Nicole Anderson stayed out of trouble and never visited the principal's office when she was a student at Christ the King School in Richland.
Now she's there just about every day. The 35-year-old took over the principal post July 1, becoming the first-ever alum in the Catholic school's 56-year history to hold the title.
She said she's excited to lead the school and plans to keep it moving in the positive direction it's already headed -- with a focus on preparing kids academically, emotionally and spiritually for the next step in their lives. She said it feels especially good to be doing so in a place with so much personal history.
"Sometimes I'll walk the halls and the bells sound the same," Anderson said. Stepping into the classrooms and smelling the cinnamon rolls in the cafeteria also bring back a rush of memories, she said.
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Anderson attended Christ the King from first through eighth grades. Back then, she was Nicole Filkowski -- a good student with a lot of energy.
Anderson said each of her teachers made an impact on her, from a fifth-grade teacher who helped her harness that energy to the seventh-grade teacher who dared to take a group of middle school students on a field trip to the coast.
Anderson tries to have the same kind of impact at the school now.
After college, she came back to the Tri-Cities and taught in the public school system for several years, including seven years as an English teacher at Richland High. She then served as vice principal at Christ the King for three years.
She and Principal Joe Jisa -- who left the school this summer to become principal of a Richland elementary school -- had some special traditions. They ate lunch at least once during the school year with each of Christ the King's 400-plus students.
They also stood in front of the school each morning, greeting kids as they walked in the doors.
"The car opens up and we're there, saying 'Good morning!' It starts your day fresh," Anderson said.
She plans to continue the traditions this year. In fact, she said, students and parents shouldn't expect major changes as she takes over, although the school will be getting lockers for middle school kids. In years past, they have used cubbies to store their belongings.
The private school has students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Anderson, who's married with two children who both are Christ the King students, said that as principal, "I want to continue to build those relationships with students."
"I'd like to be there for my teachers and my community as well," she said. "I think that a good leader provides tools for their teachers to help them be successful, and in turn I think the whole school (is) successful."
The 2010-11 academic year starts at the end of August. Father Tom Champoux, who oversees Christ the King Parish and School, said Anderson was the right choice for the principal job because of her enthusiasm and knowledge of the school.
"It is nice that she's a graduate," he said. "Our graduates do very well when they go onto further education. We're pleased to have one of them come back and share with the next generation."