Empowering young minds with education
For Tigard High School’s new principal, education is power.
Melissa Baran has been an educator for 18 years in four school districts. Starting as a language arts teacher in the Beaverton School District, she moved to school administration through a partnership with the Nike School Innovation Fund. Before coming to the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Baran was the principal at Sherwood High School.
After spending a year as associate principal, Baran is taking the wheel at Tigard High School. It’s been a smooth transition into principalship, made easier by having spent a year building relationships with the THS community. She said she’s excited to play a guiding role in developing the vision and direction for the high school’s next chapter.
“What led me to this principal role is just my love for this community,” Baran said. “I really have found some amazing people, and I’m super excited to be able to lead alongside them and provide some awesome opportunities for the kids here in Tigard-Tualatin.”
Baran and her husband moved to Wilsonville four years ago when they were searching for somewhere to raise their two children. They chose Wilsonville because it was close to friends and family, she said, and because of its educational opportunities. Her children will attend the new Boones Ferry Primary School when it opens.
As a first-generation college student, Baran believes strongly in the impact of education.
“I have full appreciation and recognition for the power of education,” she said. “It can change the trajectory of life — that’s what happened to me. I know that it can do that for any student who is in any school.”
Though she can’t control the situations of the students who walk into her school, she can empower them to control their own lives through education, she said. Knowing this keeps her hyper-focused on her work and pushes her to find ways to catalyze her community around the idea that they have an opportunity to change lives.
It may sound cliche, she said, but those students can do anything. It’s up to her and the other educators to make sure they know it and are prepared for whatever future they want.
“I really believe it,” she said. “I really believe that every student who graduates from Tigard High School will be ready to make whatever choice comes next for them.”
Students today face many challenges, such as mental health barriers, socioeconomic issues and racial relations, and those problems are even more emphasized in a post-COVID world. But as a leader and someone in a position of power, Baran said she tries not to fixate on the challenges themselves but rather on how to give students the tools to navigate them.
“I’m trying really hard to not just talk about the challenges. I want us to focus on the opportunities that we have and the skills that students have gained through the last three or four years of education because there’s a lot there,” she said. “It’s not to say that everything’s perfect because I also don’t believe that, but my hope as a leader is to continue to provide resources and tools and support to help students.”
Outside of school, Baran is a mother, a wife and a friend, she said. She likes to watch sports, and has been indoctrinated with Seattle sports fandom by her husband (though she still roots for the Blazers). She enjoys entertaining people in her home and being a mother and wife. Most of all, Baron said she’s someone who is in love with the people who fill her life, and is happiest when she’s with them.
With integrity, human connection and belief as her guiding values, Baran is excited about her new role and the opportunity to make an impact.
“If we all understand and recognize that we all are part of this puzzle, and we believe that we’re all working toward the same end goal, and we do so without ego, ill intent, any of those sorts of things,” she said, “then we’re all gonna be OK.”