For Spokane Public Schools and Aryn Ziehnert, the timing couldn’t be better.
A psychology professor at Eastern Washington University, Ziehnert was named Wednesday night to fill the vacant position on the district’s board of directors.
Moments later, Ziehnert talked about her passion for the mental health of children, especially during school closures forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know what we’re facing and I know how difficult these times are,” said Ziehnert, a Spokane native who rose to the top of a field of seven finalists.
Ziehnert will fill the remainder of a six-year term, which ends in November 2021. She replaces Kevin Morrison, who resigned in July.
“I’m incredibly grateful, because I know there were a lot of very well-qualified candidates,” Ziehnert said.
Moments after emerging from executive session, the four current board members voted unanimously to approve Ziehnert’s appointment.
“This is a great nomination,” director Mike Wiser said as he recalled what he termed an “excellent” interview with Ziehnert.
“We are lucky to be able to appoint her to the position,” Wiser said.
Board member Nikki Lockwood also noted what she called “a lot of well-qualified candidates who were willing to step up during this difficult time.”
Board President Jerrall Haynes agreed.
“It takes a very special person to step up in times like this,” Haynes said before calling for the vote.
Ziehnert graduated from Mead High School before earning a bachelor’s degree from EWU in 2010.
Ziehnert earned master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Montana in 2013 and 2016, respectively.
After one year as an adjunct instructor at Spokane Community College, Ziehnert was named in the summer of 2018 as a full-time member of the psychology department at EWU.
She taught a variety of undergraduate psychology courses, including introduction, statistics, research methods, and stress and coping.
Ziehnert will be the fourth person to hold the position.
Paul Schneider won a six-year term in 2015, but resigned two years later.
Brian Newberry was appointed in September 2017 to hold the position until the next regularly scheduled board election in 2019. Newberry declined to run for reelection and Morrison won the spot last November.
Ziehnert serves as a research mentor to students involved in the McNair Scholar Program, which works with first-generation, low-income, and/or minority students.
She also has volunteered at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, assisting in providing comfort and entertainment to pediatric patients and their families.
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