Trisha Roach: A principal who brings ‘compassion’ to the halls

THS principal is known as,“the real deal” and for the compassion, joy and leadership she shows for students, staff and community.

Tonasket High School Principal Trisha Roach is known for creating a true school family, both with students and staff. Kelly Denison/submitted photo

Tonasket High School Principal Trisha Roach is known for creating a true school family, both with students and staff. Kelly Denison/submitted photo

TONASKET- Up and down the halls of the Tonasket High School (THS), Principal Trisha Roach is known as,“the real deal,” and for the compassion, joy, and leadership she proactively shows for her students, staff and community.

“She leads from the heart,” said Kristi Krieg.

Krieg said Roach cares for her staff as people first, employees second. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees.

“We’ve had many great laughs and have worked through some really challenging times, but we come out of it stronger. She is real, she’s not afraid to have tough conversations, she sets high expectations but helps students achieve them,” said Krieg.

No student is left behind and Roach doesn’t give up on her students.

“Trisha was voted most supportive staff member, by the students, two years running. That is just unheard of by a principal,” said Krieg.

THS students are given the opportunity to vote for the most supportive staff through an online survey. Roach won for 2019-20 and 2021-22.

“She has created a true school family, both with students and with staff. She has juggled many different roles in her years with us and she works until the work is done, oftentimes working 12 hour days,” said Krieg.

This past year, Roach, along with other staff members, set out on a mission to revamp early release days in hopes of making them an authentic learning experience for students. This is just one of the many examples given by students and staff to highlight Roach’s leadership technique and her passion for education.

“We wanted to tap into student and staff passions. That’s where it started and it really evolved. We had students teaching discovery projects. We had multiple community members teaching projects, we had other staff members teaching, who are not at the high school, but are district staff members, who also taught discovery projects,” said Roach.

Roach said the team wanted the projects to be things that students could connect with in the real world and to be some of the basic stuff kids need to be successful.

Examples of discovery projects include; cooking, making fried bread, basic car maintenance, rock collecting, jewelry making, fiber arts, candle making, making cosmetics, photography, 3D printing, and music.

“It was really cool and ended up being better than we anticipated. Seeing teachers teach things they are passionate about that are maybe not in their normal content areas, was a really amazing experience,” said Roach.

With schedule changes happening next school year, Roach said her and the leadership team are discussing how to continue the Discovery Project.

“We are dedicated and committed to keeping the Discovery Project going. We are just not sure what they will exactly look like next year,” said Roach.

Roach said her number one priority is to care for the students and staff.

She works hard to create a space where everyone feels they belong too.

Roach, who has been with the Tonasket School District for four years, said she genuinely believes being a Tiger family has been accomplished.

“We are a family, both our students and our staff. We have very low turnover at the high school, as far as staff. Keeping solid, amazing teachers is what’s going to get us high academics. I think we have done such good work on that,” said Roach.

Roach said with a solid foundation of great teachers and good relationships with students, pushing hard on academics is possible.

“I don’t think you can get there if you don’t have relationships with kids,” said Roach.

According to staff who work with Roach, she has gone above and beyond. Tonasket High School is a place where the principal knows everybody’s name.

Fellow staff members said Roach is passionate about providing opportunities for every student and is creative in encouraging, motivating, and inspiring kids.

Many members of staff said they value Roach for her genuine compassion for kids, and her ability to discipline with dignity and providing students the opportunity to make amends, repair relationships, and work through difficult situations. Her leadership style seems to infuse joy into school days, empowering students, and cultivating a culture of resilience and support.

“She greets students each morning and waves goodbye to them on the bus. She keeps staff morale up by doing fun little things in the breakroom like cookies or snacks. She is a fun-loving person and she loves the students so much it just pours out of her. She always gives 150 percent and it shows,” said Katie Walker, High School Counselor.

Roach’s hands-on leadership style is something Walker said she appreciates.

“She has an open-door policy. She leads by example. She loves staff and students. She thinks about the schedule in ways that would benefit both students and staff. She creates a loving safe place for students and staff,” said Walker.

No one goes hungry when Roach is on duty.

“She makes sure students get enough to eat. She is very conscious of student hunger. Even when she has to discipline a student, she builds that relationship with them where it is also a learning experience and oftentimes she becomes a safe person to go to for that student.” said Walker

Joy seems to be a theme when staff and students talk about Roach.

“I am one of the first teachers to get to the building in the morning and Mrs. Roach is almost always there before I am, setting up some sort of celebration that lets her educators know how much she cares about and appreciates them. When I leave (usually right at the end of the teacher workday—I come early for a reason), Mrs. Roach is still there, working away, dealing with students and families, trying to help her students succeed despite all the troubles that too many students and families deal with these days,” said Stirling Headridge

Headridge said so much of Roach’s work and leadership involves cultivating strong relationships and letting people know that they are valued, appreciated, and important.

“For me, the essence of Mrs. Roach’s leadership is developing the school as a joyful community, a place of learning and love,” said Headridge.

Headridge said the students see and respond to her tireless work on their behalf.

“Both of those most supportive staff awards came during COVID times, I believe, and Mrs. Roach earned them. She fought and bargained and argued to make sure that students got to have something like a normal graduation ceremony. We’ve had graduations socially distanced on the football field and had graduations with students sitting in their cars in the parking lot of the school. But graduation happened,” said Headridge.

According to Headridge, if Roach believes that something is right for the students, she will push and fight and cajole to get it done. No matter what.

“I think the students recognize that and so, even if they get tired of her in her role as an authority figure, they still see all of the energy that she is putting into making their high school time memorable and successful,” said Headridge.

Headridge went on to say, “Roach is exceptional at recognizing the talents that her staff and her students bring to the school.”

She puts both students and staff in positions where they can be successful.