Spotlight  – Q & A

Where were you born? I was born in Longview.

Which schools did you attend? The first elementary I attended was Ostrander Elementary school. Ostrander is a small community between Kelso and Castle Rock.

Where was Ostrander Elementary School located? Off Ostrander road where the new freeway cut through, the elementary school was on the hill. The school had two rooms serving first through eighth grade.

Do you remember your teachers? Yes, Mr. Bond taught fifth through eighth and Mrs. Mortimer taught first through fourth.

Mrs. Sundberg

How long did you attend Ostrander Elementary? I went to Ostrander for two years then all the students transferred into town. I ended up attending Washington Elementary and Barnes Elementary.

Did you ever go to kindergarten? My Mom drove me into to town for kindergarten for a short time, but I didn’t like it, so I dropped out.

Why did you drop out of kindergarten? The drive into to town was too long and I just didn’t want to go, so Mom let me drop out.

Where did you attend junior and high school? Huntington Junior High and Kelso High School – class of 1972.

Did you attend the old or new Kelso High School? I attended the old Kelso High School up on the hill. I went there one year then the new high school opened. My class was the second graduating class at the new high school.

What are some of your memories from high school? The old Kelso High School was a real dump, but I really liked it. It was hard to leave an old building full of memories and tradition to go to a new building with no history.

What did you do after high school? I went to Lower Columbia College and spent one year at Pacific Lutheran University. At the end of my junior year at Pacific Lutheran, I couldn’t find a summer job and did not have the money to pay for tuition the next year.

What did you do in place of going to college? I got married and had a family. I ended up waiting until I was 38 years old to go back and finish my degree.

Did your family run a business? Yes, Randy had a local construction company building high-end homes. We could see a downturn coming in the housing industry, so after a long conversation I re-enrolled in school.

You went back to school at the age of 38? Yes, I worked in the family business while I earned a Bachelor’s degree in History and Master’s degree in Education from WSU-Vancouver.

Do you and Randy have kids? Yes, two boys. They both graduated from Mark Morris. Joe lives in Seattle and owns a restaurant. Dan lives in Seattle as well and is a carpenter.

What sort of restaurant does Joe run? The restaurant is in Seattle, called Manolin.  The name Manolin is from the little boy in the book, “The Old Man and the Sea”.

What sort of food does Manolin serve?  They serve small plates.  It is very fresh and has a younger vibe.   They serve lots of seafood, and wonderful interesting dishes.  The menu changes frequently but they always have a fresh ceviche.   In their first year of business they were named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of the Top 10 upstart restaurants in the nation!

What else does your son Joe do? Joe is a partner in another restaurant. The second restaurant is opening in Ballard hopefully this spring– called Rupee. The menu is Sri Lankan food.

What does your son Dan do? He pursued a career in carpentry, which is a tradition in our family. Dan went to Seattle Community College and got a degree in carpentry.

Where does Dan work? Dan works for J&S Construction in Seattle remodeling high-end homes.

What have you learned from watching your boys grow up? Find your niche in life and do the best you can do. I could not be any more proud of my two sons.

How does it feel to see your sons succeed? I am so thankful. I’m thankful for the education they received in Longview – it was solid.

Does your husband work locally? Yes, Randy is a project manager and journeyman carpenter who works for the Port of Longview.

Did you start teaching immediately after graduating from college? Yes, my first job was teaching kindergarten at Carroll’s Elementary. It was awesome, I loved it, but the job was only half-time.

Were you looking for a full time job? Yes, so applied and got a job in Longview Public Schools.

What attracted you to teaching? Education is so powerful it can change the direction of your future. A child in poverty, who gets an education, no longer has to live in poverty. Education, more than any other job in the world, makes a difference.

Have you always taught at Robert Gray? I started at Mint Valley and taught both first and second grade, then came out to Robert Gray. My first year of teaching at Robert Gray was actually at Northlake due to construction.

Do you prefer teaching one grade level to another? I like fourth grade (what I teach now), but what I really love is helping kids “get it”, that is what I really like. It gives me goosebumps.

What is the feeling you get when kids “get it”? Even today, when I can help a kid understand the material – that’s very fulfilling.

What do you like about being a teacher? I like working with a team of people. I’m an innovator that likes to create things to fit student needs. Our principal, Lori Larsen, is an amazing “go to bat for you” person – she frees me up to be creative and innovative.

How long have you been teaching? 25 years.

What are the characteristics of a good teacher? First, you need to understand the job is the job. What walks in the door, you need to move them from where there at to where they need to be. You work as hard as you can to get everything done because you are building the future.

Does persistence pay off in teaching? If you need to go over something four times for students to learn it, then that’s what you do.

Do work you as a team? At Robert Gray, we work as a team. My fellow fourth grade teachers, the counselor and the principal all help me. The SST team helps me problem solve – it’s a phenomenal network of people.

Is teaching school now similar to 25 years ago? No, teaching and supporting students has evolved. A teacher has to be willing to work with a team to reach success. The job is your job and there’s obstacles, but you have to learn how to work through them.

Are teacher’s problems solvers? Yes, we constantly solve problems. You have to be able to juggle numerous issues.

What else defines a great teacher? Great teachers are innovators, who create what is needed to teach kids. Of course, good teachers have a lot of energy.

Is getting away from school important? Yes, you need to realize recuperating time is important. You need to fill your cup again.

How has school changed? If any parent can go to school for a part of day – it will change them. Parents will have a better appreciation for the challenges students and teachers face. Teachers work very hard.

Can you tell us something a visiting parent would see? Classrooms are more positive now and have more support. Everyone at school works hard to meet the needs of every child.

What else would a parent understand after a school visit? The quality of teaching has improved quite a lot in the last 25 years.

Have the students changed? Kids are the same and their needs are the same. The Internet and technology are good, but I’m not sure we’ve learned how to use it. Giving a kid a computer and not monitoring them is not positive.

How has technology affected kids? Many kids can no longer sit still. They need to have input all the time.

What subject do you teach? Math. The scope of what I teach is narrow. Concentrating on math allows me to bring my best to the subject and kids every day.  I also teach Social Studies, Science, and support reading and writing.

What do you do in your spare time? We love the outdoors. Gardening, riding bikes and camping. My husband, Randy, and I are active in our church and teach classes.

Do you tent camp or RV? We have a fifth wheel – it is great. You are totally unplugged. We kayak, hike and meet people. Every time we go RV’ing we meet people from around the world.  We have met people from England, The Netherlands, and Europe – from all over the world.

Where do you go RV’ing? As far away as we can.

What are you going to do upon retirement? We’re going to visit as many parks as possible.

What are some great places you have visited? The Canadian Rockies are spectacular, just breathtaking. Mt. Rushmore is great. Theodore Roosevelt National Park in South Dakota and Glacier National Park are incredible.

What did you experience at Glacier National Park? At Glacier National Park, I saw a beautiful waterfall with a second waterfall right behind it – just beautiful.

What else? We love to cook and eat. I enjoy having a whole bunch of people over to try new recipes.

What types of things do you like to eat? I love cioppino, chicken parmesan and lasagna. We love to barbecue and smoke meat.

What do you bbq? My favorite is roasting a whole pig. We roasted a whole pig and invited 100 friends over to eat it – it was so much fun.

You roasted an entire pig? We actually roasted two pigs at a church function because there were so many people. The pig roast was outside – just amazing. It brings people together and is so much fun.

What are some things you are most proud of at work? We started a math academy this year. The academy is for kids who are scoring lower and need extra help.

What grade levels and how many students attend math academy? We do the math academy for fourth and fifth grade students and about 40 students attend each week.

What else are you proud of? For the high capability kids we started a Tuesday morning class. A para and parent run the class. The parent is a videographer who is working with the kids to video different things we’re doing in the building.

Will the kids do a video on the math academy? One of the topics they will be covering is math academy! The kids are producing and doing all aspects of the video – it’s just wonderful.

What else will the Tuesday class cover? The kids will go through a series of different studies. They will choose their own topic, conduct research and choose a method for presenting the information.

Anything else? Yes, the kids will do a book study the district has purchased for us and go to a play. Then they will work in the school garden and design a plan for a sensory garden that the kids will build. The sensory garden will be filled with plants that you can touch, eat and experience.

Do you have a nickname? Yes, Betty DeVries nicknamed me Mrs. Fun-berg.