October is an opportunity to show your appreciation for Walla Walla Public Schools’ principals in celebration of National Principal Appreciation Month. The school district recognizes the essential role principals play in providing opportunities for students to realize their potential and follow their dreams. This month the district will spotlight its principals as a way of thanking them for their service.
Pioneer Middle School Principal Kristina "Kris" Duncan was a self-described painfully shy freshman at Walla Walla High School when she decided to give the FFA program a try. She met retired teacher Mike Martin and it changed her life. Mr. Martin was the FFA Advisor and coordinated the Agriculture Education program at her alma mater. Kris remembers how Mr. Martin had a gift for finding the hidden talents in his students and challenging them to embrace these gifts. Before she knew it, Kris was utilizing her quick wit and critical thinking skills as a national competitive speaker. This was her launching pad to becoming a teacher, which started at Walla Walla Community College where she earned an Associates of Arts degree and continued in Walla Walla by earning a Bachelor’s Degree from Whitman College. She holds a Master’s Degree from Eastern Washington and has an administration credential from Washington State University Tri-Cities.
Duncan’s first full-time teaching job was 8th grade Language Arts at Columbia Middle School in Burbank. As a young teacher she remembered what it was like to take biology class from Mike Mahan at Walla Walla Community College. She says Mr. Mahan made all students feel welcomed and celebrated. She said he was so passionate and excited about his subject that students could not help be excited too. She has modeled this example throughout her 20-year career in public education, which includes a decade at Wa-Hi as an English teacher where she helped launch the Big Blue Weekend program to improve school culture and climate.
Kris transitioned into administration seven years ago with her first stint as an Assistant Principal at Davis Elementary in College Place. She is in her 5th year as principal at Pioneer Middle School. Kris said she followed her heart into education because she wanted to change the world and believed the best way was to be a teacher. She enjoys being around young people because they are resilient, funny, kind, flexible and generous. For Kris Duncan, true love is spending her days with students. You’ll often see her joking with students in the lunchroom, dressing up in costumes for the holidays and cheering for the Pioneer 49ers at games.
Kris also enjoys giving back to her community. She was an advisor for Walla Walla Wagonettes, a horseback drill team. She has volunteered for the Sherwood Community Trust and has been a public speaking coach. When away from work, she loves getting outdoors hunting, fishing, camping and gardening. She’s a big Seahawks and Mariners fan. Kris married her high school sweetheart Bill and they have two school-aged children. Their 15-year-old daughter Molly is a sophomore at Wa-Hi and 17-year-old son Billy is a senior. Billy Jr. played baseball on the Walla Walla Valley All-Stars that made a run to the Little League World Series in 2017. Her dad was a City of Walla Walla police officer and her mom was a para-educator at Wa-Hi.
Here’s what staff and students are saying about Kris:
“Kris was my high school English teacher. She has a way of making everyone feel at home here at Pioneer Middle School, from her students to her staff. I’m truly grateful to be working with her as part of our office team. - Erica Marroquin Salgado, Assistant Secretary
“Mrs. Duncan is all about the kids. Her compassion and love for them shows through the time she invests to make Pioneer Middle School a safe, fun and engaging place to learn!” - Angie Butler, Science Teacher
“Mrs. Duncan is very funny and has a great sense of humor. She's very kind to others and can always put a smile on my face.” – Student Adriana Cruz
“You are an amazing principal and are the reason this school is great.” – Student Nathaniel Chavez
Thank you to Pioneer Middle School Principal Kris Duncan for dedicating your professional career to advance the learning opportunities and experiences for Walla Walla youth.