Kyle: Good morning, Ren. Why don’t you start by telling us how long you’ve been at FASPS and what brought you here?
Ren: This is now my third year at FASPS and my second year as the Extended Day and Summer Programs director. Before moving to Seattle three years ago, I lived in Chicago. I’ve worked many different jobs throughout a variety of different sectors, but I’ve always sought in my positions the ability to speak French, to practice speaking French. I worked at Amazon speaking French, in their fraud department for a while, and I worked at a call center where I was speaking with French Canadians.
Kyle: That’s why when you speak French you have a little French Canadian accent?
Ren: Yes, I was at that job for two years; eight hours a day I was speaking in Québecois. And then there was a period of time in Chicago where I worked at the Lycée Français. I helped lead their summer program for two consecutive summers. Since then, I’ve known that I wanted to come back to a French school. When I moved to Seattle, I googled French schools, found FASPS, and looked for opportunities to apply!
Kyle: You were the receptionist your first year, and then when Katie decided to move back to Europe, our director of Extended Day and Summer Programs at that time, you applied for her job.
Ren: Yes, when that position opened up, I decided to apply for it.
Kyle: Why’d you leave Chicago?
Ren: The winters. The winters are super cold, and the summers are very hot and humid. Also, my husband had just emigrated here from South America, and we decided to move somewhere new together.
Kyle: Before we talk about Extended Day and Summer Programs at FASPS, tell us a little bit about your team.
Ren: My team is the best. I feel completely and totally lucky to have some really fantastic, caring, thoughtful, and intentional human beings on my team. I know that I’m biased, but they are each super-positive, willing to do absolutely anything and everything for the kids and the school, fill in in classes that they’ve never even stepped foot into before if we’re short-staffed, help out with four consecutive recess duties if need be, do anything and everything, take on extra responsibilities. I can’t say enough good things about them. For example, Andre has been a crucial support in the Peer Mediation training that Doris has been leading recently. Martin has been taking on additional ELL responsibilities this year, James has been a Rockstar substitute teacher in Middle School … I could go on and on. My team is awesome.
Kyle: How many folks are we talking about?
Ren: Right now we have 12 educational assistants, and Lia Corrado, who is my program coordinator.
Kyle: Lia is your right hand?
Ren: She’s definitely my right hand or my right brain. We always joke that she’s the other half of my brain. Whatever I forget, she seems to remember, and whatever she forgets, I seem to remember. We work really well together.
Kyle: So, what does Extended Day comprise at FASPS?
Ren: That’s a great question. FASPS’s Extended Day program is everything that happens after dismissal, or before the day begins, except athletics and the bus. For me, that means Garderie until 6:00pm, that means after-school learning for the Lower School, that means Enrichment classes, it means Enrichment classes for Middle School. I’m working with Stacy trying to build a little bit more programming for the Middle Schoolers and getting involved in some of the clubs that the Middle School faculty are starting. In the morning, we open our doors at 7:30am, and we have paid care from 7:30am to 8:00am. The doors for the school open officially at 8:00am, and anything after that is not paid.
Kyle: Last year was your first year in this position. How did it go?
Ren: It was wonderful. It was overwhelming and exciting and full of adrenaline, and it went really well.
Kyle: Like you, this is my second year in this position, and I started off this year excited to do the things I did last year but better, more efficiently, with more forethought. Was that the same with you?
Ren: Absolutely. Once you’ve lived the rotation of the year once, you know better what’s coming. I feel like I know better how to prepare for it; granted, new things are always coming up and changes are always happening, but I completely agree with you, I feel excited to do it better this year.
Kyle: Our October break is coming up in a couple of weeks. What options do parents have over the break?
Ren: We offer October break Garderie Camp, and that actually includes October 19, which is our in-service day, all the way through Friday, October 26.
Kyle: And that’s open to all current parents?
Ren: Yes, all current parents. It’s a really unique opportunity for the kids who will probably be hanging around town anyway to come back to school and have a more calm, relaxed environment where they do projects and activities that have been carefully planned and designed by our educational assistant team. We’ve got a field trip that we’re doing on Thursday the 25th. We’ve never done a field trip during a break camp before, and we’re going to take K–5 students to a pumpkin patch! The educational assistants are really excited to do that. And this year what’s really exciting is we are going to continue the Middle School Break Camp program that we started last year, and we’re going to add to it a morning cooking camp. A French chef, Muriel Foucher, who owns a French cooking school in Bellevue, is going to come and teach Cooking Camp during the mornings to the kids from 8:00am to noon, and then they’re going to eat the French cuisine that they make for lunch.
Kyle: Is that Monday through Friday of that week?
Ren: It’s offered from Friday the 19th through Friday the 26th. What’s unique about it is she’s going to do the exact same thing that we do with our Break Camp, which is she’s going to allow the students to pick the days that they want to come. They don’t have to register for the whole week; they can come for a Monday and a Wednesday and a Friday, or just one day, or all of the days. We will also have James and Martin, who are the educational assistants who work with Middle School, lead a Break Camp-type group in the afternoons for the Middle Schoolers, so there will still be that normal Break Camp atmosphere for Middle Schoolers. We’ll see how this goes, and maybe next time it’ll look different.
Kyle: Wasn’t last year the first year we offered anything for Middle Schoolers during break?
Ren: Yes, we launched break camps and Enrichment classes for Middle Schoolers last year. We really launched and developed all our Middle School programming last school year.
Kyle: Last summer was your first Summer Camp. How did that go?
Ren: It went really well. We were able to successfully launch our Middle School Summer Adventure program, and we had a lot of really great feedback on that from the kids; they seemed to really enjoy the classes that we were offering. And our Lower School program was very successful. We watched the semifinal game of the World Cup together. We had a kermesse each week. We had all of the fun, usual field trips and activities that Katie had done in previous summers, and that the kids and parents have come to expect. It was a success!
Kyle: So I heard you were planning something different for this upcoming summer.
Ren: Yes, while the Camp d’été for Lower School will look the same, at least for now, what will change is programming for the Middle School. What we did last year was we offered a bunch of different classes the students could choose from and mix and match to build their own schedule for the day. That worked well in some respects, but I think what the students really want is to be off campus, to be out of school. They don’t want to go into summer and come immediately back to school; they just want to see their friends and do fun things. What we’re going to do with this summer is have two of the three weeks be field-trip weeks. We’ll have the Middle School students go off campus for almost all of the day for two of those three weeks. Then the third week, which will be the short week of July 4th, will be a workshop week. We’ll model that after the classes that we did last year.
Kyle: Do you have any specific ideas for field trips at this point or you still brainstorming?
Ren: Still brainstorming, and nothing is confirmed yet. Some of the ideas that I’ve had, my guiding star so to speak, is to do some exploration around Puget Sound, like hiking, kayaking, paddle-boarding, going to the beach, being outdoors as much as possible. Then the other week I’ve envisioned as a cultural, urban exploration week, going to museums, going to the Arboretum, going to the Asian American Museum, going to MoPOP, for example. I’m trying to figure out what’s feasible, what’s cost-effective, and how we can make it work with a bus. I think those things would be really valuable experiences to give to our Middle School students, especially if we can have a leader lead them in a French environment.
Kyle: It makes sense because it’s just so beautiful in Seattle over the summer; you want to be outside.
Ren: I’m basing a lot of this on my experiences from when I worked summer programs in Chicago, at the Lycée Français of Chicago. A lot of their idea was just to be in the city. They would go on a field trip every day, which is not something that’s feasible yet for our Lower School, but it’s something I really want to try with our Middle School students, explore everything that our region has to offer.
Kyle: You might consider doing a community service day too, go to a food bank or something like that.
Ren: I’ve thought about that as well. I’m also taking suggestions, so if anyone has any suggestions, please email them to me at RenK@FASPS.org.
Kyle: Thanks for your time today, Ren.
Ren: Thank you.