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The Walk+Bike Movement Finds a Champion in Russell Academy Principal Debbie Ebert

Note: this was originally posted on our contractor, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's blog.

Safe Routes to School has enjoyed teaching bike safety education at the Russell Academy in Parkrose School District since 2008. The students are wonderful, the teachers are super fun and supportive, and the principal, Debbie Ebert, often even helps with bike safety classes and rides with us on the community rides (one year she even brought her son).  A supportive teacher or principal can make all the difference for a strong bike safety program, and Debbie Ebert is a champion for walking and biking. -LeeAnne

Principal Debbie Ebert and her family.

Tell me about a walking or biking memory you have from childhood?
Oh, wow. It’s hard to pull out just one story, since I walked and biked all throughout childhood. I rode my bike well into high school every day. That’s just how we got around. Then we moved and I was too far away to bike or walk. But then in college I sold my car and bought a bike again!

What do you like the most about the BTA’s bike and pedestrians education programs?
The presence of the instructors in the schools who are getting kids to actually DO the work of biking and walking. You can’t duplicate it any other way. You can’t just show a video or give a short presentation. The kids’ response is amazing. They just love it. It is great to see the kids learn how to ride.

If you could improve one thing about either/both of these programs what would it be?
The first year, the Safe Routes to School program had a part time liaison at each school and that was really helpful. When that position was cut, we really felt it. Our school has missed our liaison. I see the potential of what we could do with additional resources and leadership. Getting people to help is not a problem — it’s that leadership position we really miss.

How did you end up as the principal for Russell Academy?
I was in the right place at the right time. I was a teacher at Russell Academy when D.R. Rose had just been offered the superintendent of Canby. I went through a a rigorous hiring process and then became the principal. It’s been an interesting transition to go from teaching at a school to leading it.

What do you love the most about Russell Academy?
The staff is amazing. I don’t think that in my career that I ever have or ever will work with a more talented group of teachers. I am just blown away by the talent in that building.