In this edition of Spotlight on Staff, we sat down with Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) instructor Karrie Zylstra. Read on to find out what inspires her, what she finds as the most important changes happening at the college, what three traits define her, and more.
Academic Instructor Karrie Zylstra always loved languages. She studied German in college and thought she would teach the subject, but she soon discovered that many more students need to learn English.
Born in Tacoma, Karrie traveled to a few places but returned in 1996 and found a job working with Russian-speaking welders. Over the last 20 years at Bates, Karrie has taught ESL, GED, developmental English classes, international programs, and, most recently, worked inside two different career programs as an Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) instructor.
She lives in Puyallup with her husband and two sons, along with too many pets to mention. In addition to teaching, Karrie has written essays, stories, and short novels for adults and children. She loves long walks and occasionally takes photos of what she finds.
The college is like a small world of its own with people learning everything from nursing to diesel mechanics.
- What do you find the most challenging at Bates Technical College?
So many instructors serve students looking for such a variety of careers! I noticed that the first time I walked into Bates. The college is like a small world of its own with people learning everything from nursing to diesel mechanics. Over the years, I’ve worked with almost every program and the knowledge base needed to succeed as instructors and students here amazes me.
- What is your biggest inspiration?
I love graduation in the spring. Honestly, I’m a little sappy about it. Teaching isolated English classes, I don’t always get to see students work their way through programs, so it’s a joy to meet up with students again at the successful end of their time at Bates. My recent work as an integrated instructor within programs also allowed me to walk more closely with students through the whole process of their training. It means so much to hear students’ names read from the stage, and then shake their hands as they walk down the row of instructors with everyone in cap and gown. That moment inspires me to do more in the next year.
- What’s the coolest (or most important) change you see happening at the college today?
This quarter my English students wrote of their first impressions of Bates Technical College. Everyone in the class said the first week had gone well. I see the efforts of the administration to highlight faculty, to support students through staff, and to provide more cohesive systems. That’s the coolest change I see at the college today.
I see the efforts of the administration to highlight faculty, to support students through staff, and to provide more cohesive systems.
- What three traits define you?
I’m persistent, flexible, and curious. I may have had these traits before, but teaching has pushed me to strengthen them. When one way of teaching doesn’t work or I need to try something new, my persistence, flexibility and curiosity have helped me to become better at what I do.
- What do you like most about Bates Technical College?
I love the people I work with. Over the years, I’ve watched the staff support students and each other in good times and also when tragedy hits. I would miss them if I went anywhere else. In fact, I do miss many who have passed on, retired, or left for other employment.
- What is on your wish list for the next 10 years with Bates Technical College?
I hope that Bates continues to grow in the services that it provides. I hope it finds ways to keep quality education affordable and relevant. Most of all I hope that Bates maintains its focus on bringing a real world education that changes lives for the better.
- If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would that be and why?
I’d love to meet J.K. Rowling or Jane Addams. (I can’t pick one!) Rowling amazed me with the way her stories reach into the corners of society. Even students who don’t often read, know about Harry Potter.
And not too long ago, I realized I read a biography of Jane Addams when I was in the third grade. She won a Nobel Peace prize for her writing and social work with Hull-House in Chicago a century ago. Her story must have sunk into my subconscious because I ended up teaching English to immigrants like she did without even remembering Ms. Addams. I’d love to ask her questions about how she went about teaching English.