Profile in Courage in Public Education: Tim Graham

Courage written in chalk on a blackboard with a heart for an O.

Tim Graham, Retired Athletic Director, Tumwater School District

It seems that being the Director of all athletics in a large, comprehensive high school is itself a “team sport.” It takes everyone working together, from the School Board to the Superintendent, the principals, and all the coaches and families. “I have had a wonderful supportive relationship with the entire athletic community,” Tim said. “Even my wife worked as an athletic department secretary. Our whole family has been involved”.

As a former math teacher at Centralia, Tim moved to Tumwater more than 30 years ago to coach. As a baseball, football, and wrestling coach, he was unaware, at that time, of how deep and broad this new position would take him.  Selected as the high school Athletic Director in 1999, Tim was encouraged to get involved in local and regional athletics. “I became the Director of District 4 in the Washington Interstate Athletic Association,” Tim said. “That has helped me build relationships with coaches all over the state of Washington. “  

“The key here is to have personal relationships with our coaches and the athletes,” Tim says. “Today, kids need someone to advocate for them, to listen and to be there for them. Families need the same thing." One of his colleagues joked, “Tim runs a half-million dollar drop-out prevention program.” He laughs and agrees that many athletes use sports as a reason to engage and have success in school. “It glues kids to school. The core can be the connection between the sport and the coach.” 

That philosophy of keeping kids engaged seems to work. Tumwater School District is proud of its 50-60% student participation rate in extra-curricular programs and 97% graduation rate. “It is a school-wide culture of success,” says another colleague. 

Athletics during COVID was a particular challenge. Tim collaborated with school nurses, Thurston County Health officials, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a program where he ‘tested’ students and their coaches thrice weekly to continue practices. Tim was the anchor for the district’s response when the regulations changed from month to month or week to week.

Tim courageously became a mentor to the coaches. As AD, he gives each new coach three years to learn the “T-Bird” way. He wants each coach to build relationships and hold students accountable. As a result, he developed classes in Student-Centered Character Development and High School Public Relations, which he has taught to coaches at national conventions. As a result of these character education classes, Tim was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the National Athletics Directors Association. 

Also, due to these many relationships with student-athletes, Tim was recently asked to officiate a wedding for one of his former athletes. Congratulations on being the new Profiles in Courage Award winner for the Capital Region ESD 113.  

Would you like to nominate someone for our Board of Directors to honor as a profile in courage?

  • Any employee, resident, volunteer, or student in one of the 44 school districts and one tribal school represented by Capital Region ESD 113 is eligible to submit candidates to Dale McDaniel for consideration.
  • Please keep submissions to 400 words or less. Photos are encouraged.
  • A small committee will review the applications. The Board Chair will read one selection each month prior to our Board meeting. In addition, that month’s submission will be prominently featured on our ESD 113 website.

Think about the heroes in your life who have done courageous things to support our students and staff members. We want to honor the wonderful role models who have been working in our public schools!