UW in the High School (UWHS) lets ambitious high school students take University of Washington courses in their own classroom, with their own teachers who are trained and mentored by UW faculty. Through UWHS, students like UWHS graduate and current UWHS teacher Kayla Hoffman challenge themselves and earn UW credit.
A junior at Woodinville High School, Kayla Hoffman loved Spanish. The language came naturally to her, so she wanted a bigger academic challenge before college. So, when Kayla had the opportunity to enroll in either a 300-level Spanish or college in the high school program, she chose UWHS.
I’m thankful I went through that challenging process and learned good study skills in a supported environment in high school. When I got to college, I was like, I've got this.— Kayla Hoffman, Alumna and teacher, UWHS
Kayla was drawn to UWHS because it was different than AP classes and would allow her to earn college credit while still in high school. “The program is impactful for students on the Advanced Placement (AP) track because the format is a little different than an AP class,” says Kayla. “In UWHS, you’re challenged to develop all four communication skills. You're reading, writing, listening, speaking and completing college-level tasks.”
Kayla notes that the program’s rigor makes UWHS stand out from other high school classes, but although the classes may be demanding, they’re beneficial in the long run. “I’m thankful I went through that challenging process and learned good study skills in a supported environment in high school,” she says. “When I got to college, I was like, ‘I've got this. I know how to keep up with this. I know how to manage my homework.’ since I already had those habits down.”
Armed with the college credits she earned through UWHS and AP credits, Kayla could graduate a year early and pursue her master’s degree a year ahead of schedule. Which, in turn, helped her realize another dream — becoming a teacher.
“It was a big goal to come back to Woodinville High School. Not everyone says, ‘I want to go back to my high school and teach,’” Kayla says. “It speaks to the positive experience I had and the culture that we have that I came back.”
After teaching all levels of Spanish, Kayla says the opportunity to work with upper-level Spanish students committed to learning the language inspired her to teach UWHS for the first time in 2021. “Being able to share little things about a language brings me a lot of joy,” says Kayla. “Connecting with students who feel the same way about the language I do creates a special bond.”
With this program, I'm continuing to learn about different topics as a teacher, which I appreciate. It's never stagnant. It's always something new.— Kayla Hoffman, Alumna and teacher, UWHS
One of Kayla’s favorite things about teaching is watching her students grow over the year. “They come in nervous and uncomfortable with being taught all in Spanish,” she says. “Seeing those same students at the end of the year having extended conversations, writing essays easily and being willing to engage and interact with their classmates is rewarding.”
It’s not just the students in Kayla’s class that are flourishing. The UWHS program enabled Kayla to gain experience through collaboration with other UWHS teachers and professors teaching the same course at the UW. In fact, one of the professors Kayla had when she attended the UW as a student is one of the program facilitators she now gets to work with as a colleague. “It’s a special kind of collaboration to work with people who were your teachers and mentors. And to teach for a university that I attended as a student,” says Kayla.
That interaction with her peers and the level of language used in class has allowed Kayla to stay current on her Spanish skills. “Sometimes, if you're teaching lower levels, you lose some of your Spanish because you're just not using it,” she says. “With this program, the vocabulary goes in-depth. I'm continuing to learn about different topics as a teacher, which I appreciate. It's never stagnant or boring. It's always something new.”