving parents and the community.

“I think the key to success is building and keeping genuine relationships,” Riggs said, letting people know “you’ll care for them” and continue to support them.

It’s not just a belief, though. Riggs knows that every student can be successful – even those with the toughest backgrounds and home lives. She’s seen it first-hand.

Riggs said she has had students come back years later and ask her to attend their graduation. One of several that stand out in her mind is a girl attending high school in another district.

The girl, who came from a difficult background, recently had an assignment to write about one of the most influential people in her life. She chose to write about Riggs.

Riggs saves much of her students’ work. She remembers her students. When the girl learned that Riggs still remembered her, she cried.

Letters to Santa are written by second-grade students and members of second-grade blended classrooms annually at Christmas time in The New Era. Riggs still had the Santa letter the girl wrote while in Riggs’ class, and she gave it back to her.

“She mentioned in her letter (to Riggs), ‘You always believed in me,’” Riggs said. “I think that’s my gift. That’s why this next step was so important to me.”

Riggs wants to make a difference for students throughout the schools, she said, and she wants to support the new teachers.

She takes her inspiration from her late in-laws, Jim and Gloria Riggs, who were both educators.

Jim Riggs, for whom Sweet Home’s Community Center is named, spent 30 years at Foster School as a teacher and a principal. Gloria Riggs was an elementary school teacher and later a graphic artist for the School District.

“I know they’re looking down, probably beaming from ear to ear today,” Riggs said last week after the announcement of her new position.

Riggs is excited to take her new job in her own building, she said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I absolutely love our Hawthorne family. We all care about each other. We are one big family.”

Moving forward, Riggs said, one member of that family will give her a hand.

“I value and respect Terry (Augustadt) as a friend and as my principal,” said Riggs, who has served as acting principal, subbing for Augustadt in the past. “Terry has offered to be a mentor and help make the transition smooth. He’s always supported me in my desire to become principal.”

Student academic achievement in local schools has slipped in recent years, and the district is focused on improving it in a variety of ways.

Riggs thinks the district is moving in the right direction, she said. “We need to approach our academics in a positive manner, with explicit instruction, actively engaging our students, supporting our new teachers and coming at our academics with a can-do attitude.”

After year of what Supt. Tom Yahraes described last week as structural changes in the district, the district is continuing to focus on improving academic performance – as well other key areas. Directly around academics, professional learning communities will be more prominent in the coming school year.

They’re going to be a top priority, Riggs said. Through them, educators will review student data, reteach them and reassess them, modifying their plans based on data.

Just with the changes implemented last year, Riggs thinks the district will see some academic improvement even in last year’s scores, which will be available in the fall.

With more changes, like returning to a five-day week, “we’re going to see an increase in our numbers,” she said. “I just have a really good feeling about this next school year.”

Riggs graduated from high school in Montesano, Wash., in 1984. She earned her bachelor of science degree in education at Western Oregon University in 2004, her master’s degree in education from Northwest Christian University in 2014 and her administrative license at the University of Oregon in 2015.

She is married to Monte Riggs.

“He has been my rock,” Riggs said. “He has supported me through all of my schooling, all of my late nights, all of my worries about these students.”

They have three adult children, Josh, 27; Jake 25, who is married to Lacey; and Emili, 23, who is married to Jace Magee. Their grandchildren are Natalia, 5, and Cecilia, 6 months. Natalia will attend kindergarten at Hawthorne.


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