Kristin Jewell is a librarian, the former freshman honors English teacher, the journalism teacher and a true gem of Tumwater High School. Growing up as a military child, with both parents serving in our armed forces, young Kristin moved around often. This lifestyle of travel bonded the family of seven into a tight knit bunch. Looking back on her childhood, Kristin recalls playing school with her sisters often and knowing that she wanted to be a teacher since she was 2-years-old. “From a young age, I just felt like it was my calling,” she explains.

Tumwater High School Kristin Jewell valentines celebration
Ms. Jewell and her journalism class celebrate valentines day by making boxes to hold the valentines they give each other. Photo courtesy: Hannah McLeod

As she grew up and participated in her own educational journey, she developed a passion for teaching, learning, helping people, and the whole education system Kristin adds, something she credits to teacher in her own past. “I wanted to be like some of the teachers I had and to make the classroom a loving environment like I had at home,” she says. This inspiration has motivated her every day since to blend love with rigor and academic excellence in all of her classes.

After moving around for years, Kristin’s family finally landed at Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle. Becoming a Washingtonian led her to attend college at Gonzaga in Spokane, but she returned to her nomadic roots after graduating by moving to California to start her teaching career. She first taught at a title 1 and then at a charter school – both comprised of students from high poverty backgrounds with English as a second language and migrant families. Reflecting on this time, she says, “it opened up my eyes to the challenges of the modern education system in that it struggles to meet the academic needs of every type of student and that it is my sole responsibility to accommodate individual students while still challenging them to grow as learners.”

With her first years of teaching under her belt, Kristin decided to return to Washington to be closer to family. She chose Olympia specifically because her best friend from college was from there and loved it. With her upcoming move to the Puget Sound, she applied for a job at Tumwater High School and Tumwater High, was hired, and has been there ever since.

For her first year at Tumwater High, Kristin taught freshman honors English. English had always been her favorite subject and as a child she spent hours at the library pouring over various novels. “Books allow you to think about problems and concepts that can be difficult to articulate, opening up a whole new world of discussion and therein enabling you to grow as a person,” she notes. She also has a passion for the youngest grade of high schoolers. “Freshmen are the most open minded because they just started high school and are thinking about what they believe for the first time,” she explains. “This makes them willing to have open conversations about almost anything and to be at the helm of their decision making, education and life.”

Tumwater High School Kristin Jewell
Ms. Jewell is known by everyone at THS for her sweet smile, cute terms of endearment, and constant support. Photo courtesy: Hannah McLeod

Kristin’s influence didn’t end with the intellectually advanced in her honors classes though. She also taught an English skills class for students needing some extra help. Her passions for literature and helping students realized, she had one other academic passion yet to give expression to – writing. Kristin soon after starting to teach at Tumwater naturally gravitated to teaching journalism. In this class, she focuses on adapting students’ writing to an investigative/reporting style far different from the standardized essay manner of writing students are often conditioned to only be able to do. Her goal is also to establish a diverse staff of writers from different activities of sports, music, drama, etc., to create a safe, positive environment where each person feels welcome to share their ideas/articles and to learn to work together with people opposite of themselves.

With her massive amount of love for teaching, the move to being a librarian was very difficult for Kristin. “I was nervous to leave the classroom because I had formed such strong relationships with students and worried I might not be able to do the same in this new setting,” she shares. “I’ve found, however, that the opposite is true. Being in the library has allowed me to get to know students I wouldn’t have had in class and has made previous relationships even more open and close.” Adding to the benefit of these student relationships, Kristin has been able to step into new role, as librarian, and has mentored several new or less experienced teachers. She passes on to them what she herself has come to know: “A lot of times people are scared of teenagers or find them intimidating,” she says. “But they are genuinely some of the most kind and accepting people. As teachers, we are taught that it is our job to lead and to teach, but we forget to care for our students, see the goodness in them, and remember that these amazing people also teach us and that we can learn from them every day. It really is a two way relationship of authentic admiration and respect.”

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