New English teacher Caitlin Young captures the attention of her students


Sophomore Furzaan Abidi steps into his first-hour feeling ambivalent to what is coming his way. The new, smiling face that accompanied the once bland and empty desk in the front of the room would change him in ways he didn’t see coming.

Sitting down at his desk, Furzaan didn’t know what to expect, and his eyes began to get weary as class began.

“At first, I thought, ‘I’m definitely going to fall asleep in her class,’” Furzaan said. “I have to wake up so early, and I zone out a lot.”

Furzaan normally struggles with waking up early, something that usually results in a dreadful first hour. He despises waking up and finds it difficult to focus so early in the morning. Furzaan remembers a particular time falling asleep in his first hour. He was running on five hours of sleep, and as he sat down in his first hour, he knew that the day was going to be a challenging one.

“All of the sudden, I zoned out then fell asleep,” Furzaan said. “Then, I woke up in the middle of class and had no idea what we were doing. I was so lost and did not like that feeling.”

After this experience, Furzaan did not think he could ever stay awake in his first hour again until the English teacher Caitlin Young came along. She was able to help Furzaan overcome his unhealthy sleeping habits in class.

“[Young] always make sure people answer questions,” Furzaan said. “She will also drop hints at what the answer is so people will get into [the class].”

Unlike other teachers, Young has helped Furzaan interact in ways to keep him awake that early in the morning. He was not expecting this convenient help from her, but he soon began to realize some of her unique qualities.

I try to provide students with opportunities to share ideas, questions, or answers in groups or partners before we go over it as a class,” Young said. “[I do this] because this helps students feel a little more comfortable and prepared.”

Collaboration helps her students interact more; when they interact, it leads to a class that works as a team and less as individuals, according to her philosophy.

Additionally, Young likes to understand her students and learn their backgrounds. For her, finding a connection with each student is what makes her enjoy teaching so much.

“I love getting to know the students and building that relationship,” Young said. “I also love talking to them about stuff that doesn’t have to do with school.”

Young’s connection with her students also allows her to be more appreciative of her job. When she knows more about her students, she finds out who her students truly are not what kind of student they are.

“As much as I enjoy the content I’m teaching,” Young said, “getting to know students is by far the best part of teaching.”

She constantly thinks back to a high school teacher who inspired her. This teacher had a profound impact on her and made her realize the real reason why having a connection with students is so special.

“He was very cool and laid back,” Young said. “I realized I wanted to be that for students and to help them see that school isn’t the most awful thing in the world.”

He was a tremendous inspiration to Young, and initially, he was the one to lead her in the teaching direction for her career. Before Young found herself at FHC, her teaching career started at a middle school in South Carolina.

The students in South Carolina were hard workers and very fun to teach,” Young said. “My coworkers were like family; we all supported each other in and out of school. It was difficult to leave there.”

Although Young had memorable experiences in South Carolina, she decided a change would be good and moved here to continue her teaching career in Michigan.

“My family lives in the area,” Young said. “I love Grand Rapids, and this is a great school district.”

When there was an opening in the district, she knew it was a perfect fit. Forest Hills was a district that she knew was great, and it was right where she wanted to settle.

“[FHC] is not too different from what I’ve had before,” Young said. “The people, students, and staff have been so welcoming and helpful.”

Since Young’s move from South Carolina to Michigan was not much of a change, the staff members—like English teacher Anthony Sultini—were able to help her through the process. Her move ended up being smoother than she expected.

“It was crazy at first since I started after the school year,” Young said. “But it’s good now because a lot of the staff have been really helpful and nice.”

Sultini was a key staff member in the transition process for Young. Sultini guided her through the English 10 curriculum until she was able to settle into her position. From time to time, he also checks in to share lesson plans and to see if Young has any questions.

I expected her to be somewhat nervous,” Sultini said. “She was, given the circumstances, but she handled herself very professionally. After introducing herself to the students on the first day, I could tell that she would connect to her students—without a doubt.”

Sultini saw that Young was able to present herself to the students in ways that would build strong relationships. He knew that from previous teaching jobs, she would be able to execute her position.

Although Young has only had five years of professional teaching experience at the middle school level, she uses that prior knowledge when entering the high school level.

“Miss Young is new to the high school setting,” Sultini said. “She has handled herself quite well based on her overall experience as a teacher.”

Despite the limited number of years of experience, Young is still able to connect with her students to build relationships. Coming from the middle is a different change, but Young will be able to work hard and fit in without a doubt.

“Regardless of where she’ll be,” Sultini said, “she will be an excellent addition to the school and to the students.”