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Stepping up to care for students and community - Part 6

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Members are still hard at work serving our students, their families and our communities. Here is a compilation of our most recent member features. 

Jamie Smith 2 (2)Puyallup EA member and Rogers High School teacher Jamie Smith has tried to embrace continuous learning for her students, while also advocating for schools and community at the state level. She is juggling her work as a classroom teacher in a virtual world, as well as, running for state representative. She recently shared with WEA how she is navigating continuous learning and provided an example unit she is currently teaching.

I can't say that I'm doing anything to spectacular, I think like most teachers I'm just trying to do the best I can to make learning engaging. I miss my students and wish we were in the classroom to learn together, but I'm doing what I can to make learning relevant, interesting, and as accessible as possible. I must give huge praise to my department. We are texting almost every day to collaborate, troubleshoot, encourage and support each other. Their dedication and love for the students and the craft of teaching inspires me every day.

For the classes we have in common we have worked to share the load and give our students common lessons and assessments. That way friends in different classes can help each other. This helps with our workload, and we share our best ideas and create a result far better than had we each planned alone. Read Jamie's story.

ChelseaBrown (2)Clover Park EA Lake Louise Elementary teacher Chelsea Brown says that despite these wild times, she couldn’t be prouder to be an educator nor prouder to work with her colleagues. She knows next year will be anything but normal and says mental health supports are key in the coming year.

 “I would love to see a time built in each morning to focus solely on how everyone is feeling,” Brown says. “(Our students) will return to us with unique stories and we need time for them to express themselves.” Read Chelsea's story.

Little Theo (2)Second grader Theo Ninburg appreciates that his teacher, “Mr. P,” has been setting up and hosting lots of Zoom meetings. Several weeks ago, most second graders didn’t know much about Zoom meetings much less that their school lives would be turned upside down.

Enter thousands upon thousands of teachers and other educators who, like Mr. P (also known as Seattle Education Association member and Fairmount Park Elementary teacher Kevin Peterson), have adapted to a whole new world in education.

“I can think of about 62,000 educators who have more experience and technical savvy,” Peterson says. “I do not see myself as an expert or as a person who has any special insight.”

He posts lunchtime read-aloud sessions and several learning blocks in reading, writing, math and spelling. And that doesn’t include a regular smattering of daily memes, STEAM links, a constant stream of photos of students who are sharing their independent learning and, of course, a joke of the day. Read Theo and Mr. P’s story.

Herminia 1 (2)Herminia Helms is a Seattle Education Association para educator who works as a one-on-one instructional assistant in Pathfinder K-8’s special education program. Her work includes checking in with the fifth-grade student with whom she works every day. “We’ve been lucky,” she says, “because his parents are working with him and have him on a great routine.” Helms was having regular conversations with him in Zoom meetings and says that beginning this week, they will work on a few math problems, and spend some time on reading responses. She plans on having him describe what he is reading and having him read aloud to her.

Like so many other paraeducators, teachers and other school employees, Helms is also responsible for her own daughters who are at home. As a single parent, she says, she is trying to keep a solid structure for her girls. For her eighth grader, she says, it’s just a matter of keeping her on task and making sure she doesn’t grow too distracted with her cell phone.

But for her first grader, Helms says, it’s a whole different story. “I’m there to teach her 100 percent of the time." Helms says that she has been pretty much sticking with her daughter’s school schedule as much as she can. It would be ideal if everyone had the benefit of having more than one adult in the home, but it isn’t always the case and families have formed cohorts to make sure they stay safe and healthy. Read Herminia’s story.

Andy Darring 1 (2)Thoughts on teaching from home after six weeks from Seattle Education Association member Andy Darring, a fourth/fifth grade teacher at Pathfinder K-8.

I hate this.

It minimizes human interactions and kids feel more isolated and confused and lonely. I am a relational teacher; content has always been secondary for me. You can't teach young people this way. There are sweet moments, but they are too few and fleeting.

I have stayed sane by trying new things and being patient with my efforts. Just like in my classroom, I must be at peace with mistakes and failure. It's all new and I wasn't trained well for much of this. I can learn, but it takes time and I have had to work to accept that.

The wide variety of struggles each of my families is facing is overwhelming. Making individual connections with as many families and students as I can is the most important thing I can offer. Read
Andy’s story.

What is happening in your area of the state? Send us pictures and anecdotes to, so we can share your work and dedication to support Washington students and their families through these difficult times. 

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 last week's stories here

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