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Resident and Mentor Spotlight: Maya and Sabrina

Maya is a current Cohort Five resident.  Sabrina is her mentor teacher and a graduate of the STR program from Cohort One.  We caught up with the pair before school in their 3rd grade classroom at Van Asselt Elementary School to learn more about how their year has been going.

Sabrina Adikes
Hometown: Albany, New York
Undergrad: SUNY New Paltz
Residency placement: Madrona K-8 in a 3rd/4th grade classroom

Maya Festinger
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Undergrad: University of Chicago

What did you do before coming to STR?

Sabrina: I came to Seattle for City Year Seattle/King County. I was at Aki (Kurose Middle School). Before that, I was an international business major in college and had no intentions of working in education. But my social justice part felt like education was a powerful place to be, and then once I was in schools, I was like, “I want to do that”.

Maya: I was part of Reading Partners (a local reading intervention nonprofit in Seattle Public Schools). We have a similar story in that when I graduated school, I was a marketing manager for about a month, but then my favorite teacher passed away. Thinking about the impact he had on me made me go into education. So that’s when I applied for an AmeriCorps position, when his memory was brought back to me.

Sabrina and Maya

What’s something this year that you’re really proud of?

S: I think that this has been the year of trying new things for me. We’ve been in a constant cycle of trying something and reflecting and thinking “that didn’t really work exactly how I thought it would” and trying something new. Like having a marble jar, or having Class Dojo, or having this or that. I think even though this year has been really challenging, I feel like we’ve been in this loop of trying and reflecting, trying and reflecting.

M: I’m proud of setting up a class motto of “We are a class that gets ahead”. Student confidence has really gone up.

S: Yes! Like normalizing doing the right thing, because we were getting into a place where our class culture was not like that, and we’ve done some intentional pushing on that culture and it’s had an impact.

M: I’m also proud of FIRE time. (Firebird Intervallic Reteach and Enrichment – their school mascot is the Firebird)

S: It’s our intervention block. It’s new this year and we had no map and no idea how to implement it. And really, Maya has set up some useful and intentional systems for that. It’s gone really well.

M: I can see how it’s really evolved. I just think like there are some systems that are starting to emerge which is really exciting.

Maya in action with her students

What’s something this year that’s been challenging?

M: I think when you have a class that presents challenging behaviors, you have to keep perspective. Every day, you have to come back and try something new. There are some things within your control, but you also have to keep perspective that you’re doing your best. Maintaining agency without beating up on yourself.

S: That’s exactly it. Doing all of your problem solving thinking and not taking it home with you – and finding that balance. We’ve had challenging behaviors at our school before but I feel like these behaviors this year have not responded to the interventions we used in the past. We’re still trying to be creative and give a blank slate and try new things, but also not letting it get to you.

Sabrina, how has having gone through the program yourself shaped how you approach being a mentor?

S: I think one that that’s really helpful about it is I have a scope for understanding that we’re early in the year and that some things might be more appropriate for us to try later in the year, because I know the map a little bit. I think it’s easier for me to support what’s going on in coursework because a lot of the instructors were my instructors. That makes it easier for us to connect.

It’s also funny to have people like Marie and Emily (two STR instructors) back in my life again 3 years later now that I’ve been teaching for a while. I feel like Marie’s going to come into my class and ask me how I’m differentiating. It feels like running into your teacher at the grocery store, but in a good way.

Maya and Sabrina work with their students

Maya, what’s something that you are learning this year that you want to think about keeping or changing for next year?

M: I’ve really taken to Emily’s idea of starting with the students’ thinking first. Not just having my own trajectory for where I want students to go, but to actually periodically look back on students’ work and thinking and going from there.

Do you have any advice you have for potential applicants or incoming residents?

M: The program offers lots of supports and is more than willing to extend support if you ask for it, so self-advocacy really can take you far in this program.

S: You have to really love it. If you don’t know how to teach yet, or if you don’t know how to plan a math lesson yet, all of those things can be taught. The thing that’s going to keep you going is really feeling dedicated and feeling that this is where you should be. If you have that, don’t let your lack of pedagogical knowledge deter you. You have to really want it.

What’s something you do in your free time?

M: I just started swimming again. It’s been a year and I just started lap swimming again. It makes my day.

S: I’ve been running. I just did the Seattle Half Marathon – it was so hilly!

What’s something interesting about you that others may not know?

M: I’m really good at impressions, like celebrities and people I know. I like impressions.

[Maya proceeds to impersonate one of the STR instructors in the program and everyone has a good laugh]

S: I have 7 brothers and sisters. I’m 5th of 8. There are 6 boys and 2 girls total. Our Thanksgiving table is usually 3 tables pushed together because there are like 30 people.

Resident Spotlight: Chanelle Braswell

IMG_20171017_140009Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised here in Seattle, Washington and grew up in the Ballard neighborhood. For elementary, I attended Green Lake Elementary then went on to attend Hamilton International Middle School. Since my older siblings attended Roosevelt High School, I spent my first year there. The following year, I transferred to Ballard High School in hopes of joining the engineering academic pathway. Although I transferred for engineering, I found an interest in marketing so I ended up following the business/marketing academic pathway. I graduated from BHS in 2011.

What did you do before coming to STR?

After graduating high school in 2011, I interned at various youth centered non-profits while in college at the University of Washington. Once I graduated college, I began working at Nordstrom and volunteering at a Title I school in central Seattle on my days off which evolved in to taking time off to volunteer as an Assistant Buyer at another company I was employed with. Even though I enjoyed working in merchandising, I loved volunteering in the classroom doing purposeful work. One day I made the decision to go back to school to become a teacher.

Why did you want to become a teacher?

I wanted to become a teacher because I couldn’t think of anything more rewarding than motivating students to become the best versions of themselves. During the years I worked in nonprofits, I worked closely with youth as a mentor and heard their stories while working in the foster care system. I found that there was always a common thread of unfortunate educational experiences which negatively impacted their views of themselves and their potential. I hope to be a positive force in the lives of my students, helping them to reach their greatest potential.

Why did you choose STR?

I chose STR because their values align with my own values for equity and social justice. In Seattle Public Schools, teachers of color make up 20% of the pool which is in direct contrast with the 55% of students of color. I think it is important to have a diverse pool of educators with diverse experiences which students see a reflection of themselves in. I also chose STR because of their academic model which places residents in the classroom all year. Since I have a background in business, I really wanted a program that immersed me in the profession to build my skills and experience in the field.

What’s been something you’ve been most proud of so far early this school year?

I’ve been most proud of how much I’ve grown as an educator over the short three and a half months I’ve been in the program. Coming from a business background, much of what I am learning about the pedagogy of teaching is new to me. I am proud of how quickly I am picking it up and able to apply it in practice within my placement. I am very excited to see what kind of educator I will grow to be by the end of the program.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has been maintaining a work life balance while in the program. STR is a rigorous program and can be very demanding at times which is new for me. School has always come pretty easy. There are now so many moving pieces, I am learning that what I have done in the past does not always work. To be successful in this program, it takes next level organization and time management in order to make time for other things outside of coursework.

What’s something that you like to do in your free time?

Before beginning this program, I became really interested in art and yoga. They are two relaxing activities and are perfect for unwinding after a long day of school or coursework. Since I’ve been in school, I’ve been a lot busier so I probably only do either a couple times a week. I’ll definitely be getting back in to art and yoga in the very near future.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that others may not know.

When I was a child I was extremely shy and hid in my older sister’s shadow. I was so shy, I would make her order for me at restaurants so I wouldn’t have to speak and I refused to go anywhere without her by my side. Ironically, as a still extremely shy fifth grader, I decided that I wanted to be an actress and a teacher when I grew up thanks to my amazing 4th grade teacher who gave me my first taste of stardom as a co-star of the school play. I guess one of those dreams ended up working out!

Resident Spotlight: Hannah Walker

Cohort 5 Resident Hannah Walker

Cohort 5 Resident Hannah Walker

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Worcester, England, but most of my life, I lived in Southern California, right outside LA.

What did you do before coming to STR?

I worked through the (City of Seattle) levy.  I was an instructional assistant for three 2nd grade classrooms and I did literacy intervention.  I basically ran small groups doing phonics with kids.

Right out of college, I got a job with United Way of King County.  I was the site supervisor for their Summer Meals campaign, working at a bunch of sites throughout Seattle.  Then, I did AmeriCorps through United Way again, working on their Fuel Your Future program.  And that’s how I got placed at West Seattle Elementary School initially.

Why do you want to become a teacher?

I want to be an integral part of my community and see the effect of my own skills, be impactful on my community.  As a teacher, you get to see that pretty explicitly.  I figured out I wanted to be a teacher when I started working with Seattle Public Schools.  I was extremely driven by the relationships I built, and there were so many opportunities for that – opportunities to make connections with kids and feel that I could be useful to someone.

Why STR?

It’s hard for me to sit in a classroom all day. STR allowed me to be doing the work that I want to be doing as a teacher.  There’s such an emphasis on student engagement and being with kids, and being able to apply the things you’re learning in the classroom on living, breathing people.

What’s something you’ve learned this summer?

I’ve learned so much, that’s such a large question.  One thing I’ve learned this summer is that you have to have a good sense of humor.  It’s something I’ve always known.  The kids – they’re living their own lives and going through a bunch of different experiences and sometimes they come in and they’re not really picking up what you’re giving out and you have to be empathetic.  For me, empathy has always gone along with being light-hearted and compassionate and being able to joke around with the kid and saying “you know, that’s okay.”

What are you looking forward to this upcoming year?

I’m really looking forward to having my own classroom.  I really want that sense of leadership and ability to drive the content and also have the leadership over classroom management.  That’s something that I also really enjoy –making sure that all the kids are engaged and feeling like they can succeed.  The social emotional piece is the most exciting thing for me.

What makes you nervous?

Juggling so many different roles – being both an IA (instructional assistant) and having the administration see me as an IA but also see me as a teacher.  Some of the kids know me as an IA, and transitioning into that role as a teacher.  Also, just being a student myself.  There are a lot of different responsibilities and expectations to juggle.  It can be a little bit daunting.

What are some things you like to do in your free time?

I like to do arts and crafts.  I like to weave – it’s a big stress reliever for me.  You have a loom and you thread it with threads and yarn.  You can make tapestries and rugs.  I want to make a poncho.

I also like to read.  Fiction and non-fiction.  I like thrillers.  The last book I read was Out, by Natsuo Kirino.

What’s something interesting about you that others may not know?

I have really strong feet.  Like absurdly strong feet.  I can hike barefoot.  I stepped on a sewing needle once on accident and didn’t even realize it and a tiny piece was sticking out of my foot and I pulled the whole thing out and was okay.

STR Graduate Spotlight: Alicia McKean


Alicia is a Cohort Three graduate of the Seattle Teacher Residency.  She is finishing up her first year of teaching 3rd grade at Kimball Elementary.  We spent an afternoon watching her engage her students in a science lesson.


Hometown: Athol, Massachusetts

What did you do before coming to STR?

I came to STR out of undergrad at Boston College.

What brought you to Seattle?

I wanted to get out of Boston, and I was really excited about the residency program.  I wanted to experience something new, to experience a new city, a new part of the country, but to also have this excellent teaching program where I would get to feel really prepared.

What’s been the biggest challenge this year, your first year of teaching?

The time trying to balance everything and getting all the things done – that’s the biggest challenge.  I think its honestly gone smoother than I thought it would.  You hear all those stories about your first year teaching and all you do is cry in your car.  All last summer I was thinking: I don’t even know how I’m going to do this.  I’m feel like I’m really lucky with the school I’m at – it’s a really awesome school with great teachers, and I feel really supported working here.

What are you most proud of so far this year?

I’m most proud of the relationships I’ve built with my kids.  I feel like I have pretty strong relationships.   So even when problems and challenges come up, we’re able to work to work through those together without damaging those relationships.  My kids trust me and I trust them and I know they are doing their best.

Is there something you’re learning this year that you want to do next year?

I’ve worked through a lot of iterations of my math block rotations – what I want kids to be doing at their stations, how I want them structured, how they are working with partners, how they are using the computers, what does that rotation look like, how do we rotate.  I feel like I’ve done a lot of trial and error with those expectations and routines that I feel at this point of the year, I’m happy with.  I’ll be able to start fresh next year and more prepared.

Do you have any advice for the new cohort of Residents as they begin the program this summer?

It’s hard.  It’s a long year, but you can make it through.  You’ve got to just keep pushing through.  I think honestly, for me, the Residency year was more challenging than my first year teaching.  Your residency year, you’re still trying to figure out all the things for the first time.  In your first year teaching, you’ve done it all before.  Maybe not independently, but you’ve been through all the things.


STR Graduate Spotlight: Kimi Walker


Kimi Walker is a Cohort One graduate of the Seattle Teacher Residency. Now a teacher in a 1st/2nd grade classroom at Van Asselt Elementary, she spent her fall and winter quarters hosting Literacy Methods, a placement-based teaching and learning model in which all Residents engage. This model ensures that residents go through the learning cycle multiple times in order to observe, plan/rehearse, enact and analyze literacy teaching practices with students and alongside university instructors and host teachers who give direct feedback in real time. We talked to her about her experience as a Resident graduate hosting Cohort Four Residents for literacy methods.


Resident Spotlight: Kelly Allen

Kelly Allen conducts a math lesson with her Kindergarteners

Kelly Allen conducts a math lesson with her Kindergartners

In my two visits to Cohort Four Resident Kelly Allen’s kindergarten classroom, nothing fazed her. Classroom visits, photographers, teaching observations, disruptions — nothing distracted her from her counting lessons at John Muir Elementary.


Resident Spotlight: Caitlin Rich

Caitlin Rich works with a student during a math lesson

Caitlin Rich works with a student during a math lesson

Despite feeling under the weather, Cohort four Resident Caitlin Rich was able to manage her classroom and go with the flow when I visited her last week. Working with multiple strategies to manage her classroom of third-graders, this soon-to-be teacher had her students using their own multiple strategies to solve tough division problems.


Resident Spotlight: German Moreno


German Moreno discusses Charlotte's Web with a student

German Moreno discusses Charlotte’s Web with a student

German Moreno moved across the country and changed gears entirely when he applied to the Seattle Teacher Residency. I sat in while this east coast native gave some one-on-one time to a student to dive deeper into a childhood favorite, Charlotte’s Web. 


STR Graduate Spotlight: Jen Paris, Cohort Two


Visiting Jen Paris’s special education classroom brought encounters with robots, smiles, and a lot of great learning at TOPS K-8.


Induction Matters: Winter 2017

Grads, Happy NGina La Porta Rollerew Year to you all!  I trust that your winter break was restful, peaceful and rejuvenating.  I know that for me, taking a step away from the daily demands of work and life at the end of December helps to build me up for the winter ahead.  I gain clarity about things that really matter about which I strive to learn, attain or grow into.  I wish that for all of you during the stretch from January through March, and hope to cross paths with many of you in the winter months to come.  The fact that you have made it this far in the year positions you exceedingly well!

Fall of 2016 was an experience unlike any other.  We launched a third cohort of STR graduates into the teaching profession, grew our STR program, and collectively and individually experienced an unprecedented national election.   Throughout this time, the Induction program of STR held three Mindfulness sessions, a Working in Schools Problem of Practice session, two math labs (one for primary teachers and one for intermediate teachers), individual induction visits for every Cohort 3 graduate, and two lively Happy Hours!

Our fall Induction offerings were a fantastic success.  Over 51 spots were filled in the various sessions. Returning to the demands of our classrooms in January requires us to be patient and compassionate with our students, ourselves, and each other and to be as prepared as best we can be.  Please join us for some, any or all of the Induction events to kick off 2017!  See below for the winter schedule of offerings.  If we’ve already shared these experiences with you, keep coming.  If we haven’t seen you yet, it’s never too late to start!


Mindfulness Mondays, all from 5 – 7 p.m., location TBD

  • Monday, January 23
  • Monday, February 13
  • Monday, March 13

Our mindfulness work with Corinna Skildum and a very loyal group of grads from each cohort, has taught me something very simple:  There is power in mindfulness.  I am grateful that we will continue to work monthly with Corinna during Mindfulness Mondays this winter as a means of helping us live well amidst the many challenges and experiences we face, so that we and our students can benefit.  I encourage you to join us, whether you are feeling fine, just managing, or really struggling.  It’s been an honor to become more mindful alongside grads, and I hope our group grows.

“It is always so hard to get to these evenings (after a long day of school), but once I do I’m so glad and I feel so energized by the time I leave!”  – Participant of all three fall mindfulness sessions

Please read this article about the benefits of mindfulness for teachers.


Working in Schools, Problem of Practice from 5 – 7 p.m., location TBD

Monday, February 27

Grads across the cohorts shared problems of practice with one another under the guidance of Chris, Anita and Elizabeth, and then received open-hearted responses, advice, and jaw-dropping wisdom from one another.  This was an absolute highlight of the fall, so we’re doing another one!

“It was nice to get a chance to hear what other teacher’s struggles are, to be able to provide others with resources and remember that each of us are valuable resources to each other (and that I at least have some things figured out…) and to hear ideas from others and be validated in the things I am already trying/doing.  It was nice to have a small group, it felt intimate and relaxed, and of course thank you for the food.”  –Anna Witte, participant of the Problem of Practice Session


Classroom Management, from 5 – 7 p.m., location TBD  *new this winter*

Monday, January 30

Join Marie Fisher and other grads where we’ll share problems of our classroom management practice with one another and help each other work through the one (or two) issues you can’t quite resolve on your own (and shouldn’t have to).


Learning Rotations

Be on the lookout for a Google spreadsheet this month asking you to briefly describe your classroom context.  The steps are easy: If you choose to participate, you’ll clear it with your principal first, then you’ll HOST a fellow grad one day and you’ll VISIT a grad on another day.   This will be a 2-day experience (one for hosting and one for visiting, and subs will be provided by STR.)


Grade Level Planning Groups

Using information from your beginning-of-year surveys, I’ll connect you to one another for optional grade level planning groups.  There is great power and comfort in thinking and planning together!


Induction Calendar

Below, you’ll see a link to the Induction Calendar for winter/spring that hold offerings by STAR Mentors, the SPS District, and STR in order to help you stay informed and updated with information.  Please bookmark this to your computer (if you haven’t already) so that you can always have the most up-to-date information.

For Winter/Spring of 2017.


STR Alumni Happy Hour

Mark your calendar for Tuesday, January 31, from 4:00-6:00pm, for our next Alumni Happy Hour!  There is no school the following day as it is the day between semesters.  Come and mingle and catch up with your old cohort and make some connections across the growing STR alumni community.  Location TBD.

As you can see, there are again multiple ways to stay connected to STR, your instructors, and to one another.  The aim is to meet various needs and interests.  If you don’t see an opportunity you are interested in, please let me know—that’s how the math labs came about!  As always, you won’t be able to attend each session, so choose what will feed you, give you energy and/or raise the level of your practice.   If you are interested in attending any of the offerings above, or would like more information, please email me at: gina@seattleteacherresidency.org to reserve your spot on the open participant lists.