For the last 11 years, Jan Erie has taught English and Language Arts at Auburn High School(AHS). She takes pride in her work, working to remove roadblocks in the educational process to ensure the academic progress of every student. It is this drive for AHS student’s success that earned Erie recognition as one of the three Auburn School District’s Teachers of the Year; along with Bonnie Harvey of Washington Elementary and Kat Sherer of Rainier Middle School.
Erie works to connect with students on a personal level. This connection allows her to push them to reach their highest potential, regardless of where they start. Erie shared, “I love helping students discover how smart and capable they are. I often hear at the start of a school year: ‘I’ve never finished reading a whole book’ or ‘I can’t write an essay.’ When that is turned around to ‘I love this book’ and ‘essays are easy,’ the path to success in school and the job market is opened for my students.”
Beyond the classroom, Erie has been a driving force for Auburn High’s FIRST Robotics team, Team TREAD, since its formation in 2009. She became involved after seeing the life-changing experience her son had after being involved with FIRST Robotics. “When Chris Zawislak, the AHS electronics teacher told me he wanted to start a team, I immediately signed on believing having a robotics team at AHS would give many AHS students a direct path into college and industry. Over the nine years I mentored the team, the rate of students going into 4-year-colleges was 90%,” explained Erie.
TREAD has helped to mentor many other FIRST Robotics teams throughout the district. Through Erie’s leadership with the robotics outreach programs workshops were created for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Auburn Parks and Rec, at local libraries and throughout the district. She also helped organize and run a leadership camp for Washington FIRST teams.
For Erie, education can not be a passive activity. She applies this both in the classroom and when leading Team TREAD. Erie explained that having an interactive learning experience that involves teachers, students and families working together will ensure students have skills to compete in globally connected workplaces. “To me, that means encouraging intellectual curiosity. We want students asking: ‘How does that work?’, ‘How does that connect to what I learned before?’, ‘How can I use that information [differently]?’,” said Erie.
Assistant principal Stacy Jordison said, “[Erie’s] dedication to improving the world we live in one student at a time is obvious to all who meet her.”
Reflecting on receiving the recognition as one of the three teachers of the year, Erie said that, “there are many great teachers in this district I am honored to teach with. It’s wonderful to be selected out of their midst and recognized.”
Unfortunately for the students of AHS, this is Erie’s last year. Regrettably, she has missed much of the end of the school year due to a fall earlier this Spring that caused her to be out on medical leave. “It’s been strange not to be at school; however, I have worked closely with my sub on lesson planning and grading and visited my classes, so it wasn’t a complete break,” said Erie.
In her retirement, Erie will be moving to Rhode Island to spend some quality “Grammie time” with her two grandsons. She also thoroughly enjoys travel outside of the US and has a list of countries she is working down to visit. At home, she loves working in the yard, reading, and attending performances.