Enjoying a return to the 509
Mareesha Backman, along with her 2-year-old son Elliot, arrived in Quincy four months ago to follow her husband, Chris Backman, to his new job as principal at Monument Elementary.
Although she lived for some time on the west side of the state, she grew up in Spokane. She attended Eastern Washington University, where she majored in international affairs and completed a second degree in sociology. Backman went on to receive a master’s degree in social work from the University of Washington.
Backman devoted her career and life thus far to the well-being and education of young children. She spent the last four years before leaving Tacoma working as a pediatric medical social worker at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
“No day is the same. One day you are connecting a family with resources and the next day you are comforting a family dealing with loss or sometimes there is a CPS case involved. It is vast and varied,” said Backman.
Backman is using the skills she learned working at Mary Bridge to facilitate the implementation of the Readiness to Learn Grant. The program, which provides a network of support and education for parents with young children, was previously held by Maristella Webley. Backman is excited for the opportunity to work with community members to help close the learning gap and get kids ready for school. She has already worked with her own child, teaching him basic sign language to help him express his immediate needs and improve the development of vocabulary. She started by using the Signing Time program, and went through the first instructor course.
“The program gives kids tools to talk early on,” said Backman.
Her most life-changing experience, which taught her to face adversity in life, happened when she was in the international studies cohort program. Backman left the comforts of home to study abroad in Spain. When she arrived, no one was waiting for her and she ended up taking a taxi. At the time she didn’t speak Spanish, and understood just a little. The driver was speaking Catalan, which is the native language of Barcelona. After what seemed like a long ride, the driver dropped her off at the building where her host mother lived.
“As I stepped out of the taxi, I didn’t know where I was. A lady came over and started speaking Spanish to me. I didn’t understand her. She just pushed me inside and led me to the elevator. The elevator was a box and I had never seen anything like it. When I got off the elevator, there were two tiny doors facing me. I knocked on one and the lady opened it up. It was my host mother. I didn’t understand what she was saying.
She said, “You don’t speak Spanish, do you?”
Backman was forced to get out into the city each morning and immerse herself in the language and the culture. Before the other cohorts from her cohort showed up, she was dropped off in the middle of the train station in Barcelona and told by her host mother that she could be back home by 9:30 for dinner.
“She was smart. By the time the other students came, I was able to show them all where to go, what to do and how to get there,” said Backman.
Although it was a harrowing experience for her as a young woman, she recommends it for all young people.
When she isn’t working, Backman loves to do anything outdoors. She enjoys camping, rafting, soccer, skiing, snowshoeing and photography. Baking is something she enjoys doing to relax.
Backman said she loves it in Quincy. “It is such a change of pace from Tacoma. Over there you have no time to sit down and relax. Here you go to work and you see people you volunteer with or go to church with. People come together here and strengthen resources,” she said. Backman appreciates the abundance of fresh produce in the summer here as well.