Sue Styrlund and John Borga, both teachers at Wellington Elementary in Woodinville, retired this year. Styrlund and Borga were known and beloved by so many who passed through Wellington. Sue was a real treasure who readily shared her encouragement and caring with each and every student. John was much more curriculum driven as befits a 4th grade teacher. He was very passionate about his work with kids and was especially skilled in teaching his students the finer points of writing good stories.
A cozy faux fireplace, stuffed chairs, a reading loft in the corner and hand-made wooden pieces throughout the room have all contributed to the feeling of coming home for the second graders in Sue Styrlund’s classroom.
Styrlund grew up in Wauwatosa, Wis., then attended Ripon College for one year before continuing her undergraduate work and graduate work at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Styrlund finished with a master’s degree in special education.
Her husband Tom enjoys woodworking and is the creative crafter behind the cozy fireplace. Styrlund has a son, Danny, two step-children, Jon and Kristine, and three grandchildren. In fact, a few months ago she became the proud grandmother of identical twin girls named Alex and Ashleigh.
Active in many different hobbies, Styrlund enjoys baking (ask about her love for caramels), gardening (when she doesn’t have to weed) and reading exactly what she wants. In fact, she is a member of two book clubs.The travel bug has also bitten her, and in addition to the approximately 15 countries she has already visited, she aims to reach Africa and Costa Rica sometime in the future.
Styrlund has always loved animals and presently has three dogs, Ben, Duffy and Charlie. In the past, students and parents remember that her classroom stuffed chair was often occupied by one of her dogs. Currently, she has hopes Charlie can become a therapy dog, a passion in which she sees her love of teaching and affinity for animals connecting.
Styrlund loves to teach kids, finding them refreshing and rejuvenating as she learns something new from the experience each day. She takes delight in seeing a child learn a new skill, a new concept and most of all learn a little bit more about him or herself.
Employing a positive energy in the classroom, Styrlund takes the time to observe her students and use positive reinforcement with specific feedback to each child.
Over the years, teaching has changed. Mrs. Styrlund experiences this change as her students come to school now with an amazing wealth of knowledge due to exposure to language arts, science, math and technology through parental influence, their peers and the multimedia that is now available to them. She has also noticed that the power distance between students and teachers has diminished, the impact of which is a more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.
Styrlund enjoys the energy of the classroom, but also needs her quiet and reflective time. She is an early riser, often the first teacher to arrive at school in order to have a quiet time before the buzz of the day begins.
She was awarded the Outstanding Educator Award by the PTA for the 2011-12 school year and is planning on subbing this year saying she can’t quite pull myself away from teaching completely(:
John Borga was born and raised in the southwest corner of the city of Denver, Col. In school, math was his most difficult subject, and he reports that difficulty was a direct result of not having his math facts “fluent” in his head. That is one reason he pushes so hard for all his students to learn their math facts by the time they leave his class.
Borga went to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in history and philosophy.
While working as a teachers’ assistant in the Seattle School District, Borga took night classes from Central Washington University and obtained his teaching certificate. After teaching for 10 years in Seattle, he took a leave to attend Seattle University for his master’s of education degree in curriculum and instruction with a specialty in reading. He heard about a job opening in the PACE program and was excited to transfer to the Northshore School District.
With his wife Karen and dog Dandi, Borga lives in Brier. Borga enjoys trail walking and contemplating the Skykomish River from the back deck of their cabin just down river from the little town of Index.
He has always loved to read and still does. Mysteries are a favored genre, and Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman and J. A. Jance rank among his favorite authors. His favorite books on education are written by Regie Routman, Jonathan Kozol and Lee Canter.“Good teaching hasn’t changed,” according to Borga, but he notes that the materials and technology that surround the art of teaching have changed dramatically. He enjoyed teaching in PACE because of the parental involvement and spirit of cooperation.
Borga contends that the principles of the PACE program allow for creativity and possibilities that otherwise would not be afforded to the students. He prizes the customized learning groups and having other adults help implement the lessons. As new students and parents come into the program with different needs, interests and skills, he adapts the environment to use and appreciate all members. A sense of community is very important to Borga, and his classroom reflects his attitudes toward responsibility, individual pride, organization and consistency.
He enjoyed teaching and witnessing his students’ progression throughout the year. Listening to the students talk about what they are reading and hearing their reflections on life “as far as they’ve been able to figure out” is intriguing to him. He also enjoys watching them take great pride when they have written and produced a finished piece of writing, or have mastered a new skill in math.
Borga greatly enjoys hearing from former students as they progress through their schooling and into life as adults. These students email him about their achievements — one recently became a National Merit Scholar — and many to thank him for the influence he was in their lives.