Ryan Tauriainen MEd ‘10 has been been named the Washington Post’s Principal of the Year in recognition of his leadership at AppleTree Institute Early Learning Public Charter School’s Columbia Heights campus in Washington, D.C.

The distinction recognizes the top educators in the Washington D.C. area. Tauriainen was selected from among sixteen other entrants, all of whom had been nominated by their peers.

“I am proud to be the recipient of this  distinguished award,” Taurianen said. “My goal is to raise the flag on quality early childhood education through this distinction.”

The Chaminade alum came to Hawaii on a two-year placement with Teach For America while he prepared for law school. However, the experience he gained working with students who had done poorly in the sixth grade and his class’s success on State of Hawaii assessment tests caused him to reevaluate his career trajectory. He decided to change course and focus his career on early childhood education.

Tauriainen told the Washington Post he believed it was his student-centered approach that ultimately made the difference—getting to know the students individually, learning their stories, and adjusting to their preferred learning styles. He attributed the patience and compassion with which he approaches his students to his experience caring for his younger brother who suffers from a mental disability.

Previously known as the Distinguished Educational Leadership Award, 2016 marks its inaugural year as the Washington Post Principal of the Year Award, and Tauriainen as its inaugural honoree.