Since Ryan Tauriainen graduated from Chaminade in 2010, he’s racked up a long list of accomplishments. At 26, he became one of the youngest principals in the country. In 2016, the Washington Post named him the “Principal of the Year.” And as a charter school leader in the nation’s capital, his strategies helped produce the highest-performing early childhood classrooms in the district.
Oh, and the author of five children’s books is now a 2019-20 White House fellow.
But he says despite all the acknowledgment and titles, he still sees himself as a “teacher first.”
And that’s due in part to the approach he started to build at Chaminade that helped him see that improving school culture, building a positive and happy work environment – infused with aloha – and putting people above everything else always produces the best results.
“I definitely believe that I brought a servant’s heart and the aloha spirit back with me to DC from Hawaii,” Tauriainen said, in a recent interview. “Having roots in Hawaii was a benefit for my education career. Every day, my main inspiration lies in the children I have served and will serve.”
Tauriainen enrolled in the Master of Education program at Chaminade while serving as a Teach for America educator.
During the day, he taught language arts to seventh graders at Wheeler Middle in Wahiawa. And at Chaminade, he sought to expand his knowledge of secondary education, working alongside professors and his fellow graduate students for insight and support as he worked to sharpen his classroom skills.
His mentors and peers helped him grow as an educator.
And, he said, they provided vital emotional and academic support. “I appreciated how flexible Chaminade was for graduate students,” Tauriainen added. “I was a full-time teacher while being a full-time student. Being able to do both and manage both was a blessing.”
Tauriainen’s White House fellowship began in August 2019. He works at the U.S. Department of Education, where he reports to Frank Brogan, the assistant secretary of education for Elementary and Secondary Education. And he said among the projects he oversees is $26 million in grant money set aside for Native Hawaiian education programs – an area that he said he’s passionate about. The Oregon native also remains committed to improving opportunities for education – “the great equalizer” – across the United States. “I have seen the benefits of providing an excellent education and I have seen the detriments of failing our students,” he said. “Ensuring an excellent education for every child, no matter their zip code, is the surest way to our more perfect union.”