Welcome to Eckstein Middle School!
I became principal of Eckstein in February, 2016. As you can imagine, coming to a new school in the middle of the year was a new, exciting and challenging experience and I LOVE it every day. Although I was already a principal in SPS and lived in the Eckstein neighborhood, coming in as ‘the new kid’ midyear gave me a unique perspective. Like our new 6th grade students, I walked up the steps to this large building on my first day, nervous and unsure about what was inside. I knew Eckstein’s reputation as a strong school with excellent academics and extracurricular activities and I was excited, yet I thought, “It’s so big. Where and how will I fit in?” To my delight, I found that while the outside of Eckstein is imposing, our teachers and staff - from the front office, to the classrooms and into the custodian’s area - are warm, hardworking and put kids first. They work to personalize their actions and make connections for each and every student. I quickly felt at home with this dedicated staff.
Vision for Eckstein Middle School
At Eckstein, we have defined three components to achieve our school’s vision: Eckstein Middle School, a diverse community of lifelong learners, will ensure the academic, social, and emotional growth and success of each student. Individual Differentiation: We work actively to differentiate our teaching practices through professional development that includes peer learning walks, expert presenters, collaborative all staff half-days and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Our learning community is diverse and has unique interests and backgrounds. We seek to engage each and every one of our learners through interesting learning activities that create critical thinking opportunities. Our increased staff training and student use of technology increases engagement and differentiates content. Eckstein is also the Seattle School District concept test site for Office 2016 in classrooms.
Building Cultural and Social/Emotional Competencies:
Our students are part of a rich and diverse global community. To be effective leaders and decision makers in the greater global community, we must understand, appreciate and value the stories, backgrounds and diverse views within our community. Eckstein staff actively works to integrate experiences, multicultural perspectives and curriculum into the classroom, as well as exploring concepts like empathy within historical and current events. With this goal in mind, I am working closely with the Eckstein PTSA to bring speakers and performers to school to address topics such as Human Rights, African American History and Understanding Islamic Culture. Over a three year cycle, students at Eckstein will be exposed to a broad tapestry of cultural and historical perspectives.
Engaging with Students and Families in Meaningful Ways:
Middle School is often the time that students start to naturally ‘disconnect’ from adults, but we know that students still need us – all of us. This year, Eckstein expanded a series of very successful programs to connect with students, especially those who may need extra support at school. These include a teacher mentoring program, 6th grade Power Club, LGBTQ+ group, WEB (”Where Everyone Belongs,” a peer mentoring program) and one-on-one tutoring. As a focus of our professional development, we seek to connect with students and work to implement restorative justice policies, simple strategies (such as ‘5 to 1’ – 5 positive to 1 negative). In the upcoming year, we will explore ways to connect our work more meaningfully with families. We are so appreciative of the many parents and guardians who volunteer as hall monitors, garden helpers, recycling volunteers, field trip chaperones and more. Next year we plan to schedule even more family-friendly activities like our first-ever Family Bingo Night, which was a huge success! I hope families will come to PTSA meetings and be a part of this conversation and the work required to make it happen. It is exciting!
Principal Bio- Treena Sterk
I love school and enjoy learning, and I have spent many years in the classroom. My love of hands-on learning by doing and researching is probably related to my upbringing. I grew up in Coos Bay, Oregon and my brothers and I were the first in our family to attend college, although my mom attended college later and became a 4th grade teacher. I learned at a young age how to grow and preserve foods, sew, garden, and bait my own fishing hook. I was prepared for college because of great math, science and language arts teachers and a love of reading. I truly credit my teachers for their work to prepare me so well.
Playing sports was my most prominent extracurricular activity during high school, though I also enjoyed the debate team. While my childhood was rich with a strong work ethic, fishing, life skills, and a loving family, I did not go to a zoo, a ballet, a concert, a university lecture or an opera until college, where I soaked up these experiences as fast as I could get them I believe strongly that these cultural experiences, which are abundant in Seattle, need to be part of the public education system, accessible and available to everyone, because lack of exposure to these experiences contributes to the opportunity gap. With all the cultural opportunities in our backyard -- the universities, technology and in-house teaching expertise, Eckstein can provide endless expanded learning opportunities for our students.
After attending the University of Oregon, I headed to Juneau for the summer. There, I intended to join friends to work long shifts on the ‘slime line’ in the fish processing plant. Because of my ‘extensive fishing industry experience’, however, I was promoted to the smoke house and spent my summer typing labels and managing orders, all to my friends’ irritation. I enjoyed my summer and quickly found professional work and continued my education. Over nearly a decade I worked across Alaska as a social worker and then a teacher. Like most people in Alaska, I enjoyed a potpourri of experiences. I taught kindergarten, 4th grade, middle school and high school; I took spirited teenagers on month-long kayak trips that built character and grit in all of us; I managed independent living for students and adults with developmental disabilities and mental illness; I helped guide teachers to better support students with severely emotional disabilities; I supported mothers as they prepared for, delivered and parented babies; I worked with students to create ‘the first coffee shop North of the Arctic Circle’; I worked crazy summer jobs flying into remote villages for a variety of odd reasons; and I helped and learned from Inupiat to preserve seal and fish for winter. It was truly a wonderful time, with each experience bringing a new lesson, and through those experiences I learned the value of building relationships with the people with whom you work and facilitating the expertise of a community.
I came to Seattle for intending to attend law school and then return to Alaska, but I fell in love with the both city and my husband. I became a principal and now have two teenage girls who challenge all of my assumptions daily. For nearly four years, I was principal of Cascade Parent Partnership program, a lovely alternative school with a strong and diverse community that taught me the importance and value of building a school that meets and flexes to the needs of the students. I am very proud of the work we did together as a community at Cascade.
Working with Eckstein students, staff and community continues to be an exciting and rewarding experience. I look forward to helping our students on their educational journey and hope that they will leave Eckstein with the skills necessary to succeed in high school and the curiosity, kindness, bravery and open mindset for success in our global community.