Though this is her first year as a WIS faculty member, Tregaron Making and Design Initiatives Coordinator Kristen Kullberg has been working with members of the WIS community for over a decade. Ms. Kullberg comes to WIS after teaching at Sacred Heart School in Columbia Heights for the last fourteen years.
During her second year at Sacred Heart, Ms. Kullberg “came to WIS to observe (former Middle School Humanities teacher) Rita Adhikari’s class. I remember being really intrigued by her teaching practices, seeing all the student thinking, and my interest was piqued. I remember thinking, ‘This is a school I want to keep tabs on. This is really interesting to me.’ And then I met Professional Development Collaborative Director Jim Reese in the lunch line, and we stayed in touch and became friends. He’s been a mentor to me. As Sacred Heart got more involved in DC-Project Zero (DCPZ), and then WISSIT, a very natural, organic partnership between WIS and Sacred Heart formed. I feel like my path has always been intertwined with WIS in a lot of different capacities, and when the opportunity came up for me to formally join the faculty, at first I thought, ‘I can’t leave Sacred Heart... I built so much here.’ But then I realized, ‘I think I need to take this chance. I think I’m ready to grow into something else and spread my wings and see what’s going on on the other side of the park.’ ”
When asked what her job title “Making and Design Initiatives Coordinator” means, Ms. Kullberg says, “I love that question! I interpret it to mean a few things. First, I think it’s an invitation to discover what this role means moving forward in this community. It’s a unique and awesome opportunity for me to be positioned in a place where I can provide opportunities to meet the needs of this community, and to push thinking deeper. It’s also an opportunity to have FUN, because making and taking apart is FUN! Additionally, as we begin to emerge from the online aspect of the pandemic, it’s also an opportunity to bring joy back into education. I think joy is something that has really taken a heavy hit in education during the pandemic, and making and arts and all these things can be joyous. So all that to say, I look at my somewhat detailed and yet ambiguous job title as an invitation to discover what this community needs and how I can use my unique skill set to support that learning.”
When it comes to collaborating with her new colleagues in the Middle and Upper Schools, Ms. Kullberg says, “I think there is a lot of power in an invitation. Being a new faculty member is so liberating, because I can just introduce myself to people and ask ‘What do you teach? What’s going on in your classes? Let’s dream something up together for your learners that could really probe the lesson that you’ve been building and offer multiple different entry points into the academic content,’ which really is what this is all about. Then we sit down and talk about the learning outcomes, the big ideas, and the guiding questions of their lessons, and we collaborate very thoughtfully to create something to pose to the students. Oftentimes it’s not something that’s fully baked. Oftentimes we say, ‘What if we invited the students to think about it through this lens, or what if we did that?’ Then we reflect with the students; for example: ‘How did this multimedia collage impact your writing process?’ And when they tell us, ‘This helped me uncover complexities and make connections between my narrative and the metaphor that I want to have running through it,’ I realize, ‘We did it! It worked!’ I want it to feel like I’m opening a door for students and teachers to make their thinking go deeper.”
“I have found the teachers to be WILDLY welcoming and open minded. I’m busy every day in the Alan Reese Design Lab. It’s fantastic. That’s a testament to the culture of thinking that’s happening at WIS, where teachers think, ‘yeah, great, let’s jump into that.’ There is this trust in exploration instead of having to have everything mapped out perfectly with the scope and sequence. The learning here is student-driven. I see the teachers here as advocates for their learners, and advocates for thinking, and that makes my job so much easier and so much more exciting.”
Now that she’s been at WIS for a little over a month, how does Ms. Kullberg feel? “I feel awesome! I’m pinching myself. I feel so stimulated. I've gained so many skills, and I’ve learned so much from the other teachers, but I've really learned SO much from the students. I get to hang out in this playground of creative learning — and it really is learning — which is so exciting and joyful. We’re here to push thinking. We’re here to also access the students’ thinking, because they’re not coming in here as blank canvases. What are they really interested in? What are they really wondering about? How can we get them to explore it? And sometimes the answer is pipe cleaners and clay.
"I love that WIS embraces a culture of thinking. Creativity, out of the box thinking — that’s how people learn. That’s how they connect to one another, and that’s how they develop their identities as learners. Making thinking visible isn’t just about turning your students into thinkers; it’s honoring and celebrating the thinking that they’re already doing. Once a teacher invites a learner to make their thinking visible, they feel celebrated and heard and amplified. Early in my teaching career, I noticed that my students were thinkers, and I just hadn’t tapped into that, because I didn’t have or know the tools. But also, not all of my students identified as learners because of past experiences. As I got more involved in Project Zero ideas, it became so interesting to mirror their thinking back to them, and have them realize that they are such a valuable and equally important part of this collaborative learning experience. They began to understand how thoughtful and important they were.”
Ms. Kullberg also reflected that many of her passions have come together at WIS: “My family was very active in animal rights and advocacy, so from a very early age I was exposed to and interested in seeking out injustices and thinking about systems to see how we can help contribute to a solution. I feel like I’ve always been thinking about the ‘bigger ideas.’ And I became passionate about art at an early age too. Now I have this freakishly amazing job where all of my passions are colliding, because I'm still thinking systemically, and I'm utilizing art, and then some of my Grade 10 Project sponsees are thinking about animal rights for their projects, and all I can think is that I’m meant to be here!"