October 12, 2016

Spotlight on Krysten, new to Boulder and already Bahrain bound!

This is the first in an occasional series that will introduce our entire Friends’ School community to our new teachers and staff.

We kick off with a very warm hello to Krysten Fort-Catanese, who is our new 2ndgrade teacher.

Krysten, her husband Alex and her daughter Francesca, who is in third grade at Friends’, recently moved to Boulder from Phuket, Thailand. There Krysten helped to develop and grow an international school, Phuket International Academy which has recently become United World College (UWC), Thailand. She joined the school in 2009 first as an elementary teacher and then as the school’s first Director of Social and Emotional Learning and Mindfulness.

Krysten’s values and philosophy, which emphasize international-mindedness, differentiation, inclusion and developmentally appropriate practices, are strongly aligned with Friends’ own philosophy.

When Krysten and her family decided to return to the U.S after seven years in Thailand, she had very high expectations of any school she applied to, and therefore conducted a narrow search.  Friends’ was at the top of her list because she was specifically drawn to our educational philosophy of Head, Hand and Heart.

What Krysten admires deeply about Friends’ School is how very explicit we are here about focusing on the social and emotional well-being of children. She loves that there is an expectation at Friends’ on high academics, but even more important to her is that the teachers at Friends’ are consistently aiming to grow future citizens, citizens who are compassionate and will become change agents for a better world.  She knows that Friends’ is a place where kids are supported to take responsibility for their thoughts, their actions, and their feelings now, and for life.

Now that she has a few weeks of teaching at Friends’ under her belt, Krysten clearly sees that her teaching colleagues live and breathe Head, Hand and Heart.  She is impressed at the thoughtful ways they embody it. She believes that strong modeling from the adults in children’s lives is paramount.  
She says that Friends’ has completely lived up to her and her family’s expectations.  They all feel very welcomed, and checked in on, by teachers and by families in both her class and Francesca’s third grade class.  We held a lot of events in September, events which were helpful in giving the Cataneses opportunities to connect with the wider Friends’ community.

Francesca (3rd grade) and Krysten (2nd grade!)
One major difference between our small school in Boulder and a larger international school in Thailand is the diversity of the families.  At Phuket International Academy, families from fifty nations were enrolled.  In Francesca’s class, bilingualism was the norm.

Following this rich experience, as well as earlier teaching positions and opening a school in southern California, Krysten is dedicated to exploring diversity. Her Masters degree in education focused on developing a Cultural Responsive Teaching Practice.

Krysten was eager to join our faculty diversity committee and is passionate to create greater awareness of diversity in our school community. Krysten’s face lights up when she discusses diversity in all its forms: culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic, family background, and more. Even though Boulder is not the most diverse place in America, Krysten feels strongly that our progressive community is open to increasing awareness and opportunity. We can learn a lot from her.

Krysten has been invited back to Bahrain to speak and lead a workshop at an International Schools Conference on the topic of mindfulness and teaching with body, mind, and heart.  She will be in Bahrain for a few days in January, teaching teachers from around the world and sharing what she knows while representing Friends’ School on the international stage.

Our second grade families are already learning that Krysten is a natural teacher and leader.  All of us at Friends’ are excited that she has spent her entire professional career encouraging and coaching teachers to use innovative practices that are challenging, meaningful and nurture a growth mindset. And now she brings that passion and dedication to us.

We welcome her with open arms.


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