Brad + Kristen = A Passion for Math…and Each Other
Brad Earl and Kristen Smith have a lot in common. As the 9th- and 10th-grade math teachers at Atlas, they both share a commitment to the craft of teaching and a passion for working with young people, as well as a deep appreciation of the outdoors and competitive sports.
They also share a house. Because Brad and Kristen aren’t just colleagues.
They are also husband and wife.
The story of their relationship and their journey to Summit is the story of how it’s possible to thrive both inside and outside the classroom by doing what you love and having the right partner along the way. But mostly, it’s a story of two people who were destined to dedicate themselves to kids and to each other.
Today, Summit Atlas students consistently outperform their neighboring schools in math on state assessments. Brad is naturally gifted at developing relationships with students and pushing them to excel. Kristen is an expert in math pedagogy with an uncanny ability to help students grasp complex mathematical concepts.
But before they were a math power couple, Brad and Kristen were single, living in NYC, and teaching at the same school. In a sign of the life they would soon build together, they fell for each other while tutoring 8th-grade students after school to pass a competitive algebra exam.
Each year, they got better in the classroom and were given more responsibilities. Brad’s skill at building classroom culture got him promoted to grade-level chair, while Kristen’s pedagogical expertise got her tapped to lead the shift in transitioning to the new Common Core standards.
They settled in Seattle because while every city has students needing math instruction, not every city can offer extracurricular activities that nourish their souls and give them the physical and emotional stamina to work with teenagers day in and day out.
Kristen is a serious trail runner. She loves the city’s rolling hills and her quick access to scenic trails. She’s currently training for a 25K race with over 4,000 feet of elevation. When she’s not running, she’s active in climate justice organizing. She sees environmental activism as a natural extension of her love of nature. Meanwhile, Brad likes anything competitive and pushes his body: racing, Jiu-jitsu, MMA. He’s the kind of person who doesn’t need coffee in the mornings because he wakes up full of energy and motivated for the day ahead.
As a couple, they love vegetarian cooking and backpacking. On their frequent hiking trips, they sometimes bring their King Charles cavalier, Louie.
Today, Mr. Earl and Ms. Smith are beloved fixtures in the Atlas community. Their students know that math class will be challenging but rewarding, rigorous yet joyful. Part of that delicate balance is maintaining strict privacy and professional boundaries while still indulging students’ in young people’s insatiable curiosity about their teachers’ private lives.
Which brings us to Thursdays.
Brad made the mistake of once sharing that every Thursday – as the fatigue sets in from evenings spent grading papers and lesson planning – Brad and Kristen go on a “date night.”
Now, without fail, every Friday morning, their students ask what they had at Chipotle and what they discussed during their romantic night out.
And, without fail, Brad tells them every detail of his order, from the double beans to the brown rice, the corn to the hot sauce. Because he’s not talking about a mundane meal. He’s telling the story of how his crush on a co-teacher during an 8th-grade tutoring session has survived 15 years and 3,000 miles and arrived at this moment, doing exactly what he wanted to be doing, leading a classroom and sharing in the adventure with the woman he loves.