NEWEST CLASSROOM TEACHER — Sunnyside Christian School first grade teacher Katie Dykstra wears a protective and clear face shield while in front and safely distanced from her students while reading and teaching phonics. Dykstra said it’s important for them to see if her face in learning how to pronounce words and recognize emotions.

SUNNYSIDE — Realizing early on that her Nooksack Valley High School academic path would be centered around youth and within the classroom, Katie Dykstra, Sunnyside Christian School’s newest first grade teacher understands how vital in person instruction is to students of all ages following the cancellation of student teaching opportunities due to COVID-19.

The Central Washington University graduate was ready to begin her kindergarten classroom training at Ahtanum Valley Elementary School in Yakima the week after the pandemic forced the closure of state schools on March 13.

“I had been planning for four years to graduate and then to be teaching in the fall, and just really wanting that,” Dykstra, who has been a day care lead teacher working with kids for years, conveyed. “Student teaching would have been a great experience.”

She said CWU advised students in the education program to either wait until the fall to get back into the teaching classroom and graduate in the winter or try applying for a position where they would provide a conditional teaching certificate upon hire.

The 22-year-old from Sumas, which is located on the Canadian border in Whatcom County, chose not to wait another year and began eagerly searching for a position in Yakima County where she could satisfy the student teaching requirement in her own classroom.

Dykstra, an early childhood and education major, sent out about 30 resume packages to area school districts with a specific focus of becoming a K through second grade or any elementary grade teacher at this time. She wanted to be a teacher and make the Yakima Valley home.

“I wanted to be Miss Dykstra finally,” she stated. “No one had gotten back to me because, unfortunately, when you don’t have your certificate, no one really looks at you.”

She relied upon her Christian faith to maintain a positive outlook during the extensive job search which hadn’t resulted in any outside interest. When the aspiring educator saw the job posting at Sunnyside Christian School, Dykstra emailed Superintendent and Principal Brad Van Beek and explained her situation.

Van Beek immediately responded and asked if he could call her, according to Dykstra. She was thrilled to speak with the administrator, and he informed her they were conducting online interviews the next day.

He asked her to fill out an application and would she be available at 7 a.m. for an interview and she enthusiastically responded, “Yes, I would love to!”

“I know that I’m meant to be a teacher and I knew that if I could just get an interview, I could show someone this is what I am supposed to be doing,” Dykstra stated.

She remained confident about her virtual interview despite experiencing internet difficulties halfway through and had to finish up the conversation on the phone.

About two weeks later, following the school’s board meeting in early July right after her birthday, Dykstra received a call from Van Beek and offered her the position. She wanted to say, “yes” right away but decided to follow her sister’s advice about being professionally reserved and request a day to think about the opportunity and then respond.

“Once I got off the phone, I was like, ‘oh my gosh!’ The next day I called him right back as early as possible and told him I would love to take the job. So that’s the way I ended up here and I couldn’t be happier,” Dykstra enthusiastically exclaimed after her twelfth day of being a first grade classroom teacher.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email

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