With respect—and understanding—Kamrica Ary-Turner, ’08, keeps teens in line
As a disciplinarian specialist at Federal Way High School Kamrica Ary-Turner, ’08, is big sister, role model, rule enforcer and counselor all in one.
Photo by Mel Curtis
As a disciplinarian specialist at Federal Way High School, south of Seattle, Kamrica Ary-Turner juggles many roles. She patrols the halls, bathrooms and lunchroom to dissolve potentially disruptive incidents, supervises extracurricular activities and assists with classroom management. In essence, Ary-Turner, ’08, is big sister, counselor, role model and enforcer all in one.
Tackling a range of duties is nothing new for Ary-Turner, who was a standout at Seattle University for her skills on the basketball court. A forward on the basketball team, the 5-foot-10-inch Ary-Turner, who graduated with a degree in strategic communications, combined a hard-nosed prowess for rebounding with a deft shooting touch. At one point, she even had an eye on going professional, but two surgeries slowed her down.
While her dreams of playing pro ball didn’t go as planned, she considers her work on the basketball court among her best life experiences. Mixing academics and sports taught her valuable life lessons: the value of being a team player, the importance of communication and how to understand and get through life’s challenges.
Hopefully, they see a young person who’s gotten through what they’re going through. I am always trying to respect and hear them out in order to receive their trust.
—Kamrica Ary-Turner, ’08
The germination of her path toward becoming a disciplinarian specialist can be traced to the SU athletics department. “I envisioned myself being surrounded by basketball and athletics, so during the summer of my junior year I did my internship in athletics,” Ary-Turner recalls. “At the time I was thinking of entering the sports management program. But after my internship it became very clear that I wanted to work with kids and coach.”
The position at Federal Way High not only allows her to work with young people, but to put some of the principles she learned while in college to use, such as conflict resolution and problem solving.
“I’m able to walk into very difficult situations with confidence, knowing if you display respect for others you’ll receive respect most of the time,” Ary-Turner says. “Hopefully, they see a young person who’s gotten through what they’re going through. I am always trying to respect and hear them out in order to receive their trust.”
Principal Lisa Griebel says she feels “blessed” to have Ary-Turner as part of the school’s administrative team. “Kamrica is an asset to Federal Way High School,” she says. “She never gets flustered in any situation and takes the time to understand all perspectives.”
Ary-Turner describes her discipline style as tough but fair, and she enforces the same rules for all students. She teaches her charges to respect teachers and staff so they will in turn garner respect.
Her biggest challenge: Being consistent with students who have not had much consistency at home and showing concern without compromising her authority.
“There’s a fine line between student expectation and you trying to show that you truly care about their welfare. Gaining their trust is very difficult,” Ary-Turner says. “I’ve tried to be consistent with students and assure them that regardless of their past, they are capable of success in the future.”
A native of Alaska, Ary-Turner moved to the Seattle area when she was 12 and attended Decatur High School in Federal Way. As a “product of the community,” she knows a number of her students from church and went to school with some of their siblings. The younger students often recognize her from her days on the basketball court—she was a first-team all-league selection all three years in high school and led her team to the playoffs each season.
Determined to stay connected with her community, Ary-Turner attends sporting events, concerts and graduation festivities even while off duty. This school year she will serve as an assistant for the girls’ volleyball and basketball teams. By making a point to support her students, she’s been able to witness some significant transformations.
“The favorite aspect of my job is seeing the students grow and mature,” Ary-Turner says. “When they show you that they’re capable of turning frustration into understanding, it can be the most amazing thing to watch.”