Karanbir Deol, Paraeducator at Sunnyland Elementary
“‘Hey, Karanbir, are you interested in being a teacher?’ Kathe Koruga asked me this, she’s a family liaison with the district. I said well, yeah, I’ve actually been thinking a lot about it.
Looking back at my own experiences as a student, there were few teachers I felt like really got me. I was a good student. I was smart and capable, but I was disengaged because I didn’t feel any connection. But with those teachers who connected with me, I wanted to learn and to try harder.
Kathe told me to look into the Woodring Future Teacher Fellow Program. She said you can do it in two years. You’re going to be hustling a lot, but you can do it! I was like, alright Kathe, I’ll think about it. Next thing I know, I got an email from the program director, who dropped by, like, the next day! She said, “Karanbir, we have a problem in Washington. We need educators of color.” This program partners with school districts to recruit from our community so teachers better represent the kids they are teaching.
I said, “Yeah! Sign me up! That’s what I want to do!” I was building connections with students, getting invested in my community, working with families and seeing a real need and wanting to do more, but not knowing how. I signed up, went to school that same summer. That was intense. I also started applying for school jobs and landed at Sunnyland. They assigned me to kindergarten. I was super nervous for a couple weeks, then I fell in love with it.
The kids bring me to work every day: their smiles, knowing all the potential they have. I get to help them discover how awesome they are. We all grow up liking to draw and write, but a lot of us don’t have someone telling us, hey you’re amazing at that, you should keep doing that! I’m sure they have adults in their lives that love them and encourage them, but one more always helps. I want to be that one more adult, telling kids that they can do what they want to do, they can be what they want to be. Having an adult there to empower you – to help you feel proud of your work and what you’re doing. That helps them take off and I want to help add more fuel to that tank.” Karanbir will graduate from the Woodring program in June 2020.
Roxana Parise and Emily Humphrey-Krigbaum, homeless support coordinators
“Roxana: I always describe what we do as eliminating academic barriers for students who are homeless. Whether its needing counseling or shoes, whatever that barrier is – we help eliminate that if we can.
Emily: We try to be creative. Everybody’s situation is so different. It’s like an iceberg: we talk to a family, and there is so much more going on below the surface. Sometimes, if we don’t have the big resources we really want, we have a lot of amazing partnerships, so we could provide a student with a haircut voucher–that’s not housing, but that is something that might make them more excited to go to school. Trying to do all that we can to make sure our students can have the best day at school as possible.
Roxana: Sometimes all we can do is listen. Families may need someone to be a sympathetic ear. There are families living in their cars or in tents; it’s important for families to know that we care about their situation, so sometimes all we can do is be someone they can talk to. But we also try to cultivate relationships with other programs–If we see a gap in services in something that is desperately needed, part of what we do is go out there and try to find a way to fill that gap.
Emily: And when you know it’s a hard situation where there’s not an immediate housing resource, it’s trying to be someone who can be a support contact, so folks don’t feel like they are alone. They know that we’re here trying to do all that we can do help.
Roxana: This job would be impossible for one person. We are a great support for each other. It’s so important to have each other to bounce ideas off of because this job is heavy. But, there are good moments. I had a high school kid that wanted to go on a school trip and it was great to gather resources from the community and district to help them go. It’s so much fun to combine resources together to make something positive happen. A lot of these kids have so much negative in their lives, its heartwarming to do something positive for them. That keeps us going.”
Sarah Marshall, Career and Technical Education Teacher at Squalicum High School
“So when you become a CTE teacher, your past work experience drives what kind of certifications you can get. Working in architecture, it’s such a small office that you do a lot of the business, you know, half of your job is managing the business.
The honest answer on why I left architecture? Architecture is not very compatible with motherhood. It felt impossible to go back after I had a baby. So I left. I had already thought of being a teacher because I had known so many teachers and they were happy and lived these social lives and interacted with people all day rather than sitting at a desk. And I liked that idea and I’m super happy that I made the change.
Yeah, the cancer was unexpected. But, I’m happy that it’s over. I don’t know what to say about it beside that is was not very fun. I’m cancer free now.
Just trying to get back to normal, get back in shape, get used to having four preps and leading a bunch of extracurricular activities while having a strong-willed toddler. I’m more stressed at home than I am here with all the high schoolers. I come here and ‘I’m like, ah, so relaxing!’
Squalicum is special. I don’t even know how to say how supportive people are. This is going to sound cheesy, but, we consider ourselves a family and I think that is actually true. When I found out I had cancer, we had meals for like four months. You know, it didn’t wear off — the newness of it didn’t wear off. Even through the summer people were bringing us food, checking in, and sewing me hats, and it was just mind-blowingly amazing. It’s a pretty cool place.”