By Keith Dinh and Melissa Domingo
As the school year comes to a close, Summit will experience many changes in its staff: Executive Director of Expeditions Lucretia Witte will not be returning this coming school year, and Dean of Culture and Instruction Monica Hanson will be stepping into her position this coming school year.
Throughout her four years of being the Executive Director of Expeditions, Ms. Witte has made a number of acquaintances on the Expeditions team, many of which have left the Expeditions team to join the administrative teams of other Summit campuses. Her colleagues and former co-workers shared their experiences with Ms. Witte while highlighting how Ms. Hanson will continue to bring a positive light to Expeditions as the new incoming Executive Director of Expeditions.
Expeditions Teacher and Independent Learning Manager Brooke Hein joined the Expeditions team with Ms. Witte in 2016 after moving to California, which “allowed for an instant connection as [they] both settled in and made this place and this job feel like home,” she stated in an email response.
Ms. Witte’s departure felt like “the end of an era for the Expeditions team.” Ms. Hein added that she was not surprised by this news: “She came to Expeditions with a very clear goal of furthering our expeditionary, hands-on learning experiences, and I think she’s accomplished that and more.”
“Her job role as Executive Director of Expeditions, what we so lovingly refer to as the ‘traveling circus,’ is an incredibly complex and difficult task unlike any other role we have at Summit,” Ms. Hein stated, recalling memories shared between staff and her appreciation for Ms. Witte’s ability to handle her role as the Executive Director of Expeditions.
She also spoke fondly of her favorite memories with Ms. Witte: “My first year of teaching, she would make a point to visit every Expeditions classroom on Friday and leave a note for the teacher on their computer. I really looked forward to getting these notes of encouragement and gratitude; they made me feel really appreciated and valued.”
Ms. Witte is a “big vision leader” and has a “get ‘er done” attitude that Ms. Hein said she will miss. Seeing this attitude in Ms. Witte has made a lasting impact on Ms. Hein because “these are qualities that have pushed me to grow professionally.”
North Loop Expeditions Dean of Culture and Instruction Kalyn Olson, who will be transferring to K2’s administrative team as their new Dean of Operations, shared that she met Ms. Witte in the summer of 2016 when she first joined the Expeditions team as Executive Director. Ms. Witte was Ms. Olson’s teaching coach for two years while she taught on the Expeditions team, and, when she transitioned into her current role as Dean of Culture and Instruction, Ms. Witte continued to be her coach.
Throughout her years in working with Ms. Witte, Ms. Olson reflected that she has made a lot of growth as an educator and a human being. She recalled that Ms. Witte “has made me laugh during some of our most stressful days in this work, encouraged me to lean into challenging situations and I believe she has made me a better human, not just a better educator.”
“When I think about our working styles, I think about the Personality Compass. I fall under the ‘north’ category, where I like to work fast-paced and task-oriented. After over a decade coaching sports teams, I can also admit my competitive tendencies and appreciate the balance Ms. Witte brings to my leadership style. She is in the ‘west’ category, an idea-centered visionary who has brought so much innovation to the Expeditions Team. I think we feed off of each other’s enthusiastic personalities and help each other grow in a lot of areas,” she stated in an email response.
Ms. Olson shared one of the many memories that she said “sums up why it has been such a joy to work with Ms Witte.” Ms. Olson and Ms. Witte “organized one of the biggest events I can remember at K2 last May and capped the night off with a raffle where [Ms. Witte] tried to announce winning ticket numbers to a room of 150+ people on that tiny neon megaphone … We made it work, and that sums up a lot of our adventures these past four years.”
Ms. Hanson will be taking over Ms. Witte’s role, and Ms. Olson shared that she “could not have asked for a better counterpart in my Dean role than Ms Hanson. She is fearless, hilarious and works tirelessly for our students.”
Ms. Olson explained how she saw that, “Ms. Witte has given so much of herself to this program over the last four years,” and that she has accomplished many things for students. She said, “Giving herself an end date at the end of this school year is an incredibly brave and healthy decision for where she wants to go next in life, and I have been wholeheartedly excited for her.”
Both Ms. Hein and Ms. Olson both shared that Ms. Witte was planning on traveling this year, but her plans are momentarily put on hold because of the pandemic.
Summit Prep Executive Director Caitlin Reilly also gave her own experiences with Ms. Witte. Ms. Reilly worked on the Expeditions team from 2015-17 before becoming Prep’s Executive Director. She hired Ms. Witte onto the team and worked with her to co-lead the Expeditions team before they became colleagues when she transferred to Prep’s administrative team.
“One of the things that struck me is the way she interacted with students in really seeking to draw out what they were interested in, in order for them to pursue an internship or make the best choice about their course. She cares deeply about students getting to explore interests and has worked really hard to expand choices and bring really cool course opportunities to the program,” she said.
When Ms. Reilly received the news that Ms. Witte would not be returning to her current position next year, she reflected on how Ms. Witte added so much more to the Expeditions program in the last few years and expressed that she will be missed on the team.
“She embodies a joy for adventure and learning and I’m excited for her to pursue new adventures!” Ms. Reilly said.
In regards to Ms. Hanson taking over the position next year, Ms. Reilly said, “I’ve gotten to interact with Ms. Hanson in the context of the Summit Public Schools leadership team, and I know she’ll do a great job carrying the work forward.”
South Loop Expeditions Dean of Culture and Instruction Monica Hanson has been on the Expeditions team since the summer of 2018 when she was interviewed by Ms. Witte for her current role of Dean of Culture and Instruction on the Expeditions team, and she has been working with her ever since.
“It has been a privilege working with someone aligned in goals and what Expeditions and education in general should be; she is a great boss, and she has also become my friend. She has taken the time to not only direct the program but build my own leadership capacity,” Ms. Hanson said.
Reflecting on her time with Ms. Witte, Ms. Hanson explained that her favorite memory is how the two would meet in the San Francisco Ferry Building to plan for Expeditions, being able to engage in their work and share meals or snacks together throughout the day.
When the announcement came that Ms. Witte was leaving, Ms. Hanson expressed that she felt “sad” and “scared” about Ms. Witte’s imminent departure. “I knew it was the right decision for her and her future. I also trusted her to get our team in a good place for her departure and set us up for a smooth leadership transition,” she said.
Though she feels this way about Ms. Witte’s departure, Ms. Hanson also explained how she feels “excited” and “anxious about the new responsibilities that come with the job and making sure our program continues to grow to be the best it can be for students and our communities.”
Ms. Hanson said there “are no words that will properly express how much she means to me” and she simply summed up her feelings and said, “You have been an incredible mentor and I will miss you very much.”
Featured image at the top of page:
South Loop Expeditions Dean of Culture and Instruction Monica Hanson (left) and Summit Executive Director of Expeditions Lucretia Witte (right) discuss plans for Expeditions on Rainier campus. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh