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Oregon Trail School District teachers apply classroom experiences to parenting

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Corinne Davidson has taught in the Oregon Trail School District for 27 years. Much like with parenting, a lot of nurturing and lessons in life skills go into teaching.

To recognize Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother's Day, on Sunday, May 12, it was appropriate to highlight women who have taken on both roles as mother and teacher.

"Honestly, I feel like I kind of parent 170 kids," said Kristen Sinclair, language arts teacher at Sandy High School. "It's not just about teaching content. It's as much about building relationships with the students."

Sinclair, a Welches native, graduated from Sandy High in 1995. She didn't anticipate as a student at the high school becoming a teacher, much less teaching at her alma mater, but throughout the past 16 years of her career it's become a natural fit. "Throughout high school and college I worked a lot with youth, but I didn't think about teaching until halfway through high school," she said. "I like interacting with people and I feel like a strength of mine was breaking down tasks."

Though she had a lot of the skills that make a good teacher going in, Sinclair admitted she's also "learned so much teaching high school."

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Kristen Sinclair has taught at Sandy High School, her alma mater, for 16 years, and has a daughter who attends Sandy High. "I've learned as much in my teaching career as I did in schooling," Sinclair said.

And not just about the evolving world of the education system or how to be a better teacher. "I think being a teacher has made me a better parent."

Sinclair has three children — ages 14, 11 and 9 — and said being a teacher keeps her up-to-date on the trends and goings-on in her children's generation. "My oldest daughter is a freshman, and I live in her world now. I feel like I relate to her more because I'm around high school kids more."

While Sinclair sees benefits to the dual role of mom and teacher, she admitted that with as demanding a job as teaching can be, "I feel very conflicted between those two worlds." Separating her work life from home life and making sure she's 100% present in each capacity has, she said, "been an ongoing internal conflict" throughout her 17 years of teaching.

"I try my best to not have time taken away from my family and vice-versa," she said. "Teaching in the community where you parent makes that almost impossible."

Sinclair's advice to young teachers preparing to become mothers? "You can only do so much."

"It's easy for women to think they have to do it all and do it all well," Sinclair explained. "Sometimes just doing your best, even if it's mediocre, is enough."

On the bright side, Sinclair's life of juggling teaching and parenting is never boring. "Teaching fulfills different (parts of who I am) than parenting," she noted. "I have a need to utilize my skill set and education and a need to feel like I have a purpose outside of being a parent. Being a mom fills other intrinsic needs for family and connection. The love I share with my kids is unparalleled."

That love is also part of what drives her as a teacher. "I remind myself that I think it's positive for my kids to see me going to work every day," Sinclair said.

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Sophia Hoult is in her second year teaching third grade at Naas Elementary and expecting her first child in August. Hopes for the future

Sophia Hoult, a third-grade teacher at Naas Elementary, also aspires to be a good role model for her child, who should be born in the next three months.

"I think being a working mom can be a challenge, but I think it can also be used as a valuable example," Hoult said. "I think if I show my child I'm passionate about my job and like going to work every day, my hope would be someday my child would be passionate about what they want to do and pursue it."

Hoult is pregnant and due in August. The 23-year-old started at Naas two years ago. Though she's always wanted to be a mother, "I definitely think teaching has encouraged me to have a bigger family."

It was a love of knowledge and inspiration from her own teachers that pushed Hoult into education. "I felt inspired by some of the teachers I had, and I wanted to work with kids and maybe be that teacher for them," she said. "I've always felt like I want to teach younger kids. That was the part of my education I loved the most."

With only a few months to go until she is a mother herself, Hoult said she's gleaned information from other parents in advance and also considers her lessons from teaching rather helpful. "I've seen how effective structure and routines are important in the classroom, so those are things I want to incorporate into my parenting," Hoult said.

She also has stored away wisdom from her own upbringing and motherly advice, including the suggestion to "always have a listening ear first."

"That's also really helped me out in my career — listening and teaching with empathy — and I think it will help me out with my child," she said.

Most of Hoult's Mother's Day traditions include spending time with her mother, and she can't wait until next year when she'll have her own child with whom to spend quality time. "I'm excited for all of it," Hoult said. "I think it'll be more exciting when my baby's here. The things I enjoyed most with my mom were trying new things and doing that together. I'm excited that maybe he will challenge me to try new things and I'll get to experience that with him. I'm getting prepared to have a new perspective on things."

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Davidson always worked hard to find time to be 100% present with her kids, striking a balance between work and home.Notable parenting

As a mother of two grown children and grandmother to four, Corinne Davidson has an abundance of perspective.

Davidson began teaching 37 years ago, putting in 10 years at a private school in Portland before joining the Oregon Trail School District.

Her initial foray into private school teaching was at its heart to provide for her children. "My children got to go for free to the school, so I thought it was a good opportunity for them," Davidson said.

In the time she's taught in Oregon Trail, she's made the rounds through Kelso Elementary, Naas Elementary and Boring Middle, where she still teaches seventh-grade social studies.

Davidson's aspirations to become a teacher began in third grade. "Anything to get to work with children," Davidson said. "I always wanted to be there to save the next child."

That said, as a parent, Davidson said keeping her work and home lives separate was a priority. While she wanted to be there for the children she taught if they needed help, she also wanted to focus on her own kids. "I never expected a teacher to raise my children, but to offer them opportunities and knowledge," Davidson said. "They had to be my first students."

Davidson still makes time for her grandchildren, enjoying storytime and reading them books via FaceTime. With her own children, Davidson said, "the biggest challenge was making sure when I was home with my children I was 100% with them.

"It was really about being a part of their lives. Our children came and went in cars. We'd talk all the way to school and all the way home about what we learned or were looking forward to. It was a nice opportunity to start and end the day. It was a very family-oriented time. It was probably the best beginning I could've given my kids. I really think you need to make sure all those little moments count."

Just like Davidson has a dual perspective on children, Mother's Day in her family has a double meaning. Some years, including her son's first, Davidson celebrates both Mother's Day and her son's birthday.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Sinclair enjoys getting outdoors with her three kids when she's not teaching 170 others. Similar to Hoult, Davidson also took notes on parents she met through teaching to utilize as a mom. "I think being a teacher and being around parents and their kids gave me a big eye-opener to do's and don'ts when I had kids," she said. "As a mother, I used a lot of older parents to see different forms of rewards systems. It gave me a lot of opportunities to see what I could use to be a better parent."

One of the key lessons Davidson garnered as she prepared for motherhood was that "some of the best parents I saw, when they goofed up on something, they apologized to their kids."

"Not that I was a perfect parent, but journaling about what I appreciated about a parent really made a big difference in how I raised my children," Davidson added.

Davidson continues to keep notes since she has four young grandchildren. "I think teaching keeps you young," she said. "It keeps you up-to-date with the next generation. As a mom, I was always up on the style and what students can do. There wasn't much conning me. I think in many ways teaching keeps you understanding your children — and grandchildren."

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