Betty Cobbs, principal of Everett’s Woodside Elementary School, with her husband Zebedee Cobbs at a Western Washington University celebration in May. The Woodside principal was among WWU’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni & Recognition Award recipients. She received the Woodring College of Education Alumni Award. (Courtesy Everett School District)

Betty Cobbs, principal of Everett’s Woodside Elementary School, with her husband Zebedee Cobbs at a Western Washington University celebration in May. The Woodside principal was among WWU’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni & Recognition Award recipients. She received the Woodring College of Education Alumni Award. (Courtesy Everett School District)

Principal Cobbs honored for 44 years of service to schools

Gas cost about 40 cents a gallon. The World Trade Center opened in New York. And the last U.S. combat troops had just left Vietnam. It was 1973, the year Betty Cobbs began teaching in Everett.

Without personal computers, cellphones or social media, that world was much different from the one kids encounter today. In 44 years, schools, families, and expectations for students have changed.

In all those years, Cobbs has been a constant in the Everett School District, mostly as a principal. She began her career as a teacher at Garfield Elementary School, where she had spent her last year of college. Cobbs is now Woodside Elementary School’s principal, a role she has filled since 2009.

At 66, she’s in no rush to retire. “It’s still quite a delight to work with students, and to see the potential they have,” Cobbs said Monday. “I just take it year by year.”

In May, Cobbs was given a Western Washington University 2017 Distinguished Alumni &Recognition Award, specifically the Woodring College of Education Alumni Award. Along with winners of a dozen other WWU awards, she was honored at a dinner May 18. The event, which she attended with her husband, Zebedee Cobbs, was part of Western Washington University’s Back2Bellingham reunion weekend.

On Tuesday, Cobbs was recognized during a meeting of the Everett School Board. The WWU award was a surprise, she said, and “the greatest honor I think I could receive — and it’s been the greatest honor to work with kids.”

Cobbs, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WWU and a doctorate from the University of Washington, grew up in Tacoma and was the first in her family to attend college. She taught or was principal at Garfield, Jefferson, Hawthorne, Jackson and now Woodside.

When she started in 1988 as principal at Garfield, where she would be for 11 years, some teachers remembered her as a college student intern there in the early 1970s. Cobbs also worked in the Everett district’s human resources department, assisting new teachers.

Francisco Rios, dean of the Woodring College of Education at Western, was in Everett on Tuesday for the school board meeting. Rios said Cobbs “exemplifies what our college is all about.”

“She is a pillar in the community, given all the different things she has done,” he said.

Cobbs has served on Everett’s civil service and parks and recreation commissions. She has been on a Professional Education Advisory Board at UW Bothell and the Everett Community College Board of Trustees. She has worked with the Imagine Children’s Museum, Everett Performing Arts Center and the Everett Youth Symphony.

Through civic engagement, Cobbs brings an example of being a “servant leader citizen to her work,” Rios said. Noting that Cobbs was the district’s first African-American principal, he said she cares deeply about diversity, access and inclusion.

In 44 years, Cobbs has seen big changes.

“There are greater needs that we serve, not only with academics, but with social and emotional needs,” she said Monday. “There are students who need intervention and students who need acceleration. You have to do it all.

“We have a pretty rigorous program. We have to teach Common Core, state and grade-level standards, and do assessments,” Cobbs said. “We have an obligation to make sure students are learning.”

There have been changes in families, too. “People are spread out all over the country. Families may not have grandparents, aunts or other relatives in the area,” she said. “In school, we’re scheduled all the time for everything. Families are the same way.”

Cobbs has encountered students whose grandparents she taught. “It’s very heart-warming,” she said. Every now and then, a student from long ago will contact her. “When things have worked out well, and they’ve made accomplishments, they want to share that,” she said.

Cobbs was inspired by her own second-grade teacher. She advises anyone interested in an education career to spend time in a classroom.

“It’s not easy work. It’s hard work. It’s heart work,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Everett Fire Department and Everett Police on scene of a multiple vehicle collision with injuries in the 1400 block of 41st Street. (Photo provided by Everett Fire Department)
1 seriously injured in crash with box truck, semi truck in Everett

Police closed 41st Street between Rucker and Colby avenues on Wednesday afternoon, right before rush hour.

The Arlington Public Schools Administration Building is pictured on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
$2.5M deficit in Arlington schools could mean dozens of cut positions

The state funding model and inflation have led to Arlington’s money problems, school finance director Gina Zeutenhorst said Tuesday.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Jesse L. Hartman (Photo provided by Everett Police Department)
Everett man who fled to Mexico given 22 years for fatal shooting

Jesse Hartman crashed into Wyatt Powell’s car and shot him to death. He fled but was arrested on the Mexican border.

Snow is visible along the top of Mount Pilchuck from bank of the Snohomish River on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington issues statewide drought declaration, including Snohomish County

Drought is declared when there is less than 75% of normal water supply and “there is the risk of undue hardship.”

Boeing Quality Engineer Sam Salehpour, right, takes his seat before testifying at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs - Subcommittee on Investigations hearing to examine Boeing's broken safety culture with Ed Pierson, and Joe Jacobsen, right, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Everett Boeing whistleblower: ‘They are putting out defective airplanes’

Dual Senate hearings Wednesday examined allegations of major safety failures at the aircraft maker.

An Alaska Airline plane lands at Paine Field Saturday on January 23, 2021. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)
Alaska Airlines back in the air after all flights grounded for an hour

Alaska Airlines flights, including those from Paine Field, were grounded Wednesday morning. The FAA lifted the ban around 9 a.m.

A Mukilteo firefighter waves out of a fire truck. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Fire Department)
EMS levy lift would increase tax bill $200 for average Mukilteo house

A measure rejected by voters in 2023 is back. “We’re getting further and further behind as we go through the days,” Fire Chief Glen Albright said.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.