School Choice: One Size Doesn't Fit All

My name is Caitlin Dietz, and I am proud to be a teacher at Impact | Puget Sound Elementary. I’ve worked in many different school systems not only in Washington state but also in Washington, D.C. In fact, throughout my career, I’ve worked in district, private and public charter schools. What I know for sure now is that one size doesn’t fit all for students or teachers. 

After attending the University of Washington for undergrad, I obtained my Masters of Arts in Education (MaED) from the College of William & Mary. During my time in graduate school, I participated in  the Capital Teaching Residency program through the charter school KIPP DC. I was excited by the high standards, and urgency in which all teachers were teaching and working with students. It was in stark contrast tomy student teaching experience in Virginia, where I commonly witnessed a fixed mindset about our students. I often heard teachers say things like “Oh, that kid just can’t learn” or “I don’t know what to do, I’ve tried everything and they aren’t willing to learn or try hard.” These comments felt very discouraging when compared with the “every child can and will learn” mantra that KIPP had instilled not only in the teachers, but also in the students. As a young educator, I felt deeply aligned with KIPP’s mantra and committed to working there. 

I made the choice to join KIPP DC to surround myself with educators who were as driven and passionate about providing each and every child the high quality education that they deserve. Throughout my years at KIPP DC, I was given the opportunity to learn from a mentor teacher, further my education by obtaining my Special Education license, attend numerous Professional Development sessions hosted by well-known leaders in the field, and become a mentor to new teachers myself. KIPP DC was a great fit for me not only professionally, but it provided a community of educators that supported me through a challenging life transition. 

Team & Family with my PreK3 classroom the Blue Butterflies to celebrate Thanksgiving prior to the break. SY 2015-2016.

Ultimately, I made the choice to move to Seattle to take care of myself and be closer to family. I was hired at  a Seattle Public School while driving cross-country. I accepted the position gratefully, and taught a 1st-2nd split classroom of 17 students. It felt as if the position was waiting for me. I was able to connect deeply with the families and the students as I took care of myself mentally, physically and emotionally. During my time in a district school, I learned that while I wasn’t always aligned with colleagues about setting high expectations for all students, there are many thoughtful people in the district system working very hard to support students and families. 

After my time in Seattle Public Schools, one of my former UW advisors  sent my resume to the principal at Assumption St. Bridget (ASB), a private Catholic school in Seattle. I had the opportunity to teach  2nd grade at ASB for two years. The biggest takeaway for me about my practice in the private school was the necessity of clear and frequent communication, and its role in strengthening the partnership between teachers and families. I loved my classes, I loved the families, I loved my co-workers and I still do! 

During my time at ASB, I learned to be in frequent communication with all families to keep them informed of school deadlines, learnings and events. My 2nd graders enjoying an “in-school” field trip from the Whale Expert!

However, I found myself wishing that I could make a bigger impact in the greater South Puget Sound area. I began looking for charter school options in Washington and was connected with Jen Wickens, CEO and co-founder of Impact. While meeting with Jen, I  was immediately reminded of the passion I had for providing equal access to a high quality education. I came home and told my fiancé, “This is what I want to do, I want to make a bigger difference in my community - everyone deserves a high quality education.” I interviewed and accepted the job offer immediately.  I am so glad I made the choice to return to teaching in public charter schools and, specifically, to teach at Impact Public Schools. 

My chosen school setting, Impact Public Schools. One reason (among many, many reasons) is that we do Project Based Learning. Above is from our Bread Unit, a hands on experience to learn how to make bread from an expert Baker. 

As a new and, now, experienced educator I made choices based on my personal preferences and what fit for me in each leg of my professional journey. I’ve developed a unique perspective  working across the school spectrum in charter, district and private settings. I strongly believe that each and every family should have the right, the knowledge and the access to make their own educational choice that fits best for not only their child, but also for their family. 

At the end of the day, it is all about choice.

My Kindergarteners earned a “stuffie and pajama” party by filling our Marble Jar. Impact is my chosen school home! 

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