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Meet HighScope Hero

Meet HighScope Hero


Improving early childhood education because every child
deserves a high-quality, equitable early education.

Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning — Seattle, Washington

With more than 30 years of experience in early education policy, budget, and program development, Sonja Griffin describes herself not only as a public servant working behind the scenes to advance the cause of early education but also as a lifelong advocate for her community.

For the last five years, Sonja has served as the quality practice and professional development manager for the City of Seattle’s Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), overseeing the delivery of instructional coaching, training, and assessments. Her goal is to improve educational and life outcomes for all children, particularly children of color.

Sonja and her team put HighScope at the heart and center of the FEPP-funded Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) by adopting HighScope’s research-based curriculum as one of two approved curricula. The SPP offers a high-quality, affordable education to three- and four-year-old children at a mix of centers — including those in the Seattle Public Schools district and home-based, family childcare providers.

HighScope Hero Sonja Griffin

“I was always aware of HighScope,” Sonja says. “When we were actively focused on implementing a research-based ECE curriculum, HighScope had all the attributes — it is child-centered and adaptable to various cultural contexts.”

Sonja was nominated by Polly Zahn Schmitt, a coach for the State of Washington’s Early Achievers Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). Schmitt states in her nomination that “Sonja recognized early on the unique outcomes that were possible with the HighScope Curriculum to meet the needs of a diverse population and, along with other key administrators, adopted HighScope as the premier curriculum for the Seattle Preschool Program.”

This collaborative partnership has been particularly helpful during the COVID-19 crisis. “I appreciate my relationship with HighScope,” remarks Sonja. “The organization has been extremely responsive and has done a great job pivoting and adapting to meet the unique needs of Seattle providers. HighScope has set up a virtual, self-paced training infrastructure that allows educators to log on and train at their own pace.”

A winner of the prestigious David P. Weikart Award, named for HighScope’s founder, Sonja holds a master’s degree in human development and educational leadership from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena, California, and a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders from California State University in Northridge, California.

Reflecting on her designation as a HighScope Hero, Sonja says, “I don’t do the work for recognition, but I have gratitude for this honor. I am pleased that the evidence of my work is showing results. I am doing something right!”