PORT ORCHARD — For youngsters attending East Port Orchard Elementary and South Kitsap School District’s other schools, the night before the start of the 2021-2022 school year was bound to be a mix of excitement, anticipation and a sprinkling of trepidation before closing their eyes to sleep.
The same could be said for classroom teachers, whose brains were like a jumble of sticky notes jotted with schedules, changes to lesson plans and last-minute needed school supplies. And for Holly Gubser, her night before the big day on Wednesday was compounded by the nerve-wracking fact that she would realize her dream of — finally — becoming an elementary school teacher.
It’s a dream that the 24-year-old Bay Area native said was nurtured by her late grandfather, a special education teacher who she says had a big influence on her life. Also serving as a pivot point to her career direction was growing up with parents who owned a surf camp in Pacifica, south of San Francisco. That business was a family affair, she said, with family members teaching kids ages 6 to 18 how to surf every day at the beach during the summer.
Gubser moved to the Puget Sound area from San Francisco about three years ago along with her fiancee, who attended the University of Washington. Concurrently she got her teaching degree from City University and subsequently student-taught second-grade classes with Seattle Public Schools.
After graduating in June 2020, the newly minted teacher applied for teaching jobs in the area, but few were hiring, she said. In the meantime, Gubser started her own private school with eight students, most of them third-graders.
She got her break this summer after being hired by South Kitsap School District to teach third grade at East Port Orchard Elementary. The couple moved to Port Orchard in May and purchased a home a couple of blocks away from the school.
“I just fell in love with the grade,” she said. “[The kids] are very independent but they also love their teacher a lot. It’s a good balance. I hope to make an impact on these kids. I can’t wait.”
On Tuesday morning in the classroom where a collection of 19 or 20 eager, inquisitive third-graders are to be taught, the cheerful teacher exhibited only a few signs of anxiousness about the impending explosion of kids that were soon to enter the building the next morning.
“I’m getting a little anxious about having the kids come in because it’s been such an unprecedented time for everybody being out of the classroom and online,” Gubser said of the past year of hybrid learning experiences dictated by the pandemic.
But she doesn’t expect the face-mask-wearing students to arrive with a dulled sense of wonderment about learning new skills and meeting new classmates. Invariably, they’re likely to come equipped with the typical assortment of mayhem, silliness and sweetness that comprise third-graders.
And the new teacher is excited to be at the center of it all.
“When a classroom is kinetic and flowing, and the energy is matching in everyone — and the kids are influencing each other to do better and work harder — that’s what I love the most about teaching,” Gubser said. “I love when kids pick each other up and work hard for one common goal. I like to facilitate that.