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A college experience close to home

AJ Barse, a graduate of Western Washington University Woodring College of Education, is a Klahowya graduate and is currently substitute teaching in the Central Kitsap School District. - Courtesy photo
AJ Barse, a graduate of Western Washington University Woodring College of Education, is a Klahowya graduate and is currently substitute teaching in the Central Kitsap School District.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The “college experience” is something many high school seniors seek out when looking for a university, but for AJ Barse, the experience was in the comfort of his own hometown of Seabeck.

“A lot of my friends dogged me,” Barse said with a smile. “But I was able to work for my education and stay at home.”

After graduating third in his class from Klahowya Secondary School, Barse was offered a multitude of scholarships from various organizations, along with his first year of tuition waived at Olympic College.

After obtaining his associate’s degree in Arts and Science at OC, Barse attended the Western Washington University Woodring College of Education in Bremerton at the OC campus.

“I got a different culture there,” Barse said. “Staying at home is a whole different culture.”

Unlike a typical college classroom, the courses at WWU Woodring were set up in a “cohort” style of roughly 26 students. Barse said he enjoyed this aspect of attending a smaller section of the school because he felt less like a number and more like a family.

“I pretty much ate, breathed and everything with these other people,” Barse said, adding that one of the biggest advantages to his program was that he was able to take the classes he wanted at night and work as a media technician and Spanish tutor at OC during the day. “I got a smorgasbord of education and I had 26 other minds to pick if I had a problem.”

Although Barse said he would recommend the WWU Woodring program to others, he added that keeping an open mind is important because the program is not in the traditional sense of a classroom.

Studying toward a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in elementary education, Barse had a multitude of professors for his classes, including lecturers from WWU, Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University. From the first quarter of classes at WWU Woodring, Barse said he was in the classroom.

“We had three placements, each with 40 hours of observation,” Barse added.

After starting his observations in a kindergarten classroom at Silverdale Elementary School, Barse said it “was not for him.” After completing classroom placements in both fourth and sixth grades Barse completed his internship at KSS, his former school.

“I wanted a lot of diverse experience, and that’s the root of the (WWU Woodring) program,” Barse added with a smile. “If I didn’t have the experience I had (at KSS), I wouldn’t have gone into teaching.”

“The kids just love him,” said Louanne Barse, AJ’s mother. “The students associate with him because he went to Klahowya.”

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in elementary education on March 24, Barse has hopes to obtain his master’s in curriculum design from the University of Washington.

“I’m there to help the students with free-thinking,” Barse added. “I like helping people get over the stigma of being afraid of school.”

As if obtaining a degree in education and working two jobs at OC wasn’t enough, Barse is on the list to substitute for CKSD whenever needed and is regularly involved as a musician at the Crosby Chapel. A self-taught guitarist, Barse is hoping to cut and sell his first CD in the next couple of months.

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