Who is Vera Risdon?
In February 2016, Renton School Board members voted unanimously to name the district’s newest middle school Vera Risdon Middle School after long-time Renton educator Vera Risdon.
In November 2015, the district appointed a committee to recommend potential names to the School Board. The committee worked through hundreds of names submitted by students, parents and community members from throughout the district. The committee also took public comment at each committee meeting so community members could offer suggestions directly.
Veteran educator honored for commitment to children and education
An Eastern Washington native, Ms. Risdon began her career in Renton as a sixth-grade teacher in 1966 straight out of Washington State University. Before retiring in 2013, she had been an educator in the Renton School District for nearly 50 years, including positions as a teacher and principal at Hazelwood Elementary School, the site of the new middle school, in Newcastle, WA. Her experience includes:
- Teacher in five different schools from 1966 to 1982 (Hazelwood, Campbell Hill, Benson Hill and Renton Park Elementary Schools and McKnight Middle School);
- Principal at Highlands (1982-86) and Hazelwood (1986-92) Elementary Schools;
- Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Technology (1992-2000);
- Associate Superintendent for Elementary Education (2000-2007), part-time;
- Assistant Superintendent (2011-2012) and
- Interim Superintendent (2013).
Ms. Risdon was instrumental in creating innovative programs and collaborative processes to ensure all children are given rich opportunities for a meaningful education. She helped oversee the rebuilding or remodel of schools in the district from 1993 through 2007 and the creation of the organization that supports technology implementation throughout the district. She spearheaded efforts to build and maintain robust music programs in the schools and helped create the H.O.M.E. program which provides homeschool opportunities for students and parents. She facilitated the extensive revision of the district’s master improvement plan and the development of professional learning communities throughout the district. She was known for her commitment to creating the supportive environments and positive relationships among staff and students that are necessary for successful change efforts.
Ms. Risdon is well-respected both in the district and throughout the state. From 2000 through 2011 she also worked as an education consultant, trainer, coach and mentor for school districts in the region, including serving at Dimmitt Middle School in Renton (2007-2011) and also in Auburn, Vashon and Everett, as well as with the Association of Washington State Principals, and the state’s education office.
Music is important at Risdon Middle School
As a lifelong educator, Ms. Risdon knows the value of music in a student’s growth and development. She began playing piano at age six. At nine, she began violin at school, and later, the oboe. She played in her junior high school band, and continues to play musical instruments—over the years she has played oboe, piano, church organ, violin, and hand bells. She played professionally with the Seattle Symphony, and, in her retirement, has been a member of the Renton City Band, the Issaquah Philharmonic, and the Woodinville Community Band among other musical groups. Her passion for music has always been important in her life, and she continues to work to ensure students at Risdon Middle School have as many opportunities as she’s had to be enriched by the experience of playing.
In 2017, as the school opened, Ms. Risdon teamed up with two important community organizations, the Renton Schools Foundation and the Renton Community Foundation, to raise funds to provide more musical instruments at the new middle school. "I envision having a wide variety of instruments available to students at Risdon Middle School in the very beginning," said Risdon, "so that students can explore many options and find ones they connect to and learn to love.”
“Music opens so many doors for students,” said Ms. Risdon. “It facilitates and motivates learning, but it’s also just a genuine joy to play an instrument and participate as a member of a group. Regardless of what happens later in your life, you will always listen to and appreciate music at a different level and be enriched by your school experience.”