In 2014, Krissa Boman thought she'd ridden the Harbor City International School elevator in Duluth for the last time.

"I didn't expect to be back here again," Boman said as she got off the elevator Nov. 9 on the way to her new classroom. "When I graduated from here, I didn't want to teach. And I definitely didn't want to teach math."

Despite her reservations, her classmates seemed to have predicted her return to her alma mater. Her senior year superlative was, "Most likely to come back and teach at Harbor City."

"I thought that my peers were being lazy, like they couldn’t think of anything for me, so they put me down as that," Boman said. "And it ended up, by some weird twist of fate, here I am."

Boman is the first Harbor City alumnus to return to the school as a teacher since the school formed in 2002. Her fellow former classmate, Matt Dexter, joined the staff as a registrar/technology coordinator a little before Boman, but Boman is the first to join the teaching staff.

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"He (Matt) thought it was wild. He remembered having voted for me for that superlative," Boman said.

Boman was a student at the school from 2010-14. She considers herself "kind of a product of charter schools." Before she started at Harbor City, she attended Duluth Edison Charter Schools. After graduating from Harbor City, she enrolled at the College of St. Scholastica for mathematics and teaching, though she didn't start out with those majors.

Krissa Boman, of Duluth, seen in the 2014 yearbook at Harbor City International School in Duluth. 
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Krissa Boman, of Duluth, seen in the 2014 yearbook at Harbor City International School in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

"I feel like I should have known because I was a teaching assistant here in a math classroom while I was still in high school, but when I graduated I was like, 'There is no way,'" Boman said. "But then I had a really fantastic professor in college who woke me up to my potential in math. I started to do the higher-level math and learn more about the basics at that higher level and it just fit."

Boman said she "took the long route" through college. She still hadn't considered teaching until she found herself doing math research with the college.

"I realized I wanted to help other people get to that level," Boman said. "It was so much fun for me and I wanted to share that with others."

After she graduated, Boman spent two years teaching at a charter school in east St. Paul. When she heard about the open position at her alma mater, she leapt at the opportunity to return to her home.

Krissa Boman of Duluth, a math teacher at Harbor City International School in Duluth, seen Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in her classroom.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Krissa Boman of Duluth, a math teacher at Harbor City International School in Duluth, seen Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in her classroom. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune


"Right out of the gate, at the interview, it was obvious that she'd grown a lot since I had her as a student," said Tom Maloney, a longtime math teacher at Harbor City. "You could tell she'd persevered through those hard knocks every new teacher goes through in their first few years. And you could tell she was still excited about teaching. I admire anyone who can be a teacher for more than a few years because it's not for the faint of heart."

Maloney said he remembered Boman being very involved in extracurricular activities at the school and remembered her as "curious mathematician." She worked in his classroom as a teacher's assistant during her senior year. He said he's glad to see one of his former students return.

"My generation built this school. We had a vision and taught according to that vision," Maloney said. "Krissa lived that vision and now her generation can take it to another level that we may never have even thought of. It makes me really excited."

Boman teaches in a classroom that she said she surprisingly never set foot in while she was a student.

"It feels kind of meant to be. I can make it my own space without having old memories attached to it," Boman said. "Though, right across the hall I do have my former literature teacher, Mr. Anderson. We have lunch together sometimes. It's interesting to shift from student and teacher to colleagues."

Krissa Boman of Duluth, a math teacher at Harbor City International School in Duluth, works out the solution to an equation Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Boman graduated from Harbor City in 2014. 
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Krissa Boman of Duluth, a math teacher at Harbor City International School in Duluth, works out the solution to an equation Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. Boman graduated from Harbor City in 2014. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Ted Anderson said having former students on the staff "creates a continuum of community that just feels right."

"These former Harbor citizens really understand our unique, sometimes quirky, community-minded students," Anderson said. "And they can leverage that empathy in their interactions and gently nudge students to reach academically."

As for Boman, she said she's just as excited to learn from the students as to teach them.

"When I was in school, I didn't think about how much students would change my life," Boman said. "I didn't think about what a big impact they'd have on me. I had this idea that I was already a fully formed person, that I'd reached adulthood and I knew who I was. But in working with these students and faculty, I've realized I'm not done becoming who I am.

"It's something that I'm constantly learning. And I'm glad to continue that here."