It was a typical Athlos work day for Caitlyn Scales. After spending much of the previous night on connecting flights from Idaho to Louisiana, she found a spare moment to take a break in the park between her meetings, trainings, and primers with local influencers, authorizers, and governing board members.
When a child playing nearby recognized the Athlos logo on Caitlyn’s jacket, he dropped what he was doing and ran over to her, unable to conceal his excitement about a new Athlos school coming to the area.
“I feel very privileged in the position I’m in, to know what we’re doing matters and live it every day,” Caitlyn said. “I get to see that; I get to see a kid smile; I get to stand at a park with our jacket on and have an 8-year-old come up to me in Louisiana and say ‘I can’t wait to come to an Athlos school.’”
Forging New Grounds
As the school growth coordinator at Athlos Academies, Caitlyn is responsible for engaging with communities and local charter school boards who are interested in bringing the Athlos program to their area. This means working with anyone who has a passion for, or interest in, the Athlos model from the minute there’s an inquiry all the way through to approval of a charter.
“I work hard to set the bar high for how operators enter the space, so being very intentional about which schools we partner with and their local community needs,” Caitlyn said.
On a typical work day, Caitlyn can be found analyzing demographics to determine where populations of need exist, cultivating and training governing boards, or cooperatively writing charter applications.
Caitlyn typically spends four days a week traveling.
“I’m never home. I’m on the road over 50 percent of the time,” Caitlyn said. “I love it. I think I’m nomadic by nature.”
On the rare occasion, Caitlyn is spotted in the office, her mobile nature is ever present. She can usually be found hula hooping in her office, pacing the halls on a phone call, or otherwise in constant motion.
“My job is to make sure that all of the work everyone here is doing is felt in a national presence and is respected,” Caitlyn said.
The Path to Athlos
Prior to joining Athlos Academies, Caitlyn was a self-described chameleon, having moved every year for the past 12 years and working in a multitude of jobs.
While earning her bachelor’s degree in secondary education for English and English language learners at Indiana University, Caitlyn also was a student teacher in both Indianapolis and Costa Rica. After completing her degree, she moved to El Paso, Texas where she taught and continued a master’s program for literacy, language, and cultural education through Indiana University.
Her teaching experiences in both Indianapolis and El Paso served as a strong cultural immersion, as she went from working in a high-risk inner city school in Indiana to a completely different and challenging experience in Texas.
“I went from working around full on gang culture and then moving to cartel in El Paso,” Caitlyn said. “I had to deal with my students going across the border to Mexico and sometimes not coming home. It was a lot culturally that I felt a really big personal charge to change.”
After four years in El Paso, Caitlyn earned her master’s degree and moved back to Costa Rica, where she worked with a local surf company teaching instructors English. Her move coincided with the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which opened up Costa Rica for trade and business.
“Western influx happened very quickly and ecotourism of westerners buying up business and services was booming,” Caitlyn said. “I felt like helping local groups keep their local ownership was important.”
Academics once again beckoning her, Caitlyn moved back stateside to pursue a doctorate in cultural studies and social thought at Washington State University. While working toward her degree, she also taught full-time at the university, worked at a coffee shop, and led ropes courses to pay her way.
“Working with pre-service teachers was a totally different spin on working in education,” Caitlyn said. “I found it really rewarding to teach.”
She continues to fulfill her passion for educating by teaching a foundations of education course at Boise State University.
The Right Fit
Caitlyn was introduced to the Athlos model while conducting research for her doctorate dissertation with Alzar School in Cascade, Idaho. After making personal connections with several Athlos employees, she was brought in for an interview.
Not knowing exactly what her role would be, Athlos leadership immediately realized she would be a vital asset to the Athlos team. Caitlyn also felt a fit with Athlos, was intrigued by the innovative academic approach, and felt she could affect change within the organization.
“It’s been a year of steep learning curves,” Caitlyn said. “It’s been a really interesting journey.”
Looking to the Future
In 10 years, Caitlyn’s aspirations for Athlos Academies include having well supported regional offices that assist new schools in a way that supports and positively impacts local communities.
“The work we do makes me want to stay and see it through, it makes me want to help build this and makes me want to be a part of this organization in a very deep rooted way,” Caitlyn said. “What we’re doing matters.”