Reston, VA—Erika Burden, PhD, principal at Westwood Middle School of Cheney School District in Spokane, WA, has been named the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ (NASSP) 2020 Advocacy Champion of the Year for her significant contributions in advancing the policy agenda of NASSP and advocating on behalf of all school leaders to strengthen America’s public schools and ensure the success of each student. Dr. Burden was honored today during a virtual presentation attended by NASSP leadership, AWSP leadership, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5).

“Dr. Burden has worked tirelessly to improve education across the country, and we are proud to recognize her as the 2020 NASSP Advocacy Champion of the Year,” stated NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti. “She has made concerted efforts to develop lasting, meaningful relationships with her state lawmakers and has driven collective impact and changed the lives of her students.”

From working to secure public education and professional development funding to campaigning for increased school safety measures, mental health resources, and suicide prevention programming, Dr. Burden is a determined advocate and change maker. She has demonstrated an unyielding devotion to advocacy engagement at the state and national levels, and her efforts are amplified by a network of supports she regularly interacts with and motivates to take further action.

As the NASSP middle level state coordinator, she promotes NASSP action alerts to school leaders across Washington state—empowering those leaders with tools to advocate for the needs of their students, schools, and communities. At the federal level, Dr. Burden has conducted many meetings with members of Congress and their staffs as part of the annual NASSP Advocacy Conference.

Dr. Burden regularly invites lawmakers to shadow her for a day, which provides them with a firsthand look at the growing equity issues she faces. Observing professional learning communities in real time validates their worth and demonstrates the benefits of this critical collaboration time. It gives lawmakers the chance to speak to students directly so they can better grasp their needs and understand the realities of public school education. Dr. Burden’s transparency allows her to break down existing silos so that her advocacy efforts can take root and effect change within her school.

Dr. Burden carries her open invite philosophy into her work with the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), serving as the middle level committee liaison for the AWSP Advocacy Advisory Council. Through meetings with the Mentoring Principal Leadership Network of AWSP, Dr. Burden has been able to address the equity issues she says were “on her heart” but that she didn’t feel she had the tools to properly converse with staff about. Being closely connected to this army of “people resources”—what she calls the other principals across her state—has empowered her to tackle tough equity issues, make a clear impact, and now lead the conversation.

“Erika listens to the needs of students in her school and puts the needs of students front and center in her messages to lawmakers,” says Roz Thompson, director of government relations and advocacy for the AWSP.

The Advocacy Champion of the Year award—now in its second year—recognizes school leaders for accomplishments and efforts aligned to the policy and advocacy goals of NASSP. These include: elevating the voice and influence of school leaders in federal, state, and local policy and public discourse; increasing the number of advocates taking action on NASSP campaigns in every state to ensure active representation in all 435 congressional districts; expanding NASSP’s direct influence on federal and state lawmakers and policies affecting school leaders and public education; and engaging student leaders in advocacy to broaden NASSP’s policy impact.

For more information about the NASSP Advocacy Champion of the Year, visit


The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and voice for principals and other school leaders across the United States. NASSP seeks to transform education through school leadership, recognizing that the fulfillment of each student’s potential relies on great leaders in every school committed to the success of each student. Reflecting its long-standing commitment to student leadership development, NASSP administers the National Honor SocietyNational Junior Honor SocietyNational Elementary Honor Society, and National Student Council.