Building Connections to Inspire Growth
Building Connections to Inspire Growth
Posted on 04/12/2019
Strong connections between teachers and students nourish academic growth. We talked with several of CK Schools’ educators about the connections that inspire their work. Students play a large role. Educators also draw from lessons learned from family, former teachers and coaches, and a passion for the subjects they teach.

From Student to Teacher

Read a transcript of Sonnet Sujka's video interview.

A high-five, a side hug or a quick hello starts Sonnet Sujka’s classes.

“When I make those personal connections with kids, it’s so much easier to help them and support them,” says the CK Middle teacher.

And strong connections can open doors for students, like they did for Sujka. Her 8th grade history teacher was a catalyst for her success in school. “He was the first teacher who made me feel like what I had to say was important important. He let me know I could achieve whatever I set my mind to.”

“I’m just inspired every single day to interact with those kids,” she says. “Last year, a couple of weeks before school ended, I got really emotional because I had built really meaningful relationships with these students.”

Connecting Music and Life

Klahowya Teacher Jackie Levenseller. Video premieres May 1.

“Something I want to impart to my students is that music has such power to soothe your soul and to lift you up in those times where you really, really need it,” says Jackie Levenseller. She teaches choir and theater production at Klahowya Secondary.

After nearly 40 years of teaching, Levenseller continues to bring energy and passion to her work.

“More than anything the kids keep me going,” she says. “There were always students that you see having those ‘Aha!’ moments or wanting more … and you just feel like you want to keep on going. And so I do. So I do.”

Channeling a Revered Coach

Read a transcript of Mark Keel's video interview.

Spending each day with teenagers may terrify some people, but not Mark Keel. “I love it,” said the Central Kitsap High dean of students and coach. “I think that’s what I was built to do.”

When working with students on the field or in school on behavior, Keel, a former pro football player, channels his Clover Park High coach Bob Colleran. Colleran built a culture of trust and caring with his team.

On his job as dean, Keel says, “It’s really an opportunity to get to know these kids, to talk to them, find out what’s going on in their lives, and just share relationships with them.”

He lets students receiving discipline know, “This isn’t about you as a person. This is about what you’ve done. And we’re going to work through it, and we’re going to move forward.”

Tragedy Transforms Teaching

Teacher Heather Maas. Video premieres June 1.

In 2001, Heather Maass’s little sister was killed by a hit-and-run driver. And unpacking that trauma changed the Olympic High counselor’s whole lens on teaching.

“Every behavior has a story,” she says. “In order for individuals to grow, I have to challenge something within them to make the growth more profound and more impactful on their life.”

She tries to help her students see that if they can shift their thinking, such as seeing college as a reality, the energy that follows that thought can put them on a different path.

“My students can’t change the family they were born into. They can’t change the socioeconomic factors that they were born into, but they have the ability to change the outcome and change their relationship to it.”