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UPrep Leaders to Learn From: Susie Wu, Director of Middle School

We are excited to kick-off our new blog series, UPrep Leaders to Learn From, featuring a conversation with Susie Wu, Director of the Middle School.

Mary Beth Lambert, Director of Marketing and Communications

We are excited to kick-off our new blog series, UPrep Leaders to Learn From, featuring a conversation with Susie Wu, Director of the Middle School. Merriam-Webster defines leadership as “the office or position of a leader or the capacity to lead.” At UPrep, each of us, no matter our role, has the opportunity to be a leader. We hope this new series will introduce you to some of the amazing leaders who walk our halls.

A former high school science teacher, Director of Leadership Development at Rainier Scholars, and member of the University Prep Board of Trustees, Susie Wu took over as UPrep’s Director of Middle School this summer. In her short time here, Susie has already exhibited strong leadership and a commitment to UPrep’s values of inclusion, integrity, and respect. We recently sat down with Susie and asked her some big (and small) questions to help you make the acquaintance of this fabulous addition to the UPrep team.

·        What do you bring with you from your previous experience at Rainier Scholars and as a classroom teacher?

Prior to my work at Rainier Scholars, I was a high school science teacher. During this time, I got to know my students and their families well, which enhanced my ability to educate students from more of a relational approach.

At Rainier Scholars, we followed students from the time they were in 5th grade, to when they graduated college. That experience gave me a new perspective, beyond my classroom experience, of the long view and what it takes to be successful in life. This involved helping students find their confidence and voice to express their ideas in a variety of mediums.

I believe mastery of words through reading and writing, and mastery of numbers are two focal points that are critically important. When students master these concepts, they are able to navigate the professional world and understand the information coming at them. They are also able to offer their own ideas for embracing change and solving social problems.  

·         What have been your favorite UPrep moments so far?

Eating lunch in the Commons with our Middle School students. I love being around the energy!

I also love being able to talk with the students about what is important in their lives. Students tell me how they are figuring out how to get from their classroom to their locker, to snack, and all the thought that goes into that. There are also the little joys that they get excited about—whether it’s an encouraging comment that a teacher says to them or a cool activity they are doing in their classrooms.

I also like going into the classroom to see the magic happening between our teachers and students. Our teachers are inspiring to watch—there are a diversity of styles, different uses of tech, and a lot of student engagement in a variety of classroom settings.

What are your top priorities in the Middle School this year?

Communications is a top priority. I want our families to know about all of the important work that our students and teachers are doing so that they can talk with their student about it.

I’ve also been working on internal communications in order to strengthen and coordinate support for our students. We have many resources and specialists and it’s been important to collaborate with colleagues to create an aligned network of support.In the long term, I’m thinking about how we help our Middle School students – and UPrep students as a whole -- address the most urgent issues in their lives. Sometimes our students are grappling with how to fit in socially, or what their career goals are (even in middle school!)  Sometimes, they are helping their parents keep the household together.  And sometimes, they have found a social issue that they want to fix.  I’d like to harness that momentum into leadership, and tie in the skills they are learning at UPrep to help them do something constructive with what they see in their everyday life.  I think leadership can happen at a very early age, and is happening already.

UPrep recently rolled out a new communications framework that amplifies our mission based on three key words: Include, Invent, and Inspire. How have you seen these words come to life during the first two months of school?

The word include describes the essence of community that is at UPrep. It is a place where you are known and people are interested in helping you grow. That sense of inclusion makes it a powerful place to be and learn.

What comes to mind with invent is the work our teachers are doing to prepare for the first Intensives. Ideas that are on paper are now taking flight as teachers think through their ideas and create dynamic learning experiences for students. This is very much in the spirit of invention.

Inspire makes me think about our teachers and staff who have wide ranges of passions and hobbies and contribute them to our school life at UPrep. For example, you will find a math teacher participating in the musical alongside students. Living and teaching that way sparks students to try new things and develop multiple parts of themselves while they are at UPrep.


·        Collaboration is an important value for teachers, students, and staff at UPrep. How do you collaborate with your colleagues?

UPrep is a very collaborative community. Working with my colleagues, we are focused on creating alignment of our programs and services with UPrep’s mission statement. It’s WHAT we do, HOW we do it, and WHY we do what we do that is so compelling and inspires our teachers and staff to work at UPrep. I’m energized working here with a dynamic set of professionals.

And now for a few personal questions:

What do you remember about your own middle school experience?

Middle school was an awkward period of time in my life. I stayed under the radar and focused on my classes. I had a small group of friends and my first crush. I was still trying to figure out my hair…I definitely found traction and understood myself better a little bit later in high school.

·         Finish this sentence: Middle school is….

Crazy and fabulous. I thought of this when I was chaperoning my first dance here at UPrep and was just floored by the energy, the joy, and the craziness of being at a middle school dance.

·        What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to read mysteries and crossword puzzles. I also am a roller derby skater, though I’m currently on sabbatical.  I play for Jet City Roller Derby in Everett and my skater name is “Wu’s Your Momma.”

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