Saying goodbye: Liberty staff reminisce on their time working here

As the school year comes to an end, not only are seniors graduating, but some teachers and staff are too. They have been working with students here for many years, but they are looking forward to expanding their expertise in other areas.

Thomas Kennedy:

Many teachers are memorable to their students in one way or another. For students of math teacher Thomas Kennedy, what they remember most is his unique sense of humor. 

Kennedy has taught math at Liberty for 11 years. While teaching, he always enjoyed poking fun and joking with his students during class. 

“The thing I’d miss about Liberty is hanging out with the students,” Kennedy said. “Teenagers are cool.”

There have also been some crazy moments that he remembers from his time here. 

“Eight or nine punches have been thrown in my room, like at Super Smash Brothers club and another time when a high school kid punched a middle schooler,” Kennedy said. 

Currently, he is unsure of where or what he wants to go and do next. 

I feel like a high school senior. I’m leaving high school. I’m moving on and I don’t know what I’m doing next,” Kennedy said. “I just feel like I had a different calling at this point.” 

Kennedy has already switched his career before, coming from engineering to teaching. 

“The thing about being generally good at things is you can do what you want to do,” Kennedy said.

Erin Armstrong:

Teaching math at Maywood Middle School before coming to Liberty, assistant principal Erin Armstrong is going back to her roots by becoming the principal at Maywood next year.

“I’m going back to a place where I have many much-loved colleagues,” Armstrong said. “I’m excited to maintain this connection with Liberty in terms of thinking about how our courses build on each other and support students for success.”

Armstrong loves the various opportunities that Liberty provides to its students to work together and create something bigger than themselves, whether it’s the school plays or football games.

“It’s a unique experience to see so many kids come together and share their talents and interests in many different ways, and I feel privileged to be part of that,” Armstrong said. 

While leaving Liberty feels bittersweet, Armstrong hopes that her experience with the high school system will help her make the best decisions for students at Maywood.

“My goal as a middle school principal is to think about how I can help kids have as much support as possible so that they’re feeling competent coming up as high schoolers,” Armstrong said.

Kaela Yuen: 

After 11 years of teaching at Liberty, science teacher Kaela Yuen is waving her goodbyes. Throughout her years teaching, Yuen has grown both personally and professionally, which will continue to leave a lasting impact on the Liberty community.

Yuen has taught nearly every science class that Liberty has to offer, from biology to forensics. She has also coached the track team as well as the Patriots Unified Basketball team.

“It was a cool experience when the school hosted a Unified Basketball tournament,” Yuen said. “A ton of students and staff showed up to volunteer as referees and run the score clock.”

Although Yuen is often seen as someone who always has a plan for anything, she is still unsure about what she wants to do next.

“I don’t really have a plan right now,” Yuen said, “but I feel a personal pull towards adult education or maybe an older group for a little bit.”

While Yuen’s students feel sad to see her leave, she will never forget what she loves most about Liberty. 

“I love the people,” Yuen said. “Liberty has such a strong community and is full of people who genuinely show up for each other.”

Nadege Maciel:

Since 2016, Nadege Maciel has taught French at Liberty, but she’ll be moving on after this year to Issaquah High School. 

Passionate about teaching the French language and culture, Maciel loved all the students that she taught over the years.

“The students were very motivated to learn the language,” Maciel said. “It’s rewarding to see them grow and progress over the years.”

Maciel feels that she has gained lots of experience teaching at Liberty due to its welcoming staff who were more like friends than colleagues to her.

“I love that this is a small community. I learned so much not just about teaching but about American teen culture as well by collaborating with peers and students,” Maciel said.

The memories that Maciel created with her students are a mix of both fun and emotional. 

“I won’t forget the students’ laughter and the fun in role plays, skits, poetry slams, rap songs and word game puns,” Maciel said. “The seniors who graduated during the pandemic years had taken French with me since their freshmen year, and before leaving, they expressed personal messages for me, reflecting on how learning French had impacted their own life. I was moved to watch the videos.”

Maciel has a simple but sweet final message to her students and the community here: 

“Merci beaucoup, Liberty.”

Alyssa O’Brien:

After graduating from college, Alyssa O’Brien came to Liberty expecting to teach kids, but she had never expected that the kids would also be teaching her. Eight years later, O’Brien has decided that this will be her last at Liberty.

“I’m very bittersweet about leaving Liberty,” O’Brien said. “I love this place. I love the people.”

Although deciding to leave Liberty has been difficult, O’Brien remembers past events with students that have taught her what it means to be a teacher. One of these moments was when a fight broke out in her classroom during her first year of teaching.

“Being a very new teacher, I didn’t know what to do,” said O’Brien. “I just calmly broke it up and sent an email, but the class stayed silent.”

As for her future plans, O’Brien intends to explore new teaching opportunities that allow her to utilize her skills in a different setting.

I’m ready for a new scenery and a new challenge,” O’Brien said, “but I also just want to spend a little more time with my kids.”

As O’Brien says her final goodbyes to Liberty, she says that she will miss all of those who have made her teaching experience worthwhile.

“It was really fun to have co-workers who are passionate and collaborative about their work,” said O’Brien. “The people are what I’m going to miss most about Liberty.”