Finding her calling: MESD's Kristy Lucas takes a journey from
Kristy Lucas looks on with pride as Mykleyn Brown graduates from MESD's Transition
Kristy and Superintendent Barbara Jorgensen took a look at "Mikey's" certificate of
It was 2003. Kristy Lucas’s job as a Starbucks barista had her feeling lost and empty.
Yes, she made really great coffee drinks. And yes, she had some regular customers who would give her a smile and big thank you. But she knew there had to be more to life than satisfying the caffeine urges of strangers.
“It was miserable,” she confessed. “I was good at it but it almost drove me into despair.”
Working from four in the morning until noon, the job paid some bills but lacked intrinsic meaning. There must be more, she pondered.
During down-time after work, she watched lots of movies and was drawn to those depicting individuals with special needs. Not just “Rain Man” or “I am Sam,” but also those movies that featured real people with real special needs.
Inspired, she began to look into the field of helping people with disabilities.
“I was wondering about jobs in the field. I happened to look at MESD and the subbing positions that were open,” she recalled. “I started working the next day. It was amazing to me that I could step right into it.”
Experience came quickly
One of her first assignments was as an educational assistant in the Alternative Behavior classroom at MESD’s Training and Education Center. Despite witnessing some intense situations with students, she found the experience incredibly fulfilling. She also substituted at Helensview and Arata Creek schools and a classroom at Jason Lee School.
“I enjoyed the purposefulness of it. You have to think through your day and think about what somebody else is doing and why they might be thinking or reacting the way they are,” Kristy said.
She found herself challenged in new and rewarding ways. If a student was having a problem it caused her to question how she could make a difference.
“What could be driving that? Are my actions responsible for part of that and what can I do to make their day successful? It was just incredible. I had been working in customer service (at Starbucks) and it’s just meaningless. The intent behind the job is for some company to make money and I was a byproduct of that,” she said.
The value of mentors
During her time as a substitute and after being hired as a fulltime EA, Kristy said she received “invaluable” mentoring from experienced MESD staff who were eager to coach her.
Her mentors included Mary Sechrist, Becky Washburn, Shelly Saunders, Chris Carr and Karen Bryce Impressed by the poise and professionalism of her new colleagues, Kristy was a willing student.
“They are so calm and collected and they think through everything. They really care about the students. They just have such great skills that need to be passed on to other people,” she remembered.
Like a sponge, she soaked up strategies for behavior management and teaching. “It was really the right place at the right time. I was so lucky to find that position.”
Suggestion spurs career advancement
During her fourth year as an EA, the teacher in her classroom went on a short medical leave. Consequently, the EAs took on some greater responsibilities for planning each day.
“Jill Bennett (FLS teacher) came over a couple days a week to help out in our classroom organizationally and to help us set up assignments and behavior support plans,” said Kristy.
Jill noticed Kristy’s excellent organizational skills. She made what seemed at the time to be a casual suggestion.
“Jill said to me: ‘Hey, you’d be a really good teacher.’ I didn’t take it really seriously at first. But I thought about it and I mentioned it to one of my friends. She said I should think about it because I like this field and at the time I was thinking how I could just work one job since it had always been two or three jobs,” said Kristy.
Kristy looked into college programs and told Jill Bennett about her options. With Jill’s encouragement, Kristy enrolled in a 17-month program at Pacific University that allowed her to get her masters degree and teaching certificate at the same time.
Despite a rigorous schedule of working, studying, going to class and fulfilling student teaching and practicum experience, she graduated right on time. “It was very intense,” she said.
Armed with her new credentials, Kristy applied for an open teaching position at MESD and was hired. “Everything fell in place for me. There was so much help along the way,” she said.
Outside of work, Kristy loves to take road trips and explore the Western United States. She has set a goal of seeing all of the country’s national parks, but also enjoys “just floating down a river and camping.” She has also bought a house in Portland, which keeps her busy as well.
She sums up her career choice this way: “I love being able to work with people who have real needs, who have character and personalities and wants and desires. I want to see them to succeed with support and positive relationships.”
(This article was written by Mark Skolnick. Comments, ideas, suggestions? Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org)