Educator Awards Spotlight: Boo Balkan Foster (Apache/Adopted Makah)
Boo Balkan Foster (Apache/Adopted Makah) is the Puget Sound ESD 121 Regional Teacher of the Year and teaches Grades 6–12 Seqacib at Chief Sealth International High School and Denny International Middle School in Seattle Public Schools
We’re sharing the wisdom of our incredible regional and state Teachers and Classified School Employees of the Year, in their own words. Find more on our Spotlight page.
What advice would you give someone who is just beginning their career in education?
Take care of yourself! We need you in this for the long haul and you cannot pour from an empty vessel. This can mean a variety of things, maybe you run, maybe you read or perhaps you spend time with friends. Whatever it is, make sure you prioritize it from the beginning of your career.
The work is never-ending and what you do matters; however, you must prioritize yourself. Finally, remember you are teaching STUDENTS, people. The subject matter is secondary.
Tell us about a time during COVID-19 that you felt successful as an educator.
I sent each student a bracelet and a note reminding them they were strong and smart. Students responded with such joy and gratefulness. I know students respond academically when they know educators care about them. I am also thrilled when they reach out to me and ask for support. It tells me they trust me and they also believe they can do that task. I get excited about this. This is something that will serve them the rest of their lives!
What is one local, state, or national education issue that you think more people should be thinking/talking about?
It seems like this is a recurring theme but honestly, teacher pay. People have no idea how hard teachers work. They think of it as evenings and summers off. Little do they know…I’ve watched over the last few years as teachers leave the profession because they are not making liveable wages in the community they teach. Almost every teacher I know has some sort of side hustle. Pay us what we are worth so all that energy can go back into the classroom where we want it to and it serves all of us. Finally, the pressure is daunting…
When did you decide to work in education and what sustains you professionally?
I decided when I was fresh out of college and I went back to get my certificate. I am sustained because I know who loves me and has my back. I don’t go to work to make friends so I am able to push for representation. I believe in the work I do. I know it matters. I believe in the transformational power of education when it is rooted in love. Because I believe I am part of something bigger than myself, I am motivated to keep pushing with and on behalf of my students and their families.
What do you wish more people knew about your job?
Oh my goodness. I think I could write a book about this. I wish people knew how great teachers actually are. Lately, in part due to TOY, people have been telling me how great I am. It simply isn’t true. I just happen to have been chosen this year. There are AMAZING teachers all over. They work tirelessly and with fierce commitment for students. I also want people to stop saying how lucky teachers are to have summers “off.” It is a necessity for teachers to step away from it all or we wouldn’t make it.
Learn more about the Teacher and Classified School Employees of the Year on the Educator Awards website.