By Megan Rieger
Chip Kimball, '88, was not exactly college material when he graduated from high school with a 1.1 GPA.
Yet in the course of seven years, Kimball went from academic probation at Whitworth to earning his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California. The former struggling student is now the superintendent of the Lake Washington School District, the sixth largest district in the state.
The attention and care Kimball received at Whitworth produced a nurtured a new season in his life. He took root and developed newfound leadership skills. During his stay at Whitworth, Kimball founded the World Missions Concern club, began the water polo club and coordinated travel plans for a biology study program to Belize.
From the very first day of classes, Kimball felt like he belonged.
"When I came to Whitworth, it was the first time in my life that I had a true sense of community," Kimball says. "And that community literally changed my life, connecting me with academics, spirituality, fellowship and understanding who I really was and who I could become."
While a student, Kimball sought to create an academic persona for himself. He spent an average of three to four hours per day studying. Many times, Kimball and his friends from McMillan Hall would spend all night at Shari's Restaurant, studying together and drinking coffee. Mike Sardinia, '87, mentored Kimball and gave him specific strategies on how to study for tests. (Sardinia now is an assistant professor of biology at Whitworth.)
"What motivates me is feeling connected, so the more connected I became emotionally, spiritually and mentally, the better I performed in school," Kimball says.
Kimball's job now revolves around ensuring student success as he oversees operations of 48 school sites in suburban Seattle. As superintendent, Kimball strives to model the relationship-driven teaching style of emeriti professors Bob Bocksch, Dale Bruner, Dave Hicks and Howard Stien. These professors demanded excellence from Kimball while spending out-of-classroom time connecting with him on a personal level.
"I got a sense from my professors that they not only cared about how I performed academically, but they really cared about me as a human being, and I had never experienced that from a teacher before," Kimball says.
Because of the strong sense of personal accountability with his professors, Kimball did not want to disappoint them. He now works to emulate their leadership style of being highly relational while not compromising standards. His life has come full circle to a place where the education of 24,000 young students is entrusted to him.
"At Whitworth, I experienced firsthand what its like to be valued as a person, and now I've been put in charge of the school system," Kimball says. "I want to take seriously the responsibility of developing the whole child because of the experience I had at Whitworth."
Reflecting on his past, Kimball remembers himself as a frightened, struggling student who was transformed into a self-confident and successful leader.
"Now my responsibility is to create that experience for a large number of kids in western Washington." Kimball says.
One method Kimball seeks is to engage students through technology. The Lake Washington School District boasts one computer for every four students and an active whiteboard in every classroom. Kimball spearheaded a four-part program that gives teachers the training they need to use the district's high-level technology.
"I think technology has a profound impact on student achievement when applied in conjunction with high-quality teaching," Kimball says.
An off-campus work-study job first sparked Kimball's interest in technology. At Shadle Park High School, Kimball tutored math students after school. Once, when no students came in for help, a teacher told him to make himself useful by learning Appleworks, a software program with capabilities similar to Microsoft Word, Excel and Access. The teachers of the high school became Kimball's next pupils, as he showed them how to use the software.
Then, Kimball began tutoring his roommate, Tim Pope, '87, a computer-science major. Pope encouraged Kimball to become a teaching assistant for a computer class at Whitworth. The biology major had never even taken a computer course before.
Today, Kimball is a nationally known tech guru. More than 1,000 school districts nationwide use an assessment for technological needs that he helped develop. Kimball also serves as the key educational strategist for the Paul Allen Foundation and provides consulting for the Gates Foundation.