When paraeducator Kalie Blood showed up to Whitman Elementary School the Friday before Thanksgiving, she expected it would begin like most others.
But it didn’t. It started better.
Instead of heading to teacher Kristie Impala’s developmental special education class, Kalie stopped in the library. Principal Tracy Allen had called the school staff together.
“We have an incredibly COOL thing to celebrate this morning,” Principal Allen started.
Could the news have something to do with this day being College & Career Spirit Day? Staff had come to school dressed in gear representing Washington State University, University of Washington, Eastern Washington, Harvard, Western Washington University, among others. Kalie had worn her WGU sweatshirt.
Kalie had decided to study to become a teacher. She had written a scholarship essay to WGU (Western Governor’s University) explaining how her work as a paraeducator, particularly working in Mrs. Impala’s class, had inspired her to become a teacher.
And on this morning, WGU surprised Kalie with a $2,500 Back to School scholarship to help with her studies toward her teaching credentials.
“She’s so deserving,” said Jeanie Belcher, WGU Northwest regional manager of strategic partnerships.
Kalie had to wipe away some tears as her staff colleagues cheered.
“Kalie is the best!” came a shout from the crowd.
“I am so happy,” Kalie said. “I became a para kind of by chance. I needed a job. This was available.
“I work with Kristie Impala who is an incredible teacher. I think I just fell in love with the classroom and realized that this is what I wanted to keep doing.
“With COVID, this has been a really hard school year. With going to (college) on top of it, it can be overwhelming. This means so much. It’s validating and, maybe, shows me I’m doing the right thing.”
Collette Stewart, the district’s Human Resources director of talent recruitment and development, cheered Kalie from the crowd.
For paraeducators who choose to pursue their teaching credentials, Stewart said, the district looks to place them in student teaching roles as the final part of their education—so the district can grow its own teaching force.
Kalie will make a wonderful teacher, Principal Allen said: “She’s the kindest, most huge-hearted, all in it for kids, all in it for human beings, person that I’ve ever met in my life.”
About Tacoma Schools
Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...