Spotlight on Kulshan paraeducator headed to Bahrain on third deployment

Educators in Action

“Hey, man, did you do your homework?” asks Jen Newbauer with a big smile on her face as she greets a Kulshan student upon his arrival through the front doors of the school. The student, not at all phased by the pointed question, responds with a big smile himself and immediately starts into an animated conversation with Newbauer who serves as the academic support paraeducator at Kulshan Middle School. And so her day as a staff member at Kulshan begins.

Newbauer has worked at Kulshan for three years and currently holds two different job titles and one counseling internship at the school. Aside from her main gigs as the academic support paraeducator and the Associated Student Body (ASB) secretary/bookkeeper, she also monitors the student Commons before and after school begins, and is an emergency substitute, as needed. In addition to those roles, she serves as a counseling intern with the Kulshan counselors while she finishes her master’s degree in education (M.Ed) in school counseling from City University. She will receive her certificate in June.

Those positions and her internship aside, Newbauer will embark on one more major undertaking. She is to be deployed to Bahrain later this month on her third deployment as a reservist in the Navy. According to the latest information, she will be on leave from the district until her deployment ends in late November 2017. Her previous two deployments were to Iraq in 2003 and to Afghanistan in 2013.

Newbauer says she loves working at the middle school level. She finds that the students are still approachable. Kulshan counselor Kevin Terpstra sees Jen’s connection with the students everyday. “Kids want to talk with her about anything and she makes them feel known,” he says.

“Jen’s ease and consistent, positive demeanor with kids and adults have made her invaluable at Kulshan,” Terpstra continued, “and I have no doubt she’ll be a top-notch counselor when she returns.”

We had a chance to ask Newbauer a few questions before she went on leave.

 What do you enjoy most about working with middle school kids?

I love that they are still kids! This age is an age of many changes and many vulnerabilities. Adolescent students are in such need of at least one adult that they can really open up to as they navigate these changes and I believe that the staff at Kulshan embraces that.

Tell us about being reservist. How long have you been one and why do continue?

I have been in the reserves since 2001 with a short year and a half gap while I finished my undergraduate degree. When I left the Army in 2008, I really didn’t have any intention of returning. What I quickly found was that I missed it. I missed the comaraderie, the community and the connection. There is a special language that military members share that no civilian understands and it’s hard to leave that. The job that I do in the military is very different than what I do here but shares similarities. My team counts on me to take care of them and in return they work very hard to execute our mission. Building a team is one of my greatest joys. I think this is imperative in a military where people are asked to leave their families at any given time and to devote countless personal hours to ensure they are “ready now.”

What are your ambitions when you return?

I want to be a school counselor and pick up where I left off with the kiddos. I always look forward to new adventures!

What will you miss in the coming months about working with students and about Kulshan in particular?

I will miss the hugs; I will miss the snarky comments from kiddos not wanting to do lunch detention because of course “it was the teachers fault!”; I will miss my co-workers and the laughs and tears that we share over our students; I will miss my counselor team who works so hard to advocate for all the students; I will miss my Admin team who have made this year so great and have been super supportive; and I will miss the office team who puts up with me and leaving my things everywhere. I miss everyone already and I haven’t even left.

What would you like to tell your students and colleagues before you take off for awhile?

I love you all and thank you all for being who you are. To my colleagues, you are truly the best team. I see every day how you make a difference, one student at a time. Your countless hours and dedication to the students do not go unnoticed; you are making a difference. To my students, I will always be here for you! Do your best and make every day count. I will continue to hold you accountable from afar and I will be checking on you.

Some of you may also remember Newbauer from her days as the manager of the downtown Starbucks where she greeted and served thousands of Bellinghamsters for five years. And titles, internships and deployments aside, Jen is also mom to Sehome student Jaden “Peanut” McCann and is so glad he is settled into high school and that she was here for his entire first season of high school basketball.

It’s unclear if the Kulshan student who was asked about his homework that morning had completed it, but it hardly matters. The most important outcome of that interaction with Newbauer was that the student was greeted and engaged, and that the staff/student relationship was as important as the homework completion. In The Bellingham Promise, one of the core beliefs is that ‘all children should be loved.’  It was apparent watching Newbauer’s interactions with students that this particular promise was fulfilled.


Photos 1 and 2: Newbauer honored at Veterans Day Assembly in November 2016
Photo 3: Newbauer with Kulshan students at Y Adventure Day in January 2017
Photos 4 to 7: Newbauer makes the rounds in the Kulshan Commons every morning before school

Comments (4)

  1. Doneva Froberg

    1 year ago

    RIGHT on… what a great article, thanks for posting this, I have had the privilege of subbing out Jen’s job, she is an amazing, dedicated, loving, caring and vibrant person. Blessed to call her my friend and colleague. So grateful for her service to our Country.

  2. Trina Hall

    1 year ago

    I had heard from my son, who is a Kulshan student, that Ms. Newbauer was deploying soon. It has provided a springboard to great conversations in our home about the military and serving. He admires Ms. Newbauer for what she does at Kulshan, and how she does it – connecting with kids. Now he is also able to admire her for her service to our country. Thank you BPS for highlighting this story so we could learn more details and hear from Ms. Newbauer through your interview. All the best to you Jen, and thank you for your service.

  3. Victoria Bressette-Reeb

    1 year ago

    I also support the kids at KMS by subbing for Jen. It is an honor to spend time with everyone at Kulshan! Thanks, Jen, for your service, dedication and personal sacrifice.

  4. Michelle Abernathy

    1 year ago

    The inside scoop on the homework is that Jen and the student had a deal where he was supposed to go home, give his mom a kiss, tell her he loves her and discuss his AVID contract. And he did complete his homework. :). We love you too, Jen

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