Caitlin Santos ‘90 inherited the “teaching gene”: her grandparents were educators, as is her father (Smith professor John Brady), two aunts, and several cousins, and her mother, Nancy Brady, spent many years as a beloved children’s librarian at Campus School. After graduating from Northampton High School, Caitlin taught outdoor education, snowboarding, and even dog-mushing, a pastime more popular in Alaska. She and her husband, Mike, moved to Alaska with their kennel of sled dogs, where Caitlin has taught at a school with only 35 students, just outside of Denali National Park. Caitlin’s passion for math is profound, and she believes more students would appreciate its beauty and value if they were taught by high school teachers who love the subject. “I believe that a solid understanding of mathematics is crucial to every student’s success in life,” she says. Caitlin has learned a great deal about teaching and leadership through working with her kennel of dogs: “While leading dogs in a kennel is not the same as leading students in a classroom, these two situations share many basic leadership concepts such as knowledge, communication, confidence, consistency, trust, planning, motivation, high goals and an expectation of success.” Caitlin majored in mathematics at Smith College, where she graduated summa cum laude, and prior to taking her position at Cantwell School, she spent four years working as an instructional aide in a K-12 school. Read below her conversation with Brittany Collins of The Lab School on her journeys in education:
BC: When did you graduate from SCCS, and where did your educational path take you?
CS: “I graduated from SCCS in 1990. I then went to JFK middle school and Northampton High School before attending Smith College, where I got a BA in Mathematics. I later earned an MAT from Saint Joseph’s University and did a teaching fellowship through Knowles Science Teaching Foundation.”
BC: Where are you now (geographically, professionally, etc.)?
CS: “I live in Cantwell, Alaska, just outside of Denali National Park. I teach at our tiny K-12 school. Technically, I teach secondary math and science, but I have taught students K-12 in a variety of subjects in the 14 years that I have worked at the school.”
BC: From where, or what, or whom, do you draw inspiration as an educator?
CS: “My inspiration as an educator comes from my dad, John Brady, who teaches Geology at Smith. He is always excited about what he is teaching students. He is always looking for new and better ways to engage them. He is curious about his subject and always learning more himself.”
BC: What have you found to be the greatest challenge and greatest reward of teaching?
CS: “The greatest reward of teaching is getting to spend time with kids everyday. I love explaining how things work and helping kids discover ideas. It is rewarding to hear from past students and parents that I have had a lasting impact on them or their child. For me, the greatest challenge of teaching is teaching multiple classes within the same period, such as in math, where I might have students in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 all in the same room at the same time. I always look for ways to find connections between these courses to make it more of one class.”
BC: Do you have any funny (or poignant, or favorite) memories from your time at SCCS? Are you still in touch with anyone from SCCS?
CS: “Yes, I am still in touch with a core group of friends from SCCS. In some cases our parents are still friends as well, which deepens that shared story.”
Compiled and edited by Brittany Collins