Whether it’s getting lost two blocks away from SAAS just before a scheduled interview or facing a freshman class for the first time, every Seattle Academy teacher has had a memorable experience with their visit day.
Every teaching candidate’s visit day begins with a campus tour. “We want them to see the whole place. If they’re just coming in for upper school History, we also want them to see the middle school, and see how [students] get to and from language classes,” shared Fred Strong.
Next, the candidate teaches a class, meets a grade-level team, and has lunch with either students or teachers in the same field. They then teach their second class and meet with Dean of Faculty Mindy Watson if they are interviewing for a position in a STEM field. Lastly, they have an interview with Rob Phillips and Joe Puggelli.
“There is a lot that happens before the visit day, however,” says Fred. “We advertise, they send something in, we read it, [and] we have a phone interview.” When they do get to SAAS, the experience is unlike what these teachers have experienced in the past.
“My SAAS interview was sort of jarring,” says Lysie Taylor, recounting her first time at the high school. “All the doors were open and they let me do whatever I wanted, which was great because I got to see a lot of classes and everyone was so welcoming.”
It was also very different from where she was before, but for Lysie, it was “refreshing” to come to SAAS. “I came to Seattle specifically to interview at SAAS. I really love the Pacific Northwest, and I used to live in Oregon and wanted to get back here. SAAS is what I was looking for in terms of the relationship with the students. I was coming from a school where the average class size was seven. It was a private boarding school in Massachusetts, so everyone was dressed in a suit and tie every day. At SAAS it was chaos. People were calling me by my first name and wearing whatever they wanted. It was so different. Classes were three times the size.”
Though SAAS was very different from what Lysie was expecting, she also noted that the faculty themselves made a huge difference, especially as she didn’t know anyone coming into Seattle. "It was actually amazing [to move here],” Lysie says. “Once I got hired, teachers were emailing me saying they knew of places [where] I could stay. The faculty was amazing. A lot of advice came through that, and it was ongoing throughout the summer, which was very cool.”
Peter Clark had a similar experience with the energy of the school but shared the feeling of apprehension with Lysie. “I was coming from a school in New Hampshire that wasn’t urban at all, so when I was coming to SAAS, it was crazy,” Peter says. “I couldn’t believe that there was a school in the middle of the city. The surroundings were a little off-putting. My big reservations were that the school was a big stretch from what I was used to.”[G1]
However, Peter soon found that SAAS was where he wanted to be. “When I visited schools, I really tried to consider what would be a good fit for me and what I would want to get involved in,” Peter says. “It seemed like a pretty well-rounded school, and the most fun part was seeing a school that was in action. People were moving, stuff was going on, students and faculty were happy. There was a great deal of collegiality between students and faculty.”
When asked about his first impression of the school, he replied, “I think my first reaction was probably that the atmosphere seemed to be laid back and relaxed but purposeful. Recognizing that there was a relaxed atmosphere between people here but also a focus and drive was amazing.”
Peter is now a department chair, so he has insight into other visit days. “We want to find somebody that is a good fit for the school. I think the best way to do that is to move past some of the artifice and really get to who people are and what they’re passionate about and inspired by,” he explained. “Not just if they’re good for us, but if we’re good for them. I generally try to put people at ease when I’m working with them. I want to let them know who we are and answer their questions. Often it’s about questioning them, but I want them to have a chance to find out who we are and what we’re about.”
Gary Anderson also shared his first impression of SAAS. “It was small and quirky,” he says, thinking about his visit day. “There was a lot of informality. Something that stands out about SAAS is that everybody has an art class. The relationship with the faculty is also more laid back.” When asked about the visit day itself, as a department head, he explained, “It’s probably more extensive than most schools. We have much greater intensity in our hiring process. There’s nothing I would want to change about the visit day process.”
Mindy Watson also explained why she decided SAAS was the place for her. “I was at an independent school for nine years, and I thought it was a good time to make some transitions, not just to a new school but to what I wanted to do in education. I wanted to experience a different type of independent school, and SAAS definitely captured that.” SAAS has always held a special place in her heart. “The values and the vision have always been a strength of this place. Really understanding who this school is and carrying that over a long period of time is what attracts people to this place, whether it’s kids, parents, or faculty.