For as long as Cheyenne Cortesi remembers, education came first.
Growing up in the Puyallup School District, her teachers made a lasting impression.
“My teachers always stood out to me,” Cortesi said. “As a teacher, you’re a lifelong learner.”
It was why, after graduating from Washington State University, the 22-year-old returned to Puyallup to become a teacher in the very school district she learned in.
Just as she was a first generation college student, she’s now a first-time teacher.
I wanted my family to be inspired by education … That’s another huge reason why I wanted to teach here. You get a feeling for what Puyallup is and what it’s going to be later on.
Cheyenne Cortesi, fourth grade teacher at Stewart Elementary
“I wanted my family to be inspired by education … That’s another huge reason why I wanted to teach here,” Cortesi said, adding that she was excited to meet her new students. “You get a feeling for what Puyallup is and what it’s going to be later on.”
Cortesi is just one of 125 teachers (and counting) the district hired this year to accommodate for retirees and the steadily increasing student enrollment. At the end of last school year, more than 50 PSD staff members retired, many of them teachers.
“At Stewart, we’re one of the smallest staff but family is one of our core values,” said Elissa Dornan, principal at Stewart Elementary. “What’s exciting is that the two new teachers we have this year were student teachers.”
Cortesi was a student teacher for second grade at Stewart Elementary before she was hired on as an official fourth grade teacher.
“I’m excited to meet my students and their families,” she said.
Also a new teacher at Stewart Elementary this year is 26-year-old Amber Heerick, who will be teaching third grade after student teaching kindergarteners.
“I’m looking forward to having my own classroom and having my own routines and getting to know the kids and seeing them grow,” Heerick said.
I’m looking forward to having my own classroom and having my own routines and getting to know the kids and seeing them grow.
Amber Heerick, third grade teacher at Stewart Elementary
Heerick was once a student at Stewart Elementary. A lot has changed since then — the size of the building in particular.
“They renovated the whole school,” she said.
Susan Morrison, 53, is also a first-time teacher at Shaw Road Elementary this year, and took a different route in becoming a Puyallup teacher.
Morrison moved to the area 14 years ago. As a stay-at-home mom with a husband in the U.S. Air Force, she became involved with school districts as her three children grew up.
“When I became a parent, I was in the classroom a lot,” Morrison said. “I wanted to be connected to the place where they were spending their time.”
She worked as a paraeducator for 12 years while she earned her teacher’s certificate.
“I was a paraeducator at Shaw Road and I did some student teaching (there),” Morrison said. “I love the school that I’m working at.”
Morrison will be teaching sixth grade at Shaw Road Elementary.
The Puyallup School District is expected to hire more teachers moving forward as growth and campus construction ensues.