Meet Your Neighbor
Katherine Berg, Bailey Gatzert teacher
Since 1990, volunteer tutors with the Seattle University Children’s Literacy Project have helped thousands of Seattle school children read and learn better. The project is currently in eight Central District schools working with teachers such as Bailey Gatzert Elementary School’s Katherine Berg.
As a Rotary scholar Berg had her first taste of teaching in Japan, where she expected to eventually return. But Bailey Gatzert quickly grew on her. She’s now been at the E. Yesler Way school more than 10 years.
“I got really invested in the students here and knowing their families.”
“I got really invested in the students here and knowing their families,” she says. “Over the years I’d say, ‘I taught your brother,’ or ‘I taught your cousin.’ To know the families that way has been rewarding for me.”
“I love the ethnic diversity of this school,” she says. “One year we had 16 languages spoken in the fourth grade. Typically half of our kids speak a different language at home. The kids share their ideas and their home culture, their food. The kids will come in and they smell like what their mother has been cooking. It smells so good sometimes.”
But work at Bailey Gatzert has its challenges. The school has a high percentage of disadvantaged families, with nine out of 10 students receiving free or reduced lunches. Parents are tight on time and money. Language barriers can make it hard for them to help with homework. The Children’s Literacy Project has helped here, with college students available afternoons for tutoring. Berg says she will even save more difficult homework assignments for the days after-school help is available.
“We can always use more bodies to help with kids,” says Berg. “They do reading tutoring, they can do math tutoring, they help organize materials. So we’ve been really fortunate to have that. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to be so close to SU.”