Inspired by engagement

Engagement is a popular topic on ONE and with the recent Professional Development Day, we wanted to hear from employees about what keeps them engaged with their day-to-day work. Today center director Kate Garrett from the Knowledge Beginnings center in Johns Creek, Georgia, shares her story about how meeting engaged employees inspired her to join Knowledge Universe.

Center director Kate Garrett with some of her inspiring students.

Center director Kate Garrett with some of her inspiring students.

My journey with Knowledge Universe began with an unassuming call from a very friendly recruiter one day. At the time I was working at a large private school that was home to infants through eighth graders. This lady and I hit it off, talking about our children, our profession, and mostly about Knowledge Universe. Her engagement really inspired me, because it was exactly what I was missing in my current position. I thought, “Wow, if there are more people like her working for that company, then it’s somewhere I want to be!”

In the process of discussing the job my future district manager displayed the same drive and focus for serving families in new and surprising ways. How exciting to hear that there were educators out there who weren’t burned out and disconnected! At the final interview, a center director, Landy Gonzalez, met me for coffee and confirmed my initial impression once and for all.

She said, “You’ll work harder than you ever have in your life, and you’ll love every minute of it!”

Up until that minute, I had met very few educators with that kind of outlook. I’ve worked in private schools, public schools, even a Montessori school. And I had yet to encounter a group of people who were truly passionate about serving families, and about doing the right thing for children no matter how much hard work it took. There are a lot of dedicated teachers and administrators out there, but in my experience most of them feel weighed down by the pressure of increased expectations, smaller budgets, and a decrease in the trust and respect they get from parents. They want training and development, but are mostly in meetings. They want the freedom to teach their students in flexible and creative ways, but have to stick with the given framework.

But here, it’s different. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, I’d love more time for myself and my family. But even on my worst work day – we all have those days, where you are cooking, giving tours, teaching, and maybe unclogging a toilet or two before the day is done – the rewards of serving our families are absolutely surprising and delightful. Here, we give our teachers dynamic professional development and a real career path. We have the resources and support to train and develop our teachers who work so hard to help grow our school and do what’s best for children and families, no matter how challenging it may be.

The region 11, district 4 team with Tom Wyatt at the CD Summit.

The region 11, district 4 team with Tom Wyatt at the CD Summit. Kate is on the left in the front row.

Being a part of our [region 11] D4 CD team is a rewarding experience — there are no companies out there that do what we do on such a large scale, and knowing I have 11 other CDs out there who have my back and understand this job is invaluable.

We do a very personal and strenuous job every day, and at times it is tempting to just “phone it in” when I am tired. But just thinking about the faces of my students and their parents, my teachers, and my peers is enough to get me back on track. KU is a special place that provides all of its employees a chance to grow and thrive.

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