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NK grads return to teach

"POULSBO - Megan Watson just couldn't do it. Watson, in her first year as a teacher at Suquamish Elementary, found that one of her old teachers, Fran Shields, was now a colleague. Shields said, You can call me Fran. I was like, 'Uh ... no.' Watson said. Watson is just one of many North Kitsap-area graduates to find herself working alongside her childhood friends, neighbors, and teachers. Watson's tie to the North Kitsap School District is even stronger than most; her grandfather, Dick Endresen, is the school board president. When Watson graduated, her grandfather handed her the diploma. He's great, Watson said. The fact is that he put funds away for all his grandchildren to show us education is important. Watson added, I decided to be the great granddaughter and get (my degree) in education and come back. Watson went to Western Washington and student-taught in the Bellingham area. When I graduated I thought I'd want to stay out there, Watson said. But a job came up in the North Kitsap area, at Suquamish Elementary, and Watson found herself heading home. I said, 'Why not?' I'd be going right back to my hometown. I liked growing up here. Her principal, Joe Davalos, was her middle-school volleyball coach. I love it, Watson said. She is now in her second year of teaching in the district, and she said, Now that I've had this job for a year, I couldn't imagine teaching anywhere else. Watson grew up in Kingston, as did Lisa Gray-Fritz, who teaches freshmen at Kingston Junior High. Gray-Fritz went to Wolfle Elementary, then North Kitsap Middle School, then North Kitsap High School, and even attended Olympic College before going to Western. I'm a very local girl, she said. She taught at Kingston Junior High four years ago as a medical leave replacement before heading to South Carolina (her husband is in the Navy). She thought South Carolina was a great experience, but wanted to come home too. We were praying he'd go to Bangor, Gray-Fritz said of her husband. He did. Now that she's back she likes it. She likes the school and the emphasis they have on students, she likes the age group she is teaching, and she likes being home. It's nice to have family and friends in that area, and not have to worry about settling in, she said. Denise Zaske, who is the director of human resources in the district (and a NKHS grad, along with her mother and daughter), said that working where you grew up can make teaching easier. Usually their family is nearby, so there's a nice support system set up outside of school. It also helps them not to have to transition into a whole new community, a whole new system. Zaske said that being from North Kitsap doesn't help an applicant, but, It's always a bonus when we find out one's been hired. The district has added several NK grads this year. Two work at Suquamish Elementary: Greg Fulton and Jason Murray, who knew each other growing up in school. Fulton went to Western, Murray to the University of Washington. When I graduated, I wanted to be here. Fulton said. He said getting a job in North Kitsap has allowed him to work with (and thank) all the teachers that made him value education. Murray also wanted to return to the area, where he went to Hilder Pearson, Wolfle, Poulsbo and Kingston Junior High, and North Kitsap High School. I grew up here, and I liked the area, Murray said. Growing up, Murray's brother had Joe Davalos as a principal. Now Murray has him as a boss. He said that kind of familiarity allows teachers to focus on teaching. You don't have to worry about where the grocery store is, he said. "

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