In a recent conversation about working in education, Edissa Jaramillo was asked “Where did it all start for you?” Edissa, a teacher in the Highline School District, thought back to her time in high school, a time when Team Read was still in its early years.

In high school, Edissa needed to do a community service project for school credit. Her priority at the time was finding a project within walking distance of her mom’s workplace. What she found was a Team Read site at Concord Elementary School in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood. “After that first year I went back and kept doing it for the rest of high school because it was such a great experience,” Edissa says now. She remembers a sense of pride as she walked to her program site with her Team Read binder tucked under her arm, knowing that her work was making a difference for local kids.

After high school, Edissa went on to earn a degree in psychology. At the time, she didn’t have a specific career path in mind, but working as a bilingual teacher in a developmental preschool started her thinking more about a career in education. She took on a role as a paraeducator in the Seattle school district. “This is where I really felt my Team Read skills come back to me,” Edissa reflects. “Working in small groups focused on language and learning, those skills were really useful.” While working as a paraeducator, a teacher in her school inspired her to take the next steps and become a teacher herself. She underwent an intensive program, taking night classes to earn a master’s degree. While working toward this degree, the subject matter in special education really resonated with her, and she made that her focus as she started a job search. She now teaches in the special education department at Glacier Middle School.

Looking back at her time with Team Read, Edissa remembers it being a great first job. “It was a lot of fun working with kids, and the staff was so supportive. That’s what kept me coming back even after my community service project ended. I feel a lot of pride when I can say I’ve worked in education since high school.”

When asked what advice she would have for newer coaches, Edissa wants them to keep the focus on the fun and joy of learning. “Have fun,” she says. “Having fun keeps both you and your reader engaged. And be relatable. I use that in teaching a lot too. When kids see you as someone they can relate to, rather than just an authority figure, it really helps.”

Along with teaching, Edissa is active in her union, sitting at the bargaining table and focusing on equity in education. She’s a member of the Rainier Educators of Color, a cohort that plans an annual equity conference and works to elevate and support BIPOC educators.

She thinks often about the next steps in her career, sharpening her leadership skills and becoming a mentor to rising educators. “I want to do this while remaining in the classroom,” Edissa states. “I really like how I impact the kids, and how they impact me. I want to keep that going.”