Over the past several years, Eisenhower High School has had many principals rotating in and out. Replacing previous Principal Jewel Brumley this fall is Eric Diener, who says he’s here to stay and has big plans for the high school.
Diener says he wants to make Eisenhower a better place all around, and that his new role isn’t just a job for him but instead something he just loves being involved in.
“You work at a job, a career you enjoy, (and) you be part of it,” he said.
Diener graduated from Washington State University with a history degree and a political science minor. After returning to his hometown of Naches, he was asked to coach the girls school soccer team. Realizing the appeal of teaching high school students, he went to Heritage University to receive his education certificate, and did his student teaching at Naches Valley High School.
Diener started his teaching career at Highland Middle School in 1995, later moving on to the high school there. While at the high school he was a part of many extracurricular activities, such as being head football coach and the driver’s education teacher.
After 13 years at Highland, he moved into administration as assistant principal at Granger High School in 2008. Two years later, he went to Wapato High School, first as assistant principal, then as acting principal, then for six years as the principal. Diener decided to switch to Eisenhower High School this year on what he called a “gut feeling that it would be a great fit.”
While Diener had heard some negative things about the school, he looked past that and saw the good. He saw the tradition and history of Eisenhower and the large student body all as an opportunity to see what he could do.
“People said Ike had some edges,” he recalled. “But, I gotta tell you, we’re ready to show the world, man: We are Ike. We have great kids. I don’t see the issues people were talking about.”
Students at Ike have seen many principals take different approaches. But Diener says he wants his administrative style to be different, and in a positive way. He doesn’t want any barriers for teachers and students, and his plan is to make sure student learning takes place every day.
“I want to make sure that they feel safe and secure in the environment, and I also believe that it is the principal’s role to make sure that the climate of the building is positive, where people want to come to work or people want to come to school. Not just being a guy who signs checks or signs bills, but a person who’s involved in the classroom, involved with the student body, and I’d love to make these four years of high school an experience that students will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Diener believes that senior year is the most important year, and it’s the one that the students remember most. Throughout the years, many of the traditions seniors get to experience at the school have decreased, and the last few graduating classes have been very vocal about losing those traditions. Diener wants to bring those traditions back.
He has plans for many traditions, but specifically so for the seniors. He wants students to come to him with requests, and says he’s open to tweaking any idea that could work well for the benefit of the students. While some traditions may be outdated, Diener feels that if they promote the Ike standards, he’s more than happy to assist students with those activities. He says he is working with some teachers to begin developing some new traditions for graduation.
Diener strongly believes in Ike’s motto of “IKE” standing for “Integrity,” “Kindness” and “Engagement.” He feels the student body should follow it in their daily lives, and that the seniors should take it with them after graduating.
The principal said: “I’ve been thinking about this: If you can, every day, live by our principle of ‘IKE’ — if you can have integrity (and) be proud of yourself every day, if you can be kind to someone every day, and if you can be engaged in your life and the people around you, man, what a wonderful day. And if you did that every day, you’re gonna have a great life. I think the road map to success is already here, and that’s what I really think about Ike. We just have to share.”
A month into the school year, Diener has seen many positives. He loves the atmosphere at Ike — the sense of belonging — so much so that he believes adults outside of Eisenhower can learn from the way the students interact together.
“We have a wide variety of students and backgrounds, but we have a sense of belonging and a sense of community that you need to see. You can have a table of, let’s say, high school football players. And right next to them a table of kids playing Dungeons and Dragons, and they get along. Their worlds don’t collide but they get along. This is a neat place. I wish the adults of the world could see our students are available to coexist with their differences. If someone was picking on a student who could be an easy target, I know that there are 1,900 Cadets that would back that student up or take care of them. It is a family feeling.”
In terms of positive changes that can help raise the school’s graduation percentage, Diener believes a strong support system is important.
“I’m going to have parent meetings once a month. I believe it’s a partnership — parents, students, and schools. Together we can get kids to graduate. We’ve got so many advocates for our kids, and that’s our staff. Every student will have a support team to help them graduate and go beyond high school.”
Outside of school, Diener considers himself an avid sports fan. He has season tickets to the Seahawks, and takes his wife to every game. You’ll likely catch him at most Ike games, too.
Outside of work, he listens to ’80s rock bands. Hair bands are his go-to, but he occasionally is in the mood for heavy metal. Diener’s all time favorite is Queen, and he thinks Freddie Mercury would still top the charts.
But his favorite activity? He says it’s being a father. His son, Jace, plays multiple sports, and Diener hates missing any of his events.
“At the end of the day, my biggest hobby is being a dad. I always consider myself a principal, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so I always want to be a role model for my students.”
Karlee Van De Venter is a junior at Eisenhower High School and is enrolled in the Running Start program at Yakima Valley College.