Father and daughter alums share passion for teaching & service
By Dana Chrysler
Everett Community College Alumni Outreach Specialist
The year was 1989 and Jocelyn Sievers was trying hard to blend in. As fate would have it, the Everett Community College (EvCC) student was enrolled in her dad's night-time typing class.
“I just smiled and never said a word about Mr. Sievers being my dad,” Jocelyn remembered. “No one ever said a bad thing about him; they all loved him.”
Watching her dad teach was nothing new to Jocelyn. As a child, she had accompanied her father on many trips to the EvCC campus where her father, Kirke Sievers, was employed as a long-time business instructor. Both dad and daughter came from families that placed an emphasis on getting an education.
“Education was always important,” Jocelyn recalled. “Not only from mom and dad, but also my grandma and grandpa helped instill that in me. My grandpa, Verne (Kirke's dad), would often say, 'Anybody can take anything away from you, whether it's your house, your money, your medals, your trophies—but the one thing nobody can take away from you is your education.' That always stuck with me.”
Jocelyn's father, Kirke, remembers his parents offering one of two choices immediately following his graduation from Everett High School in 1961: work or go to school.
“I made the right decision,” he admitted. “I lived at home and went to EvCC.”
Kirke regarded the community college as an extension of his high school experience and enjoyed making friends with fellow students from throughout the Puget Sound region.
While attending EvCC, and in a foreshadowing of things to come, Kirke ran for ASB treasurer and won.
“EvCC was my first step towards success,” Kirke said. “And it was a wise move.”
Kirke's time at EvCC was interrupted when he joined the Navy in 1961. He ended up serving two years as a Seabee.
“While I was doing my two-year term in the service, I realized the only stepping stone in life is education,” Kirke reflected. “I saw service people who probably would have done quite well in the business world, but they made the choice to stay in the service—one of the reasons being that they didn't have the background of education.”
Following his Navy stint, Kirke returned to EvCC to complete his AA degree, then moved on to the University of Washington, graduating with a bachelor's degree in business education and a teaching certificate in 1968.
From 1968 to 1974, Kirke taught business education and typing at Marysville High School, starting their first DECA (student marketing) club.
“That was a lot of fun,” he recalled. “Our keyboarding/business instructor at Marysville was a night instructor at EvCC and when he retired, asked if I wanted a night job. At that time, I had a couple of young children and they drove me nuts at home [Laughter], so I said, 'It would be nice to be out with adults two nights a week.' So, I applied and got the job. I was at EvCC for 24 years.”
Jocelyn smiled while listening to Kirke's description of those days from her father's point of view.
“I enjoyed watching dad teach,” she said. “I came to work a little bit with my dad, but not a lot, because he liked to leave us at home. And now, as a mother, I understand why he started working four nights a week,” she laughed.
Kirke found teaching both high school and adult students a fulfilling career.
“I enjoyed the interaction with the students. I felt that all the students—no matter who they were—had the spark that they could achieve.”
He especially remembered the rewards of helping students who were attending college to re-enter the workforce.
“A lot of women had gone through a divorce and were ready to get back into the working world,” he explained. “I had a mom who had five kids and she put all five kids through college, working as a janitor. She came to me one day with a tear in her eye and said, 'Mr. Sievers, I can't write a resume—I don't have any experience.' I said, 'You just write the experience that you put five kids through college. I know you went to work at night when you'd rather stay home and sleep. And then you came home and took care of all those kids. That's a person I want working for me.”
During her dad's tenure at EvCC, Jocelyn remembers the students holding him in high regard.
“Nobody knew that he was my dad because I didn't want anyone to think I had any special privileges,” she said. “But I remember that he listened and he was sympathetic with his students.”
Jocelyn's own turn at EvCC came after graduating from Everett High School in 1988 and spending one quarter at Western Washington University (WWU).
“Western wasn't a good fit for me,” she explained. “It was too big. I didn't do well in classes of 100-200 students. So, I came home and started attending EvCC.”
After watching her dad teach for so many years, Jocelyn knew that she, also, wanted to be a teacher.
“I just took a very long, expensive road to get there!” she laughed.
The summer after receiving her AAS from EvCC, Jocelyn joined a college and career group on a trip to Haiti, where she worked in an orphanage and AIDS hospital.
“I came home and announced to mom and dad that that was where I felt I was being called. They said, 'No, you've got two years of school to finish, so find somewhere to go.'”
After a friend applied and was accepted to Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, California, Jocelyn decided to do the same.
“I received my bachelor's degree in sociology from Vanguard and was a resident assistant there. I loved it,” she said. “I go back every year to visit my friends. I'm very glad that I listened to mom and dad's advice.”
Jocelyn credits EvCC sociology instructor Connie Veldink with challenging her to “think outside of the box.”
“I didn't always get As in her classes, but I worked very hard for the grades I got and she challenged me to really think and see the whole picture of what's going on in society and why,” Jocelyn reflected. “I think that's why I actually got my sociology degree.”
After graduating from Vanguard, Jocelyn found there weren't a lot of positions for bachelor's-level social workers, so decided to pursue what she already knew she loved: teaching. She attended the WWU teaching program located on the EvCC campus, graduating with her teaching degree in 1995.
“I loved coming back to the EvCC campus; I knew my way around. I had been hired as a para educator by the Everett School District, so I was able to work right next door to the college campus at Whittier Elementary and attend night classes at EvCC. It was perfect.”
After two years of working as a classroom assistant, Jocelyn was hired as an instructor at Whittier and has continued working there, currently in her 16th year of teaching as a fifth-grade instructor.
“Now, I'm a social worker of sorts. I'm a teacher, a doctor, and a counselor—a little bit of everything wrapped into one,” she observed.
Jocelyn finds daily rewards in interacting with kids.
“There's always something to talk about and I learn something new every day,” she said. “The kids are always interested in learning and that is a lot of fun.”
She particularly enjoys the relationship between Whittier and EvCC, due in part to the proximity of the two schools.
“A lot of students from the EvCC education program volunteer to do their internship hours at Whittier,” she pointed out. “That's a great tool for the Everett School District: the utilization of these students and the experiences they get before they really decide, 'Do I want to teach?' It's a great resource.”
Jocelyn is also committed to volunteering in the community. She is Whittier's PTA co-president and has also coached soccer, helped with the Northwest neighborhood association National Night Out and is involved with PGMC hospital guild 22.
“Now, participating in activities at the Elks, PGMC, Everett Youth Soccer and the YMCA, I find there are just a lot of things that touch the kids I work with and their families. I'm trying to teach the kids that they need to give back as well.”
She comes by it honestly. Her father's entry into public service started in 1975, after six years as a high school teacher.
“My parents were a positive influence on me to do the right thing and be involved in the community,” Kirke said. “At that point in my life, I knew that if I wanted to continue along in the education profession, I would have to keep going to school to finish up. I got all but my thesis done, but I was kind of 'schooled out' and felt that my experience would be a good mix in the courthouse; I had the background and skills to present to the public to make me electable.”
In 1974 and after 40 years as county treasurer, Kirke's father, Verne Sievers, retired from office. While working on his master's in traffic safety, Kirke decided to run for the open position. He was elected county treasurer, a position he held from 1975 to 1996. After the new charter form of government instituted term limits, Kirke left the treasurer's office and then spent 12 years on the county council for District 2.
In 2008, Kirke ran for county treasurer and was again elected to his current position. As county treasurer, he oversees a staff of 27 employees and is responsible for collecting the revenues of all tax-collecting entities in Snohomish County.
“I enjoy the interaction of going to work every day,” he mused. “I am here every day and still answer my phone. We send out almost 300,000 statements every year and interact with the other county departments,” he explained. “We try to do a good job; everybody's working in the same direction.”
When asked what kind of challenges the treasurer's office faces, Kirke acknowledged they are the same as the community college: finding enough dollars.
“We've really had to pare down some departments and make drastic cuts, but it's hard times for everybody,” he said. “But I really enjoy providing a service to the taxpayers and working with dedicated employees."
Looking back on his career of public service, Kirke is nothing, if not appreciative.
“For me, it's been a good run,” he observed. “With my children growing up and my wife working part of that time, I was often the one taking the kids to the dentist or going to the games. I worked my schedule so I could do that. Not many husbands can do that.”
Both Kirke and Jocelyn are lavish in their praise of EvCC and the part the college played in shaping their careers.
“EvCC is just an excellent place to go to school, especially if someone wants to try out different classes and see what might be a career later on,” Kirke enthused.
“Hands-on learning and opportunities for advancement,” Jocelyn asserted. “That's what I think of when I think of EvCC. I really appreciated the dedicated teachers, that they enjoyed what they did, and they challenged me to learn.”