Chris Cochran – Counselor at Options High School
“I love being outdoors and spending time with my family. My wife, Carrie, and I live in Birch Bay with our kids. We have three kids still at home, and three who are in college or living on their own. I also play a lot of music. I used to have a recording studio and I would record bands as a side job. I’ve played with several bands over the years as well. I still sit in with the Shannanigans and some other bands, now and then.
I love being able to blend school and music. We have a piano in the entry area at Options, and the kids love playing music in the morning and at lunch time. Sometimes I’ll play guitar in the morning and when the kids are walking out at the end of the day. Our staff have been so generous in bringing instruments to school for the kids to play. We have a music room that students can jam in.
I’ve been at Options for seven years. Our principal, Byron Gerard, started the same year. We were working in the portables and we weren’t sure if we’d get a new building. Then Dr. Baker pushed for a new facility with the bond and the community supported it. It was really cool when it passed. It is so great to see students getting to use the Aerospace program and to see them enjoying the building. It’s made a big difference and has been a huge gift. It is such a privilege to be part of this community and to work with our students and families. Our staff are inspiring to work with. I’ve learned so much being part of our team.
At Options, we have so many amazing staff and students that make it easy to come to work, even when the work is challenging. I think the kids here are phenomenal–they all have their own story. We get the kids that really persevere, they may have a bunch of stuff going on in their lives and they still keep on trying. They keep getting up each morning and coming to school. It’s wonderful to see all different paths people take and all their different stories. I also love watching the staff build relationships with our students. We look for ways to make connections and have fun. Options is a community, and you can feel it when you come here.”
Tobi Melton – School Nurse at Bellingham High School, Columbia Elementary and Community Transitions
“I’m originally from Seoul, South Korea. I was in an orphanage and I was adopted when I was 2. I have always been a caregiver. That’s what my mom said, at least. My mom is a recently retired nurse. She worked mostly in geriatrics but my passion turned to pediatrics. She ended up having five of us kids total, one biological and four adopted. I graduated from Sehome and then I went into nursing programs at BTC and Skagit.
There was an opportunity in pediatrics after I got my RN when I was 21. The director told me I had no pediatric experience and I said, “Well you have 90 days to like me, and I’m a fast learner.” I was there at Madrona Medical for a good 11 years. I worked as an after-hours nurse while I was going to school full-time for a bachelor’s degree in nursing at UW.
To me, building relationships is a big thing. Number one is keeping kids healthy and safe and helping them with life lessons. I care very deeply for these students. Whatever walks of life they have, I ask how we can support them so they can make better life choices? I chose this profession because I wanted it, and it kind of chose me, I guess.
At the start of this school year, I had 2,200 students and four schools because we were down one nurse. On a typical day, we have health plans, phone calls, emergencies, and kids with medical needs coming back to class. I communicate with teachers on how to support them when they reenter. I support counselors if there are mental health issues. I check vaccination records. HR may call me about staff immunizations or injuries. We triage lots of things. I also work with transportation if there are students with health concerns on the bus.
I self-insert myself if there is a need. For instance, finding a solution for stocking epi-pens in our schools. We had to work through all the questions. Speaking of epi-pens… I almost had to use one on a staff member once. On the way to urgent care, I told him I can multi-task as a nurse: ‘I can drive you to the doctor’s office but I can also inject you at the same time.’ And he goes, ‘I am so glad you’re not doing it, but I understand that you will do it if you have to!’
I’ve been a clinic nurse, an ER nurse, a pediatric nurse… I’ve been a lot of nurses. But I have to say school nursing is one of my toughest jobs. We are enmeshed with these kids and staff. If you don’t have staff healthy you can’t have good support for students.”
Meredith Attar – Educational Technology Coach at Roosevelt Elementary School
“I’ve lived in very different places. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. I went to undergrad in the cornfields of Ohio and then moved to New York City directly after graduation. And then from New York it was Montreal, Montreal to Alabama, and Alabama to Bellingham. So every time we’ve moved it’s been a bit of a culture shock and adjustment. But I think moving that many times has just taught me to embrace the culture and learn and grow and stretch with the opportunities given in a place.
After being in the classroom for nearly 20 years, I saw an opportunity in the educational technology coach positions being created. I had never been in a position other than a classroom teacher. It was just a different look at education and a way to support teachers with something that I felt like I knew a little bit about. Curriculum design, and the pedagogical look at things really intrigues me. And the chance to spend my time really digging into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ instead of just the ‘what’. To have more time to dig into that and to be able to support teachers in doing that work really inspires me. I’m glad I made the change because it’s led me to other things including a different community of colleagues across the district. That’s been really beneficial to my growth and they’re fun to be with, too.
It’s funny, I feel like my whole life, I always knew the next step. Right? I knew that after high school I would go to college and then, once I was in college the rocks fell in my path and I just stepped to the next and the next one. And now, it’s probably the first time in my life where I’m just trying to be very present in my position and enjoy it while I can and do as much good as I can right now because I don’t know how long it will last. So, it feels freeing, in a way, to just really throw myself into this position.
Being out of the classroom makes me reflect and I’m reminded what a challenging and wonderful job teaching is. I just really appreciate the community of learners here at Roosevelt that is always stretching and growing and changing. It’s inspiring.”