Katie Gustafson was nominated by her colleague, Sherah Grant.
"I met Katie during my first year of teaching at Cloverdale Middle School on our grade-level shared-teaming lesson planning periods," said Grant. "The team had a formal leader, but naturally the group dynamics seemed to elect and follow Katie as the heartbeat of the group. Ms. R reported to the meetings first, myself second, and then in groups of two or threes the others would join, but the rhythm seemed to be set by Katie. Her nurturing demeanor served as energy when our cups seemed half full and energy was low. When complaints began stinking up the air, she would fan them away with a refocusing, objective centered comment that supported our mission - improving the lives of young people, both in the present and for their futures. Her high moral and ethical standards didn’t stop there. In the biggest test of inner fortitude, statements about office politics, administration or options about them were never validated, and so expertly was she in being present without owning the opinions of peers, or disowning the peers that spoke them."
Cloverdale Middle School has a high rate of poverty and serves a socioeconomically-challenged population. It's also common for long-term substitute teachers to hold a permanent position in core subject areas is common. Ms. Gustafson, affectionately known as 'Ms. G,' came to Cloverdale as a Teach for America transplant.
"In meetings, I would admire her smile, the way she could openly embrace the challenges discussed in meetings, and the way she was fully present through discussions about difficult situations that were facing an added challenge on the horizon," said Grant. "For example, standardized testing left English Language Learners disadvantaged when they could not understand the language. The power of her positive perseverance is what served as the tipping point of my return to the school. "
This year, Ms. G is in her third year of teaching a group of Cloverdale Cubs. Having completed her Teach for America tour and continuing to serve her students shows her undying commitment to excellence. She has a record of going above and beyond and staying above par at the professional level at improving the lives of children, all while offering a continued nurturing atmosphere.
"My evidence for Ms. Kathleen Gustafson being a LifeChanger lies in my heart. She gave me strength to continue and to come back to Cloverdale," said Grant. "She believes in the mission and that the school is on the right path to improvement for the wellbeing of the students, and I drew strength from her belief. I love, I give, and I feel strengthened by her daily messages of faith that we are here, and because we care enough to try. By examining ourselves for effectiveness for helping children, we will continue growing until our goal is met. When she renewed her contract to teach the upcoming year, I felt safe to do the same."
Teachers inspire and help students fulfil their potential, discover the world, and change their expectations. Ms. Gustafson is one of those teachers.