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Takoma Park Principal Named Washington Post Principal of the Year


Dr. Zadia Gadsden, principal at Takoma Park Elementary School, has been named this year’s Washington Post Principal of the Year. Dr. Gadsden was one of 16 principal finalists chosen for their exceptional work and dedication to students. 

Gadsden is a highly respected leader of her school, recognized for her fierce dedication to the success of her students and staff. She has fostered a spirit of cooperation, collaboration and shared responsibility for teaching and learning throughout the school. Prior to becoming a principal, she worked as a special education teacher for 10 years.

In the 20 years Gadsden has been principal at Takoma Park, she has continually moved the school forward by putting innovative ideas into action. She redefined the Takoma Park magnet program to focus on enriched math instruction and an enhanced STEM program. She has routinely supported events that promote student success, including Books and Breakfast, where the school provides breakfast coupled with a read-aloud and corresponding book for families to take home, and community events, such as Bilingualism Is My Superpower, sessions held in apartment buildings near the school to engage non-English speaking parents.

As the longest serving principal in the Montgomery Blair cluster, Gadsden is skilled at listening, especially for difficult conversations. Her door is always open, and she hosts on-demand town halls when she hears concerns from the parent community that need to be addressed. Parents say her responses are always informative, respectful and thoughtful.

She works to make the school community caring and inclusive for all. She knows everything going on within the school and is always willing to step in whenever assistance is needed—you can find her leading a class, working lunch duty, cleaning up a hallway spill or covering prekindergarten nap time. She developed a jobs program for second graders, allowing them to choose from delivering mail, serving on flag duty, caring for the environment, or being a junior principal advisor and helping her read the morning announcements. One parent said there were multiple examples of Gadsden being “an extraordinary person who seems to handle a very demanding job with complete competence and grace.”

Gadsden holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from Slippery Rock University, a master’s in education from National Louis University and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Bowie State University. For a decade, she was an adjunct professor at Washington Adventist University.