Welcome to our second Member Spotlight of the year! Any EAW member is eligible – if you know someone, fill out our form!
For October 2015, as we settle into the work of educating and inspiring youth, we are shining a spotlight on Kaitlin Kelley! Kaitlin was born and raised in Connecticut, and moved to Worcester in 2003. She received her bachelor’s degree and her M.Ed from Clark University, and began her teaching career at Claremont Academy, teaching history. She then began teaching at University Park Campus School, where she been since, first as a History teacher, and now as the Instructional Coach. She is also the assistant field hockey coach at Clark University; she is engaged and living in Worcester.
The colleague who recommended Kaitlin said: Kaitlin has been a dedicated member of the UPCS team for years, fulfilling many different roles such as History teacher, Alumni Coordinator, and currently Focused Instructional Coach. This building would not run without her presence. She is organized, professional, resourceful, personable, and one of the best problem solvers I’ve ever met. She often falls into the administrative role, and it is easy to trust her leadership. She is actively involved in every facet of our school community’s culture – she clearly goes the extra mile to support faculty members as well as every student in this building.
An Interview with Kaitlin Kelley
How’d It All Start?
“Teaching’s in my family, really. My mom has taught in New Haven – the same sort of demographic as I teach in Worcester – for 30 years. I used to go into her room in the elementary school and I just knew that it was what I wanted to do. I always admired what my mom did – from the day to day to special things, like getting christmas presents for kids in her class.
I grew up outside of New Haven, but I remember once, we had an urban/suburban penpal exchange. My penpal was one of the kids in my mom’s class who had a really rough situation. We kept in touch for many years, and she wrote a letter back to my mom when she graduated, thanking her for the help and the support. I saw how important it is for kids to have teachers as role models – and I wanted to be one of them”
What keeps you teaching?
“Well, I’m not really teaching right now – this coach job is a little different. But I can still say that this place, this school, is what keeps me going. I love what it stands for and what it’s all about. The effort my coworkers put in is contagious. Everyone who works here believe that kids can do anything – and I thrive off of their positive spirit.
Beyond that, of course, I love the rewarding moments. When those college acceptances roll around. When kids get internships. When graduated students come back and let us know about all the great things they’re doing. Those moments keep me positive, keep me upbeat, and keep me hopeful.”
What’s your biggest challenge?
“Standardized testing! Ha! But really, there are two answers. When I was a teacher, it was motivation on the daily grind. I always struggled with coming up with activities to keep kids engaged. I never struggled with my own motivation – I loved history, and I still do – but it’s a real struggle to get kids to believe that being crazy about history is okay. Maybe even great.
Now, as an instructional coach, my biggest challenges are management. Managing test dates, managing new initiatives from the administration, keeping track of standards and mandates as they change. The actual coaching part is fun – the staff here has a great idea about constructive criticism and learning. People are so open! Everyone is excited to share their practice and make their teaching better; the actual coaching is great, but the management around it is a challenge.”
What’s your biggest joy?
“I think I said it already, but watching kids graduate. Especially struggling kids. Every year at graduation, I am the proudest person on this planet. Being there, with the kids wearing the robes, the faculty in theirs, seeing the family there… I love seeing them on stage and thinking ‘look at what you did. Look at where you’re going.’ There’s a lot of hard work that they put in, and that every single person at the school put in, to get them there.
Oh. And those crazy moments. When you’re teaching and the kids get really into it. I used to have kids write WWI letters from the trenches. They’d get so into it. They’d write letters about their trenchfoot, the stink of the dead, the fear they felt – maybe I’m crazy, but I loved it. The kids were living history. They were really feeling it.”
How you feeling now, a month into a new school year?
“Energized! This is a new year for us. A few years ago, we went through a really large faculty switch, and I feel like we’re really hitting our groove as a school. This is my second year as a coach, and I feel prepped and ready to work hard. We’ve got a new Professional Learning Community initiative that I think we’ll get a lot out of and, honestly, I feel great. Really energized. This year’s senior class has been a challenge and a joy, and I’m ready to see them through their final year – and get everyone else through as well.”
“Just make sure you let everyone know that I love this school and this faculty. I couldn’t do anything without such a great team. Every day, when I walk in, I feel energized. I see everyone working so hard, and doing so much, in every class – it just gives me hope for the future of teaching, and for the future of these kids. Whether it’s watching kids learn about gratitude, or writing, or money management, or responsibility, or chemistry – it’s all amazing. I have huge hopes for our kids, and I know that the people I work with will do their best to make those dreams into reality. I’m amazingly thankful for our school and our community.”