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Free Family Support on May 4th

We wanted to let you know about a free training opportunity for families with young children. The training provides information on proven strategies and techniques to help parents and caregivers prepare their children for success in school and later in life. There will be time for experience sharing, asking questions and providing input on additional support the community can offer.

The training is on Saturday, May 4, 12-3pm at Youth and Family Link, and is hosted by the Cowlitz Community Network, Head Start, Conscious Discipline Book Club members and other community partners. Complimentary lunch will be provided at noon and activities will be available for children 5-11 years old.



2019-04-23T13:31:29-07:00April 23rd, 2019|

Spotlight – Mrs. Almer, Mint Valley Elementary

Spotlight Series – Mrs. Almer

Where were you born? I was born in Silverton, Oregon. Silverton is about 1 hour south of Portland.

Did you grow up in the Silverton area? No, I actually grew up in Cathlamet. I lived in Estacada, Oregon for my first three grades, and then went to Cathlamet from fourth through high school.

Why did your family move to Cathlamet? My dad was working for Crown Zellerbach.

What did your father do for Crown Zellerbach? He was a road-grader building logging roads.

Mrs. Almer, Mint Valley Elementary School

What year did you move to Cathlamet? We moved to Cathlamet in 1963. That ages me!

Where did you go to school? It was called Cathlamet Elementary when I was there, but now it is Julius A Wendt Elementary.  There was no middle school, it was just K-8 in one building, and then you went to high school for 9-12 grades.

What year did you graduate from Wahkiakum High School? Wahkiakum High School class of 1972.

Did you enjoy high school? Yes, I did well in school with a 3.8 average. It was small classes, about 42 kids in the whole graduating class and I was number five.

Did you participate in activities? I did Pep Club all four years, and Girls League. I was ASB secretary my senior year.

What did you want to do for a career? I wanted to be an airline stewardess. I wanted to work in travel. It has always interested me.

Why did you want to be a stewardess? I thought it would be an exciting life, seeing different people and going different places.

What did you do after high school? I was going to go to Business College because school was easy for me and I did not really want to go to college. I finally decided to go to work.

Where did you go to work? My first official job was at the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Health Department in 1974.

What did you do at the health district? I was a clerk typist and greeted people.

What were some of your job duties?  Back then, they did immunization clinics and I kept track of all of the immunization cards. I was there three years.

How were immunization records kept? We did it by hand. The information was written on 3×5 index cards. You had to write their name, birthdate, address, and what they came in for, on the card. We would give the card to the nurse, the nurse would give an injection and they would bring the card back to us and we would file it.

What sort of filing system did the department use? We would file the cards in a card file like the one they used to have at the library. I think it was twice a week that they had immunization clinics. They had a “TB” (tuberculosis) clinic where the patients that had been diagnosed with TB received medication.

Was tuberculosis an issue back then? I think TB mainly affected older people, but it phased out eventually. We had patients who came in monthly and a doctor would come up from Portland to talk to them about their health. We registered birth and death certificates too.

How did you register birth certificates? The hospital would send them over typed out and somebody would notarize and file it with the state. The certificate would stay in our office for a certain amount of time and people could come in and get certified copies of their birth certificate.

How were death certificates handled? With death certificates, funeral homes would bring them in all filled out, we would notarize and keep it on file for a certain amount of time.

Then you moved jobs within the Health Department? Yes, I worked in the Environmental Health area for about 1 ½ years. I moved to Longview in 1974 with a friend and her mother. I lived across the street from Broadway school and I would walk to work in the old McVickers funeral home. I walked to work because I did not have a car.

When did you get married? I got married in 1977 to my high school sweetheart – Jim. I was 15 when we started going out. We have been married 42 years.

Where did you meet your husband? At school. He was a senior and I was a freshman. He grew up in Skamokawa. His dad was a county commissioner and a sheriff.

Where else did you work? I went to work for Dr. Hastings, who was an allergist in town. I would do all of his dictation when he did testing on his patients, putting together their allergy books. I needed more hours, so I took a job at The Daily News for two or three years. I started out as a receptionist taking classified ads.

So this is the late ‘70s early ‘80s? Yes, that was about the time I got married. From the Daily News I went to work at an OB/GYN clinic for 5 years in billing.

After working at OB/GYN clinic what did you do? I went to work for a health insurance company named Select Care.

What did Select Care do?  They were health insurers for local businesses. It was in the bank building downtown. It started out just seven of us in the office.

What did you do for Select Care? I was assistant to the care manager. I would work with doctors’ offices for referrals and authorization for procedures.

Do you have any children? Yes, I worked at Select Care until I had my son, prematurely at 25 weeks. He was 1 pound, 11 ½ ounces when he was born. His name was Tom.

How big was your son at birth? He fit in the palm of my husband’s hand.

Did being born prematurely cause Tom complications? Yes, his complication from premature birth was legal blindness.

Did you get advice or support along the way? Yes, I organized and ran a support group for parents of children with special needs for many years.  The group was called PUMS (Parents United for Moral Support).  I loved working with Ann Cavanaugh and David Stockard (former SPED Director and Asst. Director) – they kind of mentored and encouraged the group.

How much sight does Tom have?  He has a little bit of vision in one eye and light perception in the other eye. He went all through the Longview School District with the vision staff, Pat Kelly, Susan LeMonds and Dianne Lauridsen.

How long was Tom in the hospital after birth? Tom was in the hospital for 11 weeks to the day and he came home 4 weeks before he was due.

How old was Tom when he started talking? At two years old, he was talking in full sentences. We never talked baby talk to him.

Where did Tom attend high school? He graduated from Mark Morris in 2010.

Did you go back to work when Tom got older? Yes, I started at Northlake and my first job was removing a couple of kindergarten girls from class when they were out of control and disruptive.

Where else in the district have you worked? I went over to Olympic and managed the computer lab for the entire school for about 6 years. Funding was lost and I went to Mt Solo for 2 years, but I am not a middle school person.

You prefer younger kids to middle school students?  Yes, middle school students are just so different in attitude and respect, or lack of, and the hormones are pumping. I guess at my age, I was not as tolerant.

Did you want to work in an elementary school? Yes, we were having a reorganization. I ended up here at Mint Valley for the last seven years.

What is your role? I work under the nurse. I do all the first aid, all the medical care plans, dispense medications and make calls to parents and families. I take care of all the paper work for immunizations to make sure everyone is up on their forms. It is a huge job.

Is this one of the most important jobs in the building – helping kids in distress? Yes. I have to make a lot of decisions that I feel are above my pay grade.

What sort of tough situations do you face? Do I call an ambulance when a student is injured? I have to make that decision. Parents sometimes are not happy when an ambulance is called. Sometimes the job tough – very stressful. This is going to be my last year; I am going to retire.

Are you retiring at the end of this year? Yes, I am excited! I am just at the time of my life that I just need to take care of me.

Is your husband still working? Yes, he is still working. He has an upholstery shop on Ocean Beach called Jim’s Upholstery.

What are you going to do in retirement? I am going to relax. I want to travel. I have been traveling with my best friend; my husband is not a traveler. My son has gone with me a few times.

What are some of your best places you have been? Savannah Georgia was wonderful and we visited Graceland.

Are you an Elvis Presley fan? Yes, number one! I have always been an Elvis fan. There is just something about his voice. It gives me goosebumps and relaxes me. He has been gone as long as he has been here and I don’t get tired of listening to him. He was such a talent. He is very handsome and nice to look at.

What is your favorite Elvis song? I don’t have just one – I love them all! It has always been that way. I graduated from high school in 1972; Elvis did not pass away until 1977. He was huge then. He was in his prime doing Vegas shows when I was young.

Did you get to see Elvis perform live? Every time he came to Portland, tickets were sold out. I have gone to Graceland three times.

What is Graceland like? It is a time capsule for the ‘70’s, exactly like he left it. They have built a huge visitors center across the street.

Is there much Elvis memorabilia at Graceland? Yes, they have eight warehouses of Elvis artifacts. They kept every check, every invoice, every fan letter – everything was preserved. I do not think there has ever been an entertainer above him.

Where else have you traveled? We went to St Louis up in the arch. We have been to the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois, the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Corvette Museum in Boling Green. We stopped by the Jelly Belly factory.

Do you have a bucket list for when you retire? Not really, Graceland was on my bucket list, but I have taken care of that. It is one of my favorite places to see.

What do you do after school each day? I go home and pass out. It is tiring, emotionally and mentally. There is a lot that goes into taking care of the kids every day.

What is the best part of your job? The best part of my job is when the kids come in and say thank you, and say I am the best nurse ever! They say thank you for helping me when I need help the most. Thank you for the Band-Aid and thank you for the ice pack. A lot of it is emotional care.

Does helping kids make you feel good? Yes, that is the fun part, and they give you hugs. You know that you have done something to help them. It makes it all worth it.

What would you like to tell people who graduated in 1972 about what has changed in the schools? Things have changed tremendously since we went to school. They had hack paddles on the walls when I was in school – and used them. There was a lot of parent support for the schools, and more respect was shown towards adults. It is 180 degrees from when I was in school.

Did you ever get a hack? I never got a hack. Just seeing the hack board on the wall was bad enough.

What advice would you give to whoever replaces you? Have patience, pay attention to what you are saying, document, enjoy the kids and help them anyway you can.

2019-04-18T15:26:12-07:00April 18th, 2019|

Thoughtexchange feedback shapes capital facilities bond request

During the last week of March over 300 participants took part in an online Thoughtexchange about the $115 million capital facilities bond proposal. The Thoughtexchange process allowed participants to share their thoughts about the proposal, then rate the importance of thoughts shared by others. The results of the exchange reflect the themes that participants feel are most important, and provided valuable information to the board. At the April 8, 2019 school board meeting, the board unanimously approved the capital facilities bond proposal totaling $115 million.

Highlights of the Thoughexchange include the importance of upgrades in vocational/career programs, and keeping students and staff members safe and secure. Other themes rated highly in the exchange were the need to keep property taxes as low as possible, looking at school boundary changes, and upgrading Memorial Stadium.

Find out more about the Thoughtexchange results here. Read more about the Nov. 5, 2019 capital facilities bond request here.

2019-04-12T16:37:26-07:00April 12th, 2019|

Don’t miss Antonio Fernandez in concert on April 22!

Antonio Fernandez is coming to Longview the week of April 22 to be an artist in residence for the choir programs of Mark Morris and RA Long High Schools. Antonio is a professional beatboxer and vocalist for Disney’s premiere a cappella group, “Dcapella”. They just finished their county-wide tour and are headed on a European/Asian tour soon.

Antonio will be in concert Tuesday, April 23 at 7:30 pm at the LCC Rose Center for the Arts. A $5 dollar donation at the door or either cash or credit will be accepted.

Antonio has significant experience performing professionally. Some of his credits include: NBC’s “The Voice”, ABC’s “The Rising Star” and The Incredibles 2 soundtrack.

He is frequently flown to LA/Orlando, Fl./New York to record for movie soundtracks and other a cappella performances.

Below are some Youtube links that showcase his talent. Antonio has a vast knowledge base and experience in the professional music industry as a beatboxer and vocalist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvKoThG6Cwk “Drive” by Antonio Fernandez (ala Bobby McFerrin)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIQaqURjlYI “Part of Your World” by DCapella

This is a concert you will not want to miss.


2019-04-23T13:32:33-07:00April 10th, 2019|

Spotlight – Ms. Bueno, Northlake Elementary School

Where were you born? I was born in Mexico. My family moved to the United States when I was 6 years old.

Did you speak any English? I knew three words my dad had taught me. The three English words I remember were door, window and bathroom. I felt super cool because I knew those three words. I was coming to the United States and I thought I was ready.

Where did you live? I lived where now the Walmart on 7th Ave is; it used to be a trailer court.

Where did you go to school I went to school at Northlake.

Is Northlake a special place for you? This school is very personal to me, I was an English Language Learner (ELL) student, and now I am in the ELL program. Some of the teachers I had are still currently here. Now my daughter Yaritza goes here.

What grade is your daughter in? Yaritza is in first grade in Ms. Davis class. Ms. Davis was my reading teacher in elementary school – she’s great!

How many brothers and sisters do you have? I have one sister and three brothers.

Did your siblings attend Northlake too? Yes, all my brothers, sisters and cousins came here. I have always loved this school. It is a dream come true to work where you loved going to school.

What high school did you attend? Mark Morris class of 2011.

Where does your sister attend school? My sister moved in with me this year, she goes to Monticello.

So you have your little sister living with you? Yes, it is very interesting because she is a teenager. There is such a big age gap between her and myself.

How old are you and your sister? I am 26 and my sister is 13. It’s as if I am raising a child. It has been tough sometimes, but we are starting to adjust to each other.

Is it difficult parenting your sister? She sometimes does not like it but I tell her as long as you are under my roof I control you – you are 13.

Does your family value education? Education is not something my family knows a lot about. They know it is important, but they have never made it a focus.

Do you make school a high priority? I make it very high priority because I know how important it is. I know how hard it is to try to catch up if you get behind.

Were you absent from class much during high school? I missed a lot of high school. I was always out translating for my parents. My dad got ill when I was entering my sophomore/junior year. Nobody around the house spoke English besides me, so I had to go to his appointments.

How did you catch up for all the absences? I went to Discovery High School and took 11 credits the last semester to catch up.

What did you do after high school? After school, I got pregnant and had a daughter.

Were your parents upset about having a child right after high school? Yes. I always try to take negative stuff and make it positive. My dad said now all you are good for is changing diapers. I took that very personally and said, “I am going to prove you wrong dad.” I put my daughter Yaritza in Head Start from 3 months to 3 years old and went to Lower Columbia College without letting my parents know.

Did you earn your associates degree? It took me three years to get my associates degree, but I did it.

Was getting your associate degree tough? Yes, partly because I became pregnant again.

Why was it so important for you to go to college? First, I wanted to prove my dad wrong. Second, my dad got sick and was near the end of his life. I wanted him to see me graduate and be proud of me.

Did you want to prove your dad wrong, or be proud of you? My mentality changed and I wanted him to be proud of me. Also, my mother worked so hard and I wanted to thank her for the sacrifice and show her I was worth it.

What is your son’s name? Mateo. Mateo will go to school at Northlake next year. My girl is good tempered, soft, sweet and kind. Mateo is completely opposite.

What did you do after earning your associates degree? Before graduating, I accepted a job at Northlake as a paraeducator for English Language Learners.

Did you always want to work with English Language Learners (ELL)? Yes, I was like exactly, that’s what I want to do, it is my passion. I was an ELL student, so I take it personally.

Prior to working at Northlake Elementary did you volunteer in schools? Before working at Northlake, I had been involved in schools for a long time. Mary Carr-Wilt is my mentor. She would get me to volunteer at different schools at events she had.

Were you excited to come back to Northlake as a staff member? Yes, so many of the people already knew me it made it easy to fit in. It feels like I am home.

What do you like to do outside of work? I recently took a part-time job. Being a paraeducator doesn’t pay real well while raising my sister and two kids of my own.

You have an associate’s degree, are you going to pursue a bachelor’s degree?  Yes, I am signing up for the bachelor’s degree program at Lower Columbia

College to be a teacher.

When do you plan to start school? I will start this spring. I was determined that an associate’s degree was good enough. It was more than I thought I could do, but now I know I can do more.

Are you going to be a part of LCC’s new teacher certification program? Yes, I have met with them and they said my application looks good. They said that my GPA looked high; I graduated with honors. I always put my family before me every single time and I feel that that will always be me, but I am trying to be selfish and do something for myself.

Is putting family before yourself tradition? Family is very important in our culture. Family before anything, even before myself. I was raised that way; my parents always put their parents first.

Does your family watch soccer together? We like to watch soccer. We spend Sunday watching soccer together as a family.

Does your family play games together? We like to play board games as a family. We play Dominoes, which is our top game. Then we play some Mexican games that we had at home that we try to have the kids grow with, to pass on some of the traditions. They love it. The kids do not speak fluent Spanish but they understand it, so they are able to play the game.

Do your children speak English at home? Yes, my daughter actually hates Spanish. We had some friends visit from Indiana and they had a little girl and she only spoke Spanish. My daughter was like, “Mom, I need to learn Spanish! What do I do?” So now, she is really trying to learn it. Which is kind of funny, all of my family speaks Spanish but my kids don’t speak it.

What is the best part about working with ELL students? The connection that I have with them, because I understand what they are feeling, I understand their frustration. I understand where they are coming from.

What are the frustrations and feelings ELL students have? It is frustrating because you know what you want to say but cannot say it.  You want to do well, but it doesn’t come in, like you can’t translate it.

Do you work with families too? Yes, I connect with them so much and it is nice because I can help families. They call all the time and we talk personal conversations because of the relationships.

How many ELL students does Northlake have? We have 58 ELL students right now.

When a student is frustrated and is struggling with words, what do you tell them? First, I sit with them one on one. I tell them, “I know this is hard, let’s sound it out together” We do the 95% so we stretch the words out with our fingers.

Do students know you attended Northlake? I tell the students I know it’s hard, I was an ELL student and I went to school here. Their face brightens up because I was went to school here too.

Do the kids ask you if you make mistakes speaking English? Yes, they ask, “You do make mistakes?” and I say – we all do.

Does it help students to know you were an ELL student years ago? We give them our story so they do not feel like they are alone. ELL students sometimes feel that because they speak a second language they are less instead of being more.

What do you tell kids to encourage them? We tell kids they are worth double, some kids only speak one language and you are trying to learn two languages and read and write both of them.

Do ELL kids get enough recognition? We know many of our ELL kids feel less because they are not as celebrated as they should be. We just try to get them to know they are important because sometimes they are embarrassed to go to ELL. We tell them you need to be proud, you need to celebrate.

Are all the ELL students from Mexico? No, we have a little girl from the Philippines and she asks, “Teacher am in Mexican because everyone speaks Mexican here.” We tell her no, it is Spanish not Mexican, but you are a Philippine.

Is working as in the English Language Learner program in your heart? Yes, an honestly I try to advocate for them to everybody. They are super smart kids that have trouble expressing everything.

What would you tell the public about ELL kids? I would say visit a classroom. The ELL classroom is so important and special.

Would you tell us about some of the special moments? When you are talking to the kids and are experiencing the, “Oh my gosh!” moments.

Has life been tough for you? I am not embarrassed whatsoever about my roots or living on 8th Avenue. I am proud of my background. I am making a good life. I am happy and comfortable, I am very thankful. I am grateful that I get to be here at Northlake with my daughter.

What would you want people reading this to know about you? If I can do it anyone can do it. I came from a low-income family. We always had food but we were very limited growing up and it was not easy. I cried so many hours, but it was worth it. Anything is possible with hard work and passion.

What is the key to your success? Perseverance. Sometimes I get angry and think – I have to do this, there is nothing stopping me.

Can you give an example of perseverance? When I was pregnant and days from birth, I had to take my final exam at LCC. I was like; you stay in there Mateo, you cannot come out! I gave birth on the weekend, was released Monday morning and took my finals in the afternoon.

What makes you so determined? I did not want to be picking berries in the fields anymore; I did not want to work at fish canneries anymore. I wanted to be at a job where I could sit, dress nicely, not come out of work dirty and tired for minimum wage. If one door closes, you have to open another door.

Do you have a strong will to succeed? Yes, sometimes I remember something that hurt me, that makes me angry and I ask myself – do you want to be that person that keeps reliving that moment or do you want to change it? I give myself options because that is the way.

Is education helping you improve your life? Yes, in my case I am not happy with picking berries, I am not happy about going to a fish cannery – but I am happy about going to school.

Are you a role model for your family? Yes, I am the oldest of the cousins. We have a big family and I have always felt that I am a role model for them.

Is being a role model for your family hard? Sometimes I don’t make the best decisions for them to model. When I got my associates degree my cousin put on Facebook, “Because of you I am going to go to college.”

Did your cousin go to college? Yes, she is finishing her degree in early childhood education. She helped me with my program, with my projects, and saw how much I put into it.

What message are you trying to give your family about education? I want to keep showing them that you can keep going, it is never too late. Two of them are not married and now they are going to school.

Are you a competitive person? I am very competitive. My cousins are almost done getting their associates degrees, so I need to get busy and get my bachelors!

2019-04-09T16:48:55-07:00April 9th, 2019|

Participate in the capital bond Thoughtexchange

The capital bond process took another step forward. The school board has identified a draft $115 million proposal and gathered input through a digital Thought Exchange from March 20 -27. The results of the Thought Exchange will be shared once the data is analyzed.

To those who participated in the Thought Exchange – we thank you.

If you wish to provide input on the proposed capital bond please attend the April 8, 2019 school board meeting.


2019-04-01T16:35:25-07:00March 20th, 2019|

Teacher Spotlight – Mrs. West

Teacher spotlight – Mrs. West, Mint Valley Elementary

Where were you born? I was born in Longview and raised in Rainier, Oregon.

Did you go to school in Rainier? Yes, I went to elementary, middle and high school in Rainier. I was in the Rainier High School class of ‘95. Go Columbians!

Do your parents still live in Rainier? Yes, my dad, brother and most of my family still live across the river.

Growing up did you like school? Yes, I did like school. I was very social and liked playing sports, and had some amazing teachers.

Can you tell us about the sports you played? I played soccer, basketball and softball. Softball was my favorite.

Mrs. West, Mint Valley Elementary

What position did you play in softball? Centerfield.

Were you a good hitter? Uh, sometimes! I would go through good and bad times.

Can you tell us about some of the amazing teachers you had in Rainier? Ms. Jensen was my all-time favorite teacher. She was my math teacher and math never really came easy for me. Ms. Jensen always had a unique way of teaching and working one on one to explain and make sure you understand. She was always just so positive.

Did Ms. Jensen have a good way with kids? Yes, she would always pull me in and say, “Hey, you did this section really well, but let us talk about this section.” She always took the time and I just loved and appreciated that from her.

Did your experience with Ms. Jensen influence your teaching? Oh, yes, I think so. Ms. Jensen was so patient, so kind and made learning fun. Before her class, I did not really enjoy math.

How did Ms. Jensen make it fun? Oh, just the way she would show different ways how to do problems and the games we would play. She would start the class with something funny, something from the newspaper or something she had read. It just drew you all in and you are like – okay, I am ready to learn now.

What made Ms. Jensen so good? She was just one of those kinds of teachers, just really down to earth and just very on your level. She was not like, “I’m your teacher, you’re going to listen to what I am going to say, I am going to crack the whip.” She wasn’t that way.

Growing up did you want to be a teacher? No, I wanted to be an airline stewardess. I wanted to travel.

Were you planning on getting married and having kids? In all honesty, I never saw myself getting married or having kids. I wanted to travel the world.

What happened? About half way through my senior year with my mom buzzing in my ear, “Are you sure you don’t want to have babies? Are you sure you don’t want to be a grandma?” I changed my mind.

After changing your mind about marriage and kids where did you plan to go to school? Western Oregon University was the place to go to school to become a teacher, so I thought I would give it a try.

Did you visit Western Oregon University? I went there with my parents and really liked it. I was pumped up and thought, “Yeah, I totally want to be a teacher,” and I stuck to it.

Did it feel good picking a pathway and following through? Yes, it was cool. Many of my friends changed their mind their freshman year.

What did you parents say about becoming a teacher? They were like Ok! Out the door you go, we got her! See you later! They sent me and I loved it.

Did you enjoy attending Western Oregon University? I really liked living in Monmouth and my college experience was good.

Is it amazing how life changes? Yes it is. It is still a big joke. When I get on an airplane, I cannot believe I wanted to be a stewardess and be on planes for hours at a time – crazy.

Does mother know best? Yes, mother knows best. She wasn’t really wasn’t crazy about me being an airline stewardess.

What did you do after college? I was a substitute teaching during the day and a cocktail waitress at night. During that time, I met my husband. I had substituted for a year, he asked me to marry him and I said – yes.

So you change your mind about getting married? Yes, I got married in 2001. We have two boys, 15 and 12 years old.

Where do your boys go to school? My oldest goes to RA Long and my youngest goes to Cascade. They are doing well.

When did you get a teaching job at Mint Valley? What happened was very special. The principal at Mint Valley, Jerry Westendorf, called and offered me a job the day before I got married. It was the best wedding present ever!

How long have you been at Mint Valley? I have been here 16 years. This is where I have taught the whole time.

What are the traits of a good teacher? Patience, flexibility, positive attitude, you have to be a happy person, put a smile on your face even when you are digging down deep.

What kind of teaching philosophy do you use? I think you need to have a strong philosophy that I want my kids to love school, to be happy here. This is a happy place; this is the place you want to come to learn. Being all of these things, being happy and positive makes a good teacher.

Have you always taught 1st grade? No, I taught kindergarten for years. I started teaching first grade, and then when I started to have my kids I worked half time. There were two sessions of kindergarten. I worked one session spent the other time at home with my kids.

When did you start working full-time again? When all-day kindergarten came along and my youngest was four, I went back to work full time. This is only my second year being back in first grade. I taught kindergarten for a long time.

Is it a big difference, kindergarten and first grade? Oh my, gosh yes. Kindergarten students are getting used to going to school all day. It is like little kittens, they always need you and they are so tired. They are hungry and it is just a long day of school for them.

How long does it take kindergartners to get used to all day school? They get to that point in November or December when they have built up their stamina and are ready to learn. You really forget about it because you are so proud of them.

Are kids ready for a full day of school in first grade? Yes, in first grade they are ready. They already had that year of kindergarten and it is not as exhausting. I love the “littles”. I love the “kinders” and first graders. Their personalities, their attitudes are so fun.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? There are so many good things about being a teacher. The best thing about being a teacher is when something finally clicks, when the lightbulb finally turns on and they see it and get it. The sense of accomplishment, that sense of oh my gosh, I did it! That is an amazing feeling as a teacher.

What else is great about being a teacher? Another great part of being a teacher is being a role model for the kids. The person they love – they come up to me and say, “I love you Mrs. West,” or, “Mrs. West you are just the best!” They write little love notes to me all the time. It’s like I am really making a difference here; they really like being at school, they like me, they like learning. It just makes me feel good.

How does it make you feel to get a note from a kid who really cares for his teacher? It makes you feel so good. I have one here that says, “I love you so much, I love that you’re my teacher. I wish that you were going to second grade and someday maybe you could go to college to be a teacher when I am at college.” It helps you get through the tough days.

Do you enjoy being a teacher? I do enjoy being a teacher.

Do you ever think you will teach anything besides the “littles”? I don’t know. That is hard to say. I had gotten to the point with kindergarten where I wanted a change. I had done it so long. I don’t know I could feel that way again. Maybe even like 2nd or 3rd grade.

Did you want to teach the younger kids when you were in college? When I was in college, I thought I wanted to be a middle school health teacher. Then I spent a week at a middle school and I thought. “Oh my gosh, no!”

What happened after your middle school experience? I thought I wanted to be an intermediate teacher. They couldn’t find an intermediate class, so they got me into a second grade class and I thought this is the right place for me. I want to be a teacher to the littles.

What is the toughest part of being a teacher? The hardest thing about being a teacher is that there is never enough time. You are always doing this or you are always doing that. Sometimes I feel like I am rushed to get everything taught and I wish I didn’t feel this way because you should just spend time enjoying what the kids are doing and learning at the moment.

Is the pressure of higher test scores difficult? The pressure of test scores is hard. You want your kids to be up where the district wants you to have them and you are just working your tail off. That gets hard and frustrating.

Do you have a positive outlook of the future? I think the future is going to be just fine. You know I think there are some definite bumps in the road for some, but there is always going to be those kids that rise to the occasion and step up.

Why is your outlook on the future positive? I think we have great kids. Even our most challenging, there are great things about those kids. I hope they are all going to be kind and happy adults.

What would you tell the public about being a teacher and working in this district? I would tell them that being a teacher is hard. I think it is one of the hardest jobs in terms of, when you have eighteen kids in your class, you have them for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week and you are their parent during that time. You take care of them and you want them to be successful, you want them to be happy, you want them to love school, and I think teachers have so much that is going on right now.

Do teachers play multiple roles in the classroom? YES!  We are nurses, counselors, peace makers, counselors, you are always thinking about your kids all the time. It is hard because your brain never shuts off when you go home. You are always thinking of that one kid. You are always thinking of, “Ok, did they go home, did they get a warm dinner, did they go home and get on an electronic device the whole time, and did anyone have a conversation with them?”

How do you approach teaching a diverse group of kids? You really need to look at all your kids, all the different levels and different needs and get that into that one perfect day. I think it is hard being a teacher and I don’t think people realize how hard it is.

Are the kids in Longview doing well? In terms of our Longview kids, I think we have great kids. I think we have a great community. I really enjoyed both of my kids groups of friends and their families. Overall Longview is doing well.

Do you see the impact or any effect of electronic gadgets or phones on your first graders? Yes. I know kids are on the Xboxes, tablets and phones and are not having enough conversation with families, not going outside to play, not doing homework, etc.

Is it evident when students get too much screen time? I can tell when my kids have had too much screen time. They almost come across like spacey, like they need to go out and get some fresh air.

Does too much screen time affect their ability to focus? Yes.

Would you like to see kids reduce screen time? Yes, and be limited on it. There should be some sort of timer that at a certain time the device shuts off.

What do you do after work for fun? I watch my kids play sports! I like to read a lot – I am a big reader. I like to exercise. I am my kid’s taxi, they are at a busy time of life and I drive them everywhere. My son just got his permit. He asks if he can I drive, and I say, “Yes you can, yes you can!”

What do you like to read? I like to read all kinds of books; I like to read mostly mystery thrillers and whatever is hot at the time.

Whatever book is hot at the time? Yes, whatever people are talking about, that is what I like to read. An example is ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’-I really like that. ‘Sometimes I Lie’ by Alice Feeney. ‘Woman in the Window’ was good, not quite as good as I thought it would be.

Are you a Pinterest person? Yes, I am a Pinterest person when it comes to books and food. Mostly recipes I never make but they look good, so I think I am going to make it – but I don’t!

What kind of exercise do you like to do? I like to spin twice a week at Lower Columbia College and I like to walk when the weather is nice. Spinning is kind of my thing right now because it is indoors.

Do you hike with your family? I like to hike too; we go hiking a lot, when the weather is nice.

What have I not asked you that I should have? Oh, I have chickens and I love my chickens! That is also what I do after work; I take care of my chickens.

How many chickens do you have? We had nine, but now we cannot find our rooster. I think we have eight now.

Do you like the eggs? I like the chickens; they are my pets. I like the eggs too, but the chickens are my pets. I enjoy the chickens they crack me up. During the summer when I am home, the chickens free range.

Do you have a dog? I have a dog but he is on a runner so my “girls” know to stay away from him because he is not a big fan of the chickens.

So when you say your “girls” you mean your chickens? Yes, my girl chickens. They are “my girls”, my “ladies”.

Do they have names? Yes, my kids have named them. We have Marshmallow, Snowball, Chickee C, Fluffy Butt, Tim, Goldie Golden, and Zebra.

2019-03-19T16:26:14-07:00March 19th, 2019|

Longview Public Schools, JH Kelly, IBEW Local 48 presented award

Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) presented the Excellence in Workforce Partnership Award to Longview Public Schools, JH Kelly and IBEW Local 48 for working together developing and building the pre-apprenticeship program for Longview high school students.

Pre-apprenticeship program ribbon cutting ceremony

The pre-apprenticeship program came to existence through the hard work of Jill Diehl, Director of Career and College Readiness, working together with executives from JH Kelly and IBEW Local 48. JH Kelly provided much needed funding and expertise in guiding and developing the program. IBEW Local 48, along with several other trade unions, were instrumental in the planning, curriculum and development of the program.

Longview Public Schools is committed to providing a great education and career options to high school graduates. “With the amazing support of JH Kelly, IBEW 48 and other trade unions, Longview students will graduate high school with the option of direct entry into an apprentice program, enrolling in college or going into the workforce,” said Jill Diehl, Director of Career and College Readiness at the District.

The pre-apprenticeship program is open to students across the school district regardless of the high school they attend.

2019-04-08T08:45:46-07:00March 15th, 2019|

Southwest Washington Middle School Choir Festival

(March 14, 2019) Mt. Solo Middle School hosted a Choir Festival featuring eighteen different choirs today. The choir festival gives students and music teachers the chance to perform in front of judges, get evaluated and receive an onstage clinic to help improve the choir.

Mr. Noakes (sound engineer), Mrs. Walworth (Monticello accompanist) and Ms. Davis (Mt. Solo accompanist) supported the all-day event. Mrs. Noakes organized the event with the help of teachers and students.

A great day of choir!


2019-03-14T13:51:52-07:00March 14th, 2019|
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