Popular principal dies of cancer

LAKE STEVENS — She may have been busy as an elementary school principal and feeling the ups and downs of a prolonged fight against cancer, but Trudi Spierling made a point to carve out time to read to students.

Often, she could be found sharing a well-worn copy of the children’s book, “Alexander and the Magic Mouse,” at Highland Elementary School in Lake Stevens. Spierling loved the illustrations and the story’s message.

Her colleagues said Friday they hope students and others will remember Spierling’s passion for reading and teaching.

Spierling, 58, died Thursday of cancer. She continued her work at Highland until about three weeks ago.

“Trudi is a wonderful part of our district,” said Superintendent Dave Burgess. “Certainly we are all heart-broken.”

The elementary school principal was known as a stickler for making sure classroom instruction was based on sound research.

She started working for the district in 1988. She taught at Hillcrest Elementary School, where she served as a reading specialist, before becoming principal at Mount Pilchuck Elementary for six years. This was her first year at Highland Elementary.

She had been in and out of the schools and central office over three years while receiving medical treatment for the disease.

“Today was a difficult day for many,” said Amy Beth Cook, an assistant superintendent who was an elementary school principal with Spierling. “Trudi really had a passion for students and learning.”

Cook said Highland had extra counselors on hand Friday. Many of the students already knew about their principal’s death when they arrived at school Friday morning. Teachers let students take the lead on how to deal with the news of their principal’s death, she said.

Spierling had two grown children.

Burgess visited all three schools where Spierling had worked on Friday.

“There were a lot of tears and a lot of hearts are broken,” he said.

Funeral arrangements were pending Friday.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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