Of counsel, Foster Pepper
How did your interest in education begin?
I taught high school in the Shoreline District for four years. I taught U.S. history and social studies at a time of great unrest, particularly among teenagers, as the Vietnam War raged and protests were staged all over the country. It was a challenge to engage students who were largely disaffected from government, but I discovered that by discussing current events, bringing in inspirational speakers and giving students a forum to explore and defend their ideas, students learned about the fundamentals of our government. So, it gave me an appreciation for the hard work and creativity required of teachers every hour of every day.
How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?
After my four years of teaching, law school was easy! I always say that my worst day of practicing law over 40 years was never as challenging as facing 35 sophomores at 7:30 a.m. And this was before Starbucks and lattes could prepare you for the day ....
I have been involved in various school reform efforts, from being a founding member of an organization which recruited school board member candidates, to chairing the Alliance for Education to serving on the Governor's Higher Education Commission. My focus has been on how we foster teacher excellence, because I believe a great teacher can change lives. I also think a great school leader can set a tone that ripples throughout a school from staff to students. To that end, I led the effort to establish the Thomas B. Foster Award, which recognizes outstanding principals who move the needle.
More recently, my husband Jon and I have helped fund the Seattle Teacher Residency program to pair new teachers with master teachers. Nothing prepares a new teacher for the challenges of the modern classroom, so working with a teacher who has developed coping and teaching techniques provides enormous support and inspiration for new teachers. I enjoy my role as an advocate because, under Dean Mia Tuan, cutting edge methodologies and theories are being introduced and tested. I learn a lot.
What one or two education issues are you most passionate about (and why)?
I am passionate about retaining and rewarding great teachers! Whether teachers are in public schools, charter schools or private schools, they have enormous impact on students, and thus our future.
Tell us about an educator who made a particularly large impact on your life.
My Latin teacher in my little town inspired me because she was so demanding and so dedicated to her craft. To this day, my word skills are in large part due to my understanding of word roots. I even remember her name, Alice Grabel. Even though she is long gone, I often think of her and thank her (she also taught typing, which I hated at the time, but for which I have been eternally grateful, because I could always fall back on secretarial work, during the '60s, when jobs for women were largely limited to secretarial or teaching). I also thanked her when I realized how handy my typing skills were during law school and after.
I also remember a college professor who, when awarding me a Phi Beta Kappa key, chastised me by telling me that although I could do well on any test by memorizing anything, I didn't really deserve the key until I learned to think. I have never forgotten his advice.
Share an unusual/fun fact about yourself.
I love tennis, books of all kinds, cats, dogs, Keith Urban, Jimmy Buffett and my family. I have been with Foster Pepper for 45 years, so I obviously care about my colleagues at the firm.