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Members in the news - stepping up for kids and community - Part II

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WEA members across the state are making their local news as they fight to meet the needs of their students, their students’ families and their larger communities. Thank you, WEA members, for stepping up during these difficult and uncertain times.

Nick BrownTeachers and students are doing all they can to adjust amid a global pandemic.

In Arlington, Nick Brown’s senior English class is learning the history of rock, but it looks very different these days.

While schools are out for the rest of the year, most students are still learning virtually. This presents challenges for both the students and the teachers.

From technology issues to new priorities, teachers like Brown are rising to the occasion and even changing their curriculum to meet the new needs.

Brown has been teaching at Arlington High School for nearly 30 years. He says while it is important to still focus on the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, the world as we know it is changing, and the skills these kids need to come out of this with are as well.

“This is my world, and this is the hardest I have had to figure things out, it’s not physically exhausting, it is just mentally exhausting trying to figure out how to get things done right and work through all of the problems, and I seem to find all of them, whether it is not recording my Zoom lesson, or not turning my volume on," Brown says. "We are looking at things completely different now, and so what kind of skills are these kids getting? I don’t think that’s measurable right now.” See Nick’s story on Q13 Fox.

Joanna O'NeilJoanna O’Neil, an algebra teacher at North Central High School, recalls leaving her classroom on March 16 with feelings of sadness and uncertainty.

“My initial feeling was just wondering how I was going to maintain those relationships with kids,” O’Neil said. “It was really sad walking out, that this could be the last time.”

Across the state, districts hedged their bets. Mindful that many students lacked laptops and wireless connections, teachers across the state assembled packets filled with paper lessons.

Online materials were included, but because of equity concerns they were labeled as “enrichment” materials and thus not required.

Then came Inslee’s order on April 6 to close schools through the end of the year, forcing a more comprehensive approach to distance learning. By then, everyone was on spring break. When everyone returned, Spokane and other districts continued to fine-tune plans, with an expectation for a full rollout this week.

“That’s a big adjustment and a significant shift for staff,” Associate Superintendent Adam Swinyard told the Spokane Public Schools board of directors last week. “It’s a lot like adjusting from driving a car to a boat – it takes some time to learn the intricacies.” Read the whole story in the Spokesman Review.

Elisha PriceElisha Price continues to go to work every day in the Mead School District to provide child care for the children of first responders and health care workers, all while caring for her own five daughters.

It’s not easy to leave her girls at home, but Price said she explained to her children the importance of stepping up and giving back.

“Right now these mommies and daddies need me to help with their kids so they can help other people,” Price said to her children. “It’s a big circle, and if we don’t help each other out then we’re really going to crash.”

Normally, Price works in a classroom with a teacher to help meet individual student needs. This could be helping a child with disabilities get set up and ready to learn for the day, or it could be helping a group of children falling behind in a certain subject area.

“We have a mix of kids and a mix of needs, and so I feel like a paraeducator’s job was to step up and be that support system for the rest of the school,” Price said. Read Elisha’s story in the Spokesman Review.

Rogers Field SeniorsThis is how high school memories are made in the era of social distancing: The senior class at Rogers High School just got together for a group photo and didn’t even know it.

By Friday evening, the school’s football field was covered by a giant Pirate logo and more than 300 names in foot-high block white lettering.

“I did it because I care about the kids,” said art teacher Tom Pettoello, who probably should have worn a mask – not because of COVID-19 but for the fumes of seven dozen aerosol cans.

“It’s worth it,” said Pettoello, who earlier on Friday did the same at East Valley High School, where another 300 seniors will go without proms and yearbook signings and probably commencement.

Pettoello and his aide, substitute teacher Carol McQuaid, were halfway through their work when Rogers Principal Lori Wyborney pulled up on her bicycle.

“I wasn’t going to miss this, so I rode all the way from Cheney,” Wyborney said. Read this story in the Spokesman Review.

Senior Signs Ferris (2)The COVID-19 pandemic has stolen so much from this year’s senior class, it felt good to finally get something back. For the class of 2020 at Ferris High School, it came in the form of a yard sign. Every student got one, and many were pleasantly surprised, like Maddie Anderson. “This means a lot,” Anderson said Wednesday morning as she beheld the sign on her front lawn.

In school colors of red and white, it proclaimed “Saxons Class of 2020, 
#SaxonPride.” Nice words, but the message was much more powerful. It was a sign that someone – in this case orchestra teacher Chris Ehrlich – cared enough to deliver 10 of them on a rainy morning.

It was also a sign that someone – counselor Dawn Hilsendeger – cared enough to come up with this crazy idea, and that the Ferris Parent Teacher Group came up with the money to make it happen. “Then we just ran with it,” said Principal Ken Schutz as he and other administrators did just that.

They ran more than 400 signs out to cars driven by teachers and staff, who drove off and planted them in sodden ground on every corner of the South Hill. If this was only a gesture, it came from the heart. Read
the whole story in the Spokesman Review.

Who in your local education association has been in the news or is going the extra mile for kids and community? We want to highlight the good work of every WEA member. Send submissions, along with links, videos or pictures to

Check back regularly and follow us on instagram, @wa_education, on twitter @washingtonea, and on Facebook @WashingtonEducation to see more stories like these. You can read previous stories here

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