Meet Tyler Berkich, Director of School Operations at Impact Public Schools’ Salish Sea Elementary

May 8, 2024 | School Highlights

Teacher Appreciation Week 2024

“There is an amazing magic that happens – like a foreign world – between drop off and pick up. Between those hours, there is education of the whole child.”

Tyler Berkich: Nominee, State Educator of the Year “Student and Family Support Staff”

For most teachers, leaders and support personnel, a nomination for ‘Educator of the Year’ isn’t on the radar as they pursue their careers. But a parent at a charter public school in the south Sound who found themselves in extremely challenging circumstances, also found an ally in Tyler Berkich, Director of School Operations at Impact Public Schools’ Salish Sea Elementary. Navigating a transition to a safer home while prioritizing stability for their children, one parent discovered Tyler’s determination to erase barriers to a secure, nurturing learning environment. Nominating Tyler for Educator of the Year in the Student and Family Support Staff category commemorates Tyler’s tenacity and a now-flourishing student.

“When we solve problems, when we’re working with a family…I just focus on letting kids be kids and letting them show up. We want to protect this time in their lives and keep it sheltered for them.”

Tyler Berkich was born and raised in Washington, and has lived all over the country. Advocacy for children is a common theme in his professional experience as his background includes his work as guardian ad litem, appointed in the court system to represent the best interests of a child. When he began an entry level operations job with Success Academies (a high-performing charter public school operator in New York) he was hooked, learning quickly about the role of every person to get students in the building and supporting teachers in their work. The entirety of the experience for a student is paramount in Tyler’s workday. While no school day is typical, the effort to make the learning experience uniform to empower learning is critical.

“It is important to me to do my part in supporting the social emotional world of creating well-rounded little human beings. It is the curriculum, yes. It is also teaching them that it is ok to show up authentically as themselves in this space, articulating their feelings, creating boundaries and learning…these kiddos will be the leaders of their generation.”

As Director of School Operations, Tyler could be found at a computer, pouring over spreadsheets and the school’s budget, but is just as likely to be setting up the school’s Pea Patch Garden to release butterflies as part of a lesson, or supporting a scholar working through big emotions. His dedication to Salish Sea’s students is holistic in that he works to ensure that students have transportation to and from school, and also learning materials and technology access. Nothing can be taken for granted if it’s a possible barrier to learning and Tyler’s focus also extends to meeting basic needs from safe housing and a backpack to jackets and shoes appropriate for the weather.

“Kids may not worry on where they’ll be sleeping or what they’ll eat but instability can manifest itself in other ways. Circumstances can be stressors and kids and parents hold the stress but also resilience to keep showing up. We have to do everything and anything we can to make this easier.”

Being an educator is in Tyler’s blood and he is clear-eyed about the rewards and the challenges of his career. His grandfather taught high school physics and advised that “working in education is like being married for a long time, you’ll have good years and bad years or maybe a good decade or a bad decade.” For Tyler, there is significant opportunity to foster the passion that so many have when they enter education as a career path while also acknowledging that burnout is real. His experience is that talented people need both autonomy and support to succeed. By identifying how to “revise the playbook” and openly and creatively evaluate what did and didn’t work, and what ideas need new life, he believes administrators can continue to drive innovation and protect the heart of talented people working in education.

“Teachers need space to teach just as much as kids need space to learn.”

In 2025, Salish Sea Elementary will graduate its first class of fifth graders. For Tyler, the milestone is significant for all it represents for the entire team at the school. From the school’s Principal to its teachers to its front office and its school manager, Tyler views its “scrappy, get it done” attitude as reflective of the belief in the promise of Salish Sea’s students. Washington’s charter public schools are subject to some of the toughest laws in the country when it comes to oversight and accountability. For Tyler, there should never be a barrier to a kid’s right to a quality education nor to a parent or guardian’s right to choose the education that is best suited to their kid. In charter public schools in particular, Tyler can see where the sector can adapt to meet the needs of a tech immersed generation, which is unchartered territory. Moreover, the disruption to traditional education as a result of the pandemic has rattled systems. For Tyler, the focus on the whole child during these pivotal times in their development further highlights how a willingness to change, evolve and also center students is a benefit of charter public schools to Washington’s families.

“I didn’t even know about this award, so it is so humbling to have been nominated. No one who works in schools does it for money or accolades. You do it because you can see the tangible impacts of what you can do. That there is a whole process of recognition is just super honoring and exciting and surprising. But educators all over do these things, and they cope with everything just like I do every day.”

Tyler learned of his Educator of the Year nomination when he received an email from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). The family he had been working with had made the nomination and reached out with a note. While he is the nominee, Tyler noted that teachers and a counselor also engaged quickly to prevent volatility from bleeding into the student’s school life but unsurprised by the collective effort.

“The magic is to make sure the little things don’t have to be thought about. I love this work.”