From left, Taleah Burr , Laurel Harrison, Caitlin Hitchner and Kelsey Jinneman-Fairbanks are teachers at Challenger Elementary School in Everett who each got a Roman numeral IV tattoo to represent their “Core IV” team solidarity after their first year teaching in 2014-15. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

From left, Taleah Burr , Laurel Harrison, Caitlin Hitchner and Kelsey Jinneman-Fairbanks are teachers at Challenger Elementary School in Everett who each got a Roman numeral IV tattoo to represent their “Core IV” team solidarity after their first year teaching in 2014-15. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Inked: Third-grade teachers tattoo their solidarity IV-ever

Most of their Challenger Elementary students don’t know about the hidden badge of teacher pride.

EVERETT — The bond between the first-year teachers couldn’t be erased like a No. 2 pencil.

So they decided to make it permanent.

What’s up with that?

After their first year of teaching third grade at the Mukilteo School District’s Challenger Elementary in June 2015, the four women celebrated at a tattoo parlor. They got inked with the Roman numeral IV — in solidarity.

“Our team name was the Core IV,” teacher Caitlin Hitchner said. “All year that’s what people called us. It stuck.”

That was seven years ago. They have stuck together since, even though this year two were temporarily assigned to different grades.

The teachers came to Challenger in 2014 from four different colleges with not much in common, other than newly minted diplomas and a desire to shape young minds.

Hitchner is a Seattle Pacific grad. Laurel Harrison went to Central. Kelsey Jinneman-Fairbanks is a UW Husky. Taleah Burr was fresh out of Western Washington.

The women, in their early 20s at the time, were in for a challenge.

The four Challenger Elementary teachers on the “Core IV” team each got a Roman numeral IV tattoo in solidarity after their first year teaching in 2014-15. (Submitted photo)

The four Challenger Elementary teachers on the “Core IV” team each got a Roman numeral IV tattoo in solidarity after their first year teaching in 2014-15. (Submitted photo)

“We didn’t have anyone else on the team to guide us or tell us what to do,” Hitchner said. “We didn’t even have a reading curriculum that was being used. We got through that first year, and we got really close as friends and co-workers.”

The Core IV wanted to mark the year with something special.

“We said, ‘Wow, should we all get matching tattoos to commemorate this first year?’” Hitchner said. “It was kind of a joke, then we got kind of serious about it. And we were like, ‘We really should get tattoos.’”

Three of the Core IV already had tattoos, all on their feet.

Harrison, 29, got a bird inked for her 18th birthday. Burr, 31, got stars in her late teen years. Hitchner, 28, got a tiny house tattoo with college friends.

Jinneman-Fairbanks, 31, didn’t have a tattoo. And she never had a burning desire to get one.

That is, not before getting mixed up with this crowd.

She was all in.

“There is no way I could have gotten through that first year without them,” Jinneman-Fairbanks said.

Since feet were taken, the Core IV had to come up with another place.

They chose the rib cage.

A cute spot, yet hidden. “In case it didn’t work out,” they said.

According to healthline.com, the rib cage is the second-most-painful place for most people to get tattooed, followed by ankle, shin, breast, groin, elbow and kneecap. Most painful is the armpit.

These women had survived a year with third-graders. Needles jabbing their ribs was nothing.

They told the principal: “You can’t split us up because we have tattoos.”

The simple black tattoo is about 1½ inches.

Most of their students don’t know about this private badge of teacher pride, because they can’t show them. They wouldn’t lift up their shirts even a tad for a photo for this story. After all, they are public schoolteachers and can’t go around baring flesh in the newspaper.

And they are married women. Three had babies in 2020.

It starts a conversation when people see the tattoo at the beach.

“They say, ‘What does that mean?’ And it’s fun to tell the story,” Harrison said. “It’s a nice reminder of my first year of teaching. It makes me remember fondly what could have been a difficult year but ended up being one of the best years of my life.”

On that ink-filled day in June 2015, they made a pact to teach at Challenger for 15 years.

They made it seven years, but next school year the Core IV will be like The Beatles without John Lennon.

Burr is moving with her family to Sequim, where she already has a job teaching third grade in the fall.

“I’m still very much part of the group,” she said.

Friends IV-ever.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A SWAT team responds during an 8-hour standoff between police and a man brandishing a knife at a home in south Edmonds on Sunday night. (Edmonds Police Department)
9-hour Edmonds standoff with knife-wielding man ends in arrest

The man reportedly threatened to kill his family. Police spent hours trying to get him to come outside.

Security footage depicting an armed robbery at Buds Garage in Everett on Tuesday, Jan.18, 2022. (Contributed photo)
Everett pot shop robbed twice; others targeted in recent months

Armed robbers have hit Buds Garage off Everett Avenue twice since December.

Police: Everett man left family member with life-threatening injuries

An Everett man, 23, was in jail on $100,000 bail after being accused of confronting women and attacking a relative.

The Snow Goose Transit bus at one of it's stops outside of the Lincoln Hill Retirement Community on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 in Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Catch a free bus between Camano, Stanwood, Smokey Point

Snow Goose Transit runs on weekdays, offering 15 stops and — for those with mobility issues — door-to-door service.

Cassandra Lopez-Shaw
Snohomish County judge accused of ‘needlessly’ exposing staff to COVID

Adam Cornell argues the incident reinforces a need to suspend jury trials, as omicron wreaks havoc.

Connie L. Bigelow at her store Miniatures & More in Edmonds on Tuesday. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
Woman who lit her own Edmonds doll store on fire gets house arrest

Connie Bigelow, 54, was sentenced Friday in federal court for lighting her business on fire to collect insurance money.

The Washington National Guard arrived Friday at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett to help with a surge of COVID-19 cases at the hospital. (Providence) 20220121
State offers free home tests; National Guard arrives in Everett

Supply is limited at a new online portal, but Washingtonians can now order five free rapid COVID tests.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is no longer required reading in Mukilteo

The school board on Monday voted to remove it from the list for ninth-graders, at the urging of teachers and students.

A rendering of the Compass Health Broadway Campus Redevelopment looks southwest at the building. The facility is planned for 82,000 square feet with a behavioral health clinic with a 16-bed inpatient center and a 16-bed crisis triage center. (Ankrom Moisan Architects)
Demolition eyed in spring for Compass Health Broadway campus

The Everett-based behavioral health care provider wants to replace the 1920-built Bailey Center with a modern facility.

Most Read