In our new series, “Teacher Features,” we are spotlighting the amazing educators who have been involved with Sister Schools over the years.
First up, meet Jesse Magraw from Christa McAuliffe Elementary. She’s been a teacher for nine years and her favorite subject is social studies. Outside of work, family and volunteering, she likes to spend her free time cheering on the Seattle Sounders and going to concerts.
Learn more about Jesse in our first-ever Teacher Feature!
To start, tell us about your school.
Christa McAuliffe Elementary is in the Lake Washington School District in Sammamish, WA. We have about 590 students (K-5), including a Learning Center and Quest programs. Our population is a middle to high socio-economic status with many families working at Microsoft and other local technology companies. We have also had an increase in families moving to Sammamish from all over the world in the last few years.
Our principal, staff and parents work hard to create a culture of community and kindness. These are some of our cultural clubs and events: the leadership club (ASB) focuses on monthly kindness assignments, PTSA hosts a variety of Family Nights throughout the year like BINGO Night and International Night, and our school’s positive behavior incentive, Star Tickets, helps motivate kids to follow the “Reach for the Stars” rules.
How did you get involved with Sister Schools?
The Executive Director at the time reached out in the spring of 2017 to organize a school supply drive. My ASB teacher teammate, Taylor Hill, and I were amazed at how easy it was. We loved the idea of not throwing away old supplies in June but donating them instead. It was a great reminder of how fortunate we are at McAuliffe and how we should think twice about tossing supplies away.
As an educator, what part of our mission and program connects with you most?
I love the service and social responsibility aspects of Sister Schools. Often, elementary schools have a difficult time finding organizations that have service actions for primary students. Kids helping kids is the perfect avenue for these young students to learn how to be socially responsible. Not only did our kids participate in the service activities (school supply drive and gingerbread house fundraiser), they also learned about Uganda and the privilege they live in here in Washington.
What kind of impact has Sister Schools had on your students?
We had a kind culture before Sister Schools came to our school, but IMMEDIATELY there was a change. The power of the fall presentation was a great reminder to teachers, students, staff and families that we can help others. Suddenly there was more compassion and our school bonded over this sense of purpose and call to help. It helped to shape our school into a community. Teachers were able to remind students about their privilege, while also encouraging them to help others. Students, even the youngest ones, wanted to help! We had students raise money at their birthday parties for Sister Schools. Once Terry came back in the spring and did his return presentation, ASB printed the photos out for every student that participated. We have parents tell us that kids still have these photos up in their rooms. Hopefully these kids will continue to be inspired by the work Sister Schools is doing here and in Uganda as they head to middle school.
If you could tell our partner schools in Uganda ONE THING, what would you say?
Thank you! Thank you for sharing your generosity with us. We hope to be able to build stronger relationships with staff and students in the future. We love hearing from you and learning from you. It is amazing to see the power of education, from kids in Uganda all the way to kids in Washington. The passion of our Sister Schools teachers and staff is inspiring and hopefully I will be able to visit one day and learn in person.