Kristi Bryan isn't your typical first-year teacher at Dorchester District 2's Windsor Hill Arts Infused Elementary School.
For the past 19 years, Bryan has been part of the fabric of the North Charleston school, volunteering, substituting and working as a teacher's assistant while her four children, now ages 11 to 25, were in grade school there.
Now she's starting her career at Windsor Hill as a professional educator at 44, not 24.
Bryan was hired to teach fourth grade this coming school year after completing the final credits she needed last fall in elementary education.
"I always wanted to be a teacher," she said. "I knew this is where I was supposed to be, but I wouldn't give up time with my kids to do it. So when they were in school, I decided, well, I'm already here at the school, why don't I ... do what I really want to do?"
Her youngest son has graduated from Windsor Hill, but Bryan still has a child in the school - just down the hall from Bryan's classroom, her only daughter, Katie Lynch, also is in her first year of teaching. A May graduate of the University of South Carolina, she will teach first grade.
"I say I've always wanted to be a teacher, but in high school I jumped around to so many different things," said Lynch, 22. "I've always had this really deep love for education and people in need. I decided to go into early childhood education because I just feel like I do well with really young children, and I knew I wanted to be in a school like this, a high-needs, Title 1 school. I want to give kids something they can't have at home."
At Windsor Hill, a 900-student school with an arts focus, about 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch.
Although the state Department of Education doesn't keep track of such statistics, it is unusual for a parent and child to start careers in education together at the same school, officials said.
"We had talked many times about the fact that we might work at the same school, but we really didn't think that it would actually happen," said Bryan.
Lynch was hired about two weeks before her mother.
"She got the job that she really wanted," Bryan said. "I was so happy for her, but I was like, 'Oh my gosh. I wanted to be at Windsor Hill.' My heart is right here at this school, and I couldn't imagine myself working anywhere else. I started interviewing at other schools, but I didn't get the same feeling. I knew I was supposed to be here."
Then she was offered a job, and now the pair face more challenges than starting new careers.
"We've always had a very close relationship anyway, which has been nice," Bryan said. "It's been hard for me because, as her mother, I've wanted to just tell her, 'Katie, I think you should do this' or do things for her, but I know I can't do that. She has to find her own way."
Lynch doesn't mind her mother's counsel. When people ask her if she's worried that her mother will check on her, she tells them she hopes she does.
"I'd go to my mom for advice before anybody else," she said. "Like, I'm not going to know what to do if a kid throws up. I'd be like, 'Excuse me. Front office, can you call my mom?'"
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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