Paul Banks Elementary School
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
Principal Eric Pederson is a community-builder who prides himself on cultivating a welcoming and positive atmosphere at Paul Banks Elementary School (PBES), where he has served as principal for the past seven years. Guided by a responsive approach to leadership, Pederson has developed a variety of programs that shore up this affirmative school culture while fostering “caring, confident, problem-solving students.” Pederson’s approach is not one-size-fits-all. Rather, throughout his career, he has practiced deep listening as a basis to assess the unique needs of each community he has served and develop initiatives for differentiated instruction, family engagement, and social-emotional support. While working at a predominantly Native school in the rural north of Alaska, for example, Pederson hosted community feasts and launched initiatives such as a kindergarten bootcamp to foster trust between families and the school’s majority-white staff. At PBES, he has implemented universal violin instruction and built a hard-working Intervention Team that collaborates to target instruction so that all students reach their full potential. Most recently, with the support of his PTA and staff, Pederson launched a Care Team initiative to assess family needs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, distributing $5,000 in food vouchers and other financial assistance for families unable to work during the crisis. Pederson holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Alaska, and a bachelor’s degree in Math and Science for Elementary Education from the University of St. Thomas.