It’s the end of a busy day early in this new school season as Camas High School’s brand-new principal, Liza Sejkora, sits down, takes a breath, and reflects on a life-changing moment.
“I’d been applying for principal jobs along the West Coast, thinking it was time to leave Arizona and go to California. I never got a bite from California. But, I did get responses from the Pacific Northwest, and last Spring, when I got out of the car here in Camas for the job interview, I felt it immediately. This is where I’m supposed to be, and I’ll tell you this: Working and living here just feels right.”
That April day was filled with a campus tour (with 20 students), a professional development presentation to 15 teachers, and a panel interview with 20 people from the school district, school board, teachers, and parents.
“I felt instant support,” said Sejkora. “I felt the Camas welcome wagon. When I got home, I told my husband ‘this is the job I want.'”
And when the offer came in June, she was elated. By June 12, she was on campus for meets and greets.
“Steve Marshall was so gracious,” she said. “He made me feel so welcome.”
She spent several weeks commuting from a friend’s house in Milwaukie, OR, while her husband of 20 years, Heath, prepared for the move. That’s when she realized she wanted to live in Camas, as well. And, everything just fell into place.
“It’s magical here.”
Vision for CHS
“Let’s be honest,” said Sejkora. “This is a successful place, it’s a solid program. People come to Camas for the schools. People all over know how well things work here. I want to embrace those traditions, but I also want to set goals while we grow.”
During the interview process, she heard directly from a lot of students who want their voices heard in decisions at school. So, she’s forming a Principal Advisory Committee to hear more voices.
“The ASB leaders, the athetes, and more confident students make sure their voices are heard,” she said. “I’m looking to also connect with the other kids. The ones who feel left out. I want students to explore things they haven’t done, and I want to hear what they think.”
Part of that is marketing.
“Let’s publicize more of what we offer,” she added. “How do we help the Key Club advertise what they do well? We will work on a student Senate to get a different view. Let’s also talk more about the talented teachers we have.”
She also wants to work more with alumni, who she says are proud Papermakers.
“I’m a collaborative leader, and my vision is seeing and serving each student, and hear the voices we haven’t heard yet,” she said. “I also want to do that with the teachers. I want to hear their voices.”
So, what is she hearing from the students?
“So many ask me ‘are you going to let us wear hats?'” she said with a smile. “Every kid is working on me for hats. Yes, I said hats. They’re not asking about using cell phones. So I just tell them we will look at the history and why we have that policy.”
Sejkora grew up in Southern California, in Orange, specifically, and as a young adult (during her junior year in college) followed her family to Arizona, where she would finish school, get married, and start her family.
She’d earn her BA in English from Arizona State University (ASU), followed by an MEd in Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, with a Gifted Endorsement and Administration Certificate. Her career started in the high school English department in Chandler, Arizona, where she taught Language Arts, and became involved in school clubs.
“I worked with a lot of Freshmen, as well as Seniors,” Sejkora said. “We did a lot senior prep for the Seniors, and I also taught AP Literature.”
She enjoyed working with students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which is for non-honors students that have potential and demonstrate some great skills.
“I love working with kids who maybe don’t fit in, or feel like they don’t excel,” said Sejkora. “I want them to know they have a place.”
During this time, she was approached to seek a leadership position, so she pursued that Admin Certificate.
“I absolutely love school,” she said. “I love teaching! I like to be in the classroom. I was also a yearbook adviser for eight years.”
She then decided it was time to enter a doctorate program at ASU, “which opened up my eyes to the need for social justice, and where my passion for leadership came alive.”
She earned her EdD in Educational Administration two years ago.
During the last five years, Sejkora has worked as an Assistant Principal in two schools: Higley High School in Gilbert, AZ, for three years, and at Coronado High School for the last two. She estimates that 90 percent of the kids at Coronado were either eligible or participated for free or reduced lunch programs. She said it was an eye-opening experience.
The Sejkora’s have two sons: Ian, 17, a Junior who attends CHS, and Trevor, 13, who attends Liberty Middle School.
“Heath encouraged the move,” she said. “I think he was ready to leave the heat in Arizona, so being here is a good change for him, as well. Ian is a Varsity wrestler who likes video games, and he said he feels very welcome here. Trevor is more artistic and loves music. He plays the flute, and is a huge video gamer, too.”
She said it’s not easy to change schools as a Junior, but that being here in Camas has been a positive adjustment.
“We’re also looking forward to our first Papermaker Football home game,” she said. “I hear it’s amazing. Being here just feels magical.”