More SPS Stories

  • Learning the Ropes

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 10/13/2020

    social distance rope Knowing how to give those around you six feet of social distancing can be hard when you’re a kindergartener. How do you conceptualize six feet when you are barely half that size?

    But thanks to a local climbing gym, kindergarteners at Regal are "learning the ropes" of social distancing. 

    Before kindergarteners started transitioning to in-person learning, Regal principal Trish Kannberg got a call from Wild Walls climbing gym in downtown Spokane. 

    “They wanted to donate some ‘retired’ climbing ropes to a local school and they wanted to know if any of our classrooms would want to use them,” she said.

    Climbing ropes are retired when the rope is worn to the point that it’s no longer recommended to be used for climbing. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for other things, like helping kindergarteners understand social distancing.

    “The ropes are really strong and durable,” Kannberg said, “which is great for kindergarteners.”

    Wild Walls donated three climbing ropes to Regal, which are being split up among the kinder classrooms. Teachers place tape along the rope at six-foot increments for the kids to grab on to. Now, whenever the classes line up or walk down the hall, they can easily keep six feet away from the classmate in front of them. 

    After each use, the students take turns washing their hands while the rope gets sanitized by a disinfectant wipe.

    “It’s such a great tool for these little learners and helps them visualize how far away they should be from other people,” Kannberg said.

    Getting these great tools from a local business was a huge bonus for Regal. 

    “To know our community wants to chip in and help our schools is really special,” she said.

     learning by rope

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  • The Community School’s Community Library

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 10/12/2020

    little library There’s nothing like watching the fruits of your labor come to life. On Thursday, Oct. 8, 10th grader Cody McDaniel learned exactly what that felt like when he wrenched the final screws into his little community library.

    The idea for this library sparked last spring, when schools shut down in the early days of the COVID pandemic. Cody, along with his classmates from The Community School, began working on a schoolwide project called “Supporting Communities in Crisis.”

    The goal of the project was for TCS students to research past crises and how people stepped up to help their communities. Think victory gardens during WWII. Then students had to come up with their own ideas on how to effectively support their community during this current COVID crisis.

    For Cody, the idea was simple.

    “With COVID going on, there were no books or libraries, and schools were closed so you couldn’t go into any of those places for books," he said. "I was riding my bike around town and found all these little free libraries, so I decided I’d make one for the school.”

    But like any great idea worth pursuing, taking the library from concept to reality prompted some second guessing.

    “I stressed out a lot because I didn’t think I had enough resources for it, but eventually I was able to come up with a plan,” he said.

    That plan involved a little help from family and friends.

    “I had help from my Uncle Dan and there were people from school – like advisors, teachers – that donated wood and supplies and money to help build the project,” he said.

    Cody even got a hand from the school’s maintenance workers, who also gathered extra materials and volunteered to help install the library. Fast forward to early October, and Cody’s creation was ready for its big debut.

    After hoisting the library onto its metal platform, Cody secured it with his trusty torque wrench. Then came the fun part. With the help of a couple classmates, Cody filled the library with books available for the community to use and peruse.

    “I’ll definitely try to keep it restocked," he said. "But I’m hoping that it helps the community step up a little bit, to put things in.”

    At the top of the library, Cody built a small compartment where people can leave snacks and other items for whomever may need them.

    In the end, Cody is grateful The Community School gave him the opportunity to do something like this.

    “You can take whatever idea you have and somehow make it happen," he said. "Like, I just wanted to do a construction project because I was bored, and I was able to turn it into a much bigger project that I can put at the school.”

    little library   TCS library  
    Cody McDaniel and his finished project.


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  • Kindergarteners Kick-off In-Person Learning

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 10/8/2020

    first day pic

    Finally. After several weeks of vacant halls and empty desks, SPS elementary schools welcomed the Class of 2033 to in-person learning Wednesday. There were plenty of air hugs, elbow bumps and photos at Adams, but surprisingly, no tears.

    “The students were so happy! There was no crying at drop off -- a typical first-day-of-kindergarten experience,” said kindergarten teacher Katie Leyde. “They are ready to be here and they need to be with peers for their social development."

    Students spent much of their first in-person day learning about routines, procedures, and how to be safe at school. Since only half the students will be at school each day for the first week or so, there is plenty of time to be sure everyone understands the new safety rules.

    “We are still working on staying in our bubbles,” Leyde said, “but I can see them trying so hard to keep each other safe.”

    Certainly, teaching and learning during COVID have brought no end of challenges. But in midst of the frustrations have been opportunities to grow.

    “I've learned to be flexible,” Leyde said. “And I'm more confident in my tech skills now!"

    And if distance makes the heart grow fonder, it seems distance learning makes students grow more eager.

    “My students were ready to learn and were so excited to finally be together,” Leyde said. “And I was ecstatic to have kids back in the building. We became teachers to connect with kids and be with children. In-person learning is so necessary for these little learners and I'm so excited to know them in person.”

    Visit to learn more about how we’re cautiously and thoughtfully returning to in-person instruction for our youngest learners under the guidance of state and local health officials.

    welcome to k!  
    Kindergarten teacher Katie Leyde welcomes her students.

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  • Let’s talk: First graders chat with city official about support of basic needs

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 11/15/2019

    City Councilwoman Kate Burke talks with students

    As part of their studies on societal organization, first graders in Libby’s Language Immersion program got to hear from a local official.

    City Councilwoman Kate Burke talked with students about how Spokane supports the needs and wants of its community members. She said she tries to get out to a classroom to speak at least once a week.

    Burke discussed what it takes to be elected and how important it is to vote.

    “I went door to door and talked with people about my ideas for making the city a better place, and then asked for their support,” she said. “I knocked on 10,000 doors!”

    Students had lots of ideas about what city council members do: “Help homeless people.” “Make sure people have clean air and water.” “Help people be healthy.”

    Burke talked about the role of local officials in supporting a community’s most important needs: water, food, shelter and clothing. She shared some of the reasons why people are homeless and some of the ways a city can help.

    “I believe it is a city’s job to help people who have no shelter,” she said.

    Students had lots of questions and eagerly shared their own experiences.

    “Sometimes I see homeless people in my neighborhood,” one boy said, “and I run to my house and give them an apple.”

    Burke said that is a good way to help, and that she likes to keep socks in her car to give to people in need.

    One student innocently wondered of it’s OK to not help someone.

    “It’s not always possible for people to help out,” Burke said, “but if you can help someone, you should.

    “It’s important to look out for each other.”

    The Language Immersion program is working to achieve International Baccalaureate status by teaching students to “think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts.”

    City Councilwoman Kate Burke talks with students

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  • Staff room serenity at Logan

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 10/8/2019

    Logan staff room

    Behind the door to the Logan Elementary staff room awaits an oasis. Calm colors and gentle nature sounds greet you while a comfortable chair beckons from the corner.

    It wasn’t always like this. Messy and neglected, the space had become a bit of an afterthought. But after an inspiring workshop through Kaiser on health and well-being – plus a mini grant of $1,500 – Principal Assistant Penny Capko and teachers Kathleen Rountree and Amy Berube decided the staff room was ripe for a redo.

    “We wanted to create a self-care space where you can go, that’s calm, to help take care of your mental health,” Capko said.

    The women took some time to brainstorm, then did a deep clean. They spent a day moving and painting furniture and then got creative. There’s a little activity center with a mini step machine, yoga mats, and resistance bands. They hung pictures and put a fake plant in the bathroom. Strung with fairy lights, the “woot woot wall” is a place to leave a note or compliment for a colleague. Another wall holds pockets filled with affirmations and encourages staff to take what they need -- Confidence? Patience? Hope? -- when they need a little boost.

    “It all came together beautifully,” Capko said. “The feedback has been amazing.”

    “Now I see lots more people come in here,” Rountree added. “And people are taking better care of it. Even if they just walk through, it’s so much nicer.”

    Watch the video here.

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  • Puppet power

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 5/29/2019


    The sixth graders descended on the primary classroom and got right to work. Swiftly erecting a 5-foot frame, they hung black curtains and then disappeared within. The class quieted, waiting. Then suddenly, above the curtains, appeared two cheery, wide-mouthed puppets.

    Stevens Elementary sixth graders Jonathan Aguirre, Meadow Loer, Abigail Howie, Hanna Taggart, Hayli Rios, Mahana Richards, Kimora Estrada and Nevaeh Jones make up the S.O.A.R. Puppeteer Program, whose focus is to provide lessons on social/emotional topics to younger students and to help create a positive school climate. S.O.A.R. stands for “safe, organized, act responsibly and respectful” – Stevens’ schoolwide expectations.

    “Students respond so strongly to messages from their peers,” said Fondra Magee, Stevens counselor and puppet program facilitator. “I love the combination of peers and puppets. Puppets are powerful.”

    Tuesday’s performance taught third graders about conflict resolution, “a fancy way of saying ‘settling arguments’,” the Muppet-like puppets explained. Using a pre-recorded lesson, they talked about the importance of understanding and sharing feelings, and tried mightily to get the class involved in a sing-along.

    Chosen because of their experience as role models and their glowing teacher recommendations, the puppeteers have many reasons for why they joined the group.

    “I wanted to be able to help teach lessons to little kids so they can learn to solve problems,” Abigail said.

    “I really like to see kids smile,” added Hanna.

    The puppeteers agreed that having to hold your arms above your head for the length of the show is one of the most challenging parts. Also, your thumb can get pretty sore from moving the mouth. Besides developing strong arms, they have also become skilled in displaying puppet emotion.

    “You can use the rods to make the arms cover its eyes, or make the head nod to show sadness,” explained Mahana. “You can bounce the arms to show excitement. You really learn to exaggerate expressions.”

    The group has done about a dozen shows so far, mostly to Stevens primary students, but also at Maplewood Gardens retirement home. Though their time as puppeteers is coming to a close with the end of school, the students are confident in the mark they will leave on Stevens.

    “Some kids look up to older kids,” Neveah said, “so it’s nice to be able to be a positive role model for them.”

    students smile   puppeteers and puppets

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  • Braille Boss: Second grader shines in North American challenge

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 5/13/2019

    russell winkler

    Last year, everything was hard for Russell Winkler. Spelling, proofreading, reading comprehension—every facet of the Braille Challenge proved too much of a challenge. He was a first grader competing against third graders. He needed more practice.

    This year was a different story. Only the proofreading proved tricky. And, Russell said, competing in the challenge was totally worth it.

    “Because of winning!” he said.

    Russell is a finalist in the 2019 Braille Challenge, having scored in the top 10 in the nation.

    “When I heard I was a finalist, I was acting too crazy,” said Russell, a second grader at Garfield Elementary School. “I was bouncing off the walls!”

    Lonna Gately, SPS teacher for the visually impaired, heard about the challenge and thought it would be a good motivator to help Russell continue working hard on his braille reading.

    The Braille Challenge draws about 1,400 participants from throughout the US and Canada. The top 10 finishers from each of five age groups move on to the finals, which will happen on June 21 and 22 at the University of Southern California.

    Russell admits he’s a bit nervous about the trip. It has nothing to do with flying or the possibility of an even tougher proofreading task though.

    “When I win, I’ll have to walk up on the stage alone,” he said, confident that this is the only outcome of the trip.

    Gately smiled. “He’s worked really hard to earn this trip,” she said. “I’m so proud of him.”

    “You think I deserve it, Lonna?” Russell asked.

    “You absolutely deserve it.”

    russell winkler     Lonna Gately and Russell Winkler

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  • Of Mice and Motorcycles

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 4/26/2019

    students at assembly

    Longfellow is full of mice. On Thursday afternoon, rows of them crowded the multipurpose room, positively squeaking in anticipation.

    The staff and student body eagerly donned mouse ears to kick off “One School, One Book.” A school-wide book club, the program will have every member of the Longfellow Elementary community – students, teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers, custodians, support staff – reading the same book for the next month. The name of the book was revealed during a special assembly.

    The first clue was the mouse ears.

    Night custodian Isaac Presley rode into the gym on the next clue, a motorcycle.

    Instructional coach Ariane Stumbaugh asked the crowd: “Can you figure out the title?”

    Students squealed and then shouted it together: “The Mouse and the Motorcycle!” 

    “Our goal is to unite our community around the conversation and the experience of reading the exact same book at the same time,” Stumbaugh explained.

    Each student received a copy of the Beverly Cleary book. There will be trivia questions and prizes after each section, a door-decorating contest and family literacy celebration at the end of May.

    Kindergartener Alexa was happy about starting her first chapter book. Her classmate flipped through his new possession, glad to see it contains pictures.

    Fifth grader Adan likes the idea of everyone reading the same book together.

    “It’s kind of exciting,” she said.

    students at assembly   students at assembly

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  • Chasing your dreams

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 4/2/2019

    Rogers classroom

    Sometimes all it takes is for someone else to believe in you. That is the premise behind “Project 100 Percent College Application Completion, which encourages Rogers High School seniors to complete an application for a post-graduate program at a 2- or 4-year college, trade school, apprenticeship, or the military.

    This year, 94 percent have taken that step, up from 80 percent the previous year. The program, which is giving students the tools, resources, and supports to connect them to their dreams, is funded by a grant from the Spokane Public Schools Foundation.

    “We’re working to match students with appropriate supports so they can get accepted to their first choice of school,” said Assistant Principal Joe Phipps, who applied for a grant.

    Rogers invited every student who completed the FAFSA and at least one application to celebrate. The success of the program has generated some well-deserved attention for Rogers and its seniors.
    NOTE: Read an earlier post about this topic in "Rogers seniors earn sweet rewards" below.
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  • Pass the chapati: TCS students host Kenyan dinner

    Posted by Community Relations staff on 2/14/2019

    tcs hosts kenyan dinner

    At The Community School, students spend the week between semesters investigating an interest. Some go rock climbing or winter hiking. Others learn book binding, song recording, or stagecraft at the Civic Theatre. And last week, one group hosted a Kenyan dinner for 75.

    The event idea came from a collaboration with Dan Todd, founder of Inland Curry, who hosts an international dinner series featuring guest cooks from Spokane's refugee and immigrant communities. The profits from each dinner are donated to the refugee family, while attendees get to hear the family’s story and enjoy authentic cuisine from their homeland. For the TCS students, the Kenyan dinner was an ideal way to cap off a semester of learning about human rights, particularly as they apply to immigrants and refugees.

    As hosts, students took charge of everything: purchasing and prepping the food, preparing the space, promoting the event, and meeting with refugee Maureen Ambani to hear her story and devise a creative way to help her tell it.

    “It was so interesting to learn about where she came from and how this will impact her. It gives purpose to what we’re doing,” said senior Katelyn Devine. “I had so many questions for her.”

    As she finished up some of the decorations, senior Monet Bailey talked about her motivation to help out with the dinner.

    “We did a project about the number of refugees coming into the US. My father immigrated from Belize,” she said. “I like being able to help people in need, spread awareness, and then see the outcome.”

    Despite an evening of inclement weather, people packed the unCommons at TCS. Students had constructed a large indoor tent using swaths of fabric in the colors of the Kenyan flag, and decorated it with twinkle lights to create a fun and intimate ambiance.

    Guests ate at long tables, family style, and were waited on by students. During the dinner, Maureen shared her story of fleeing with her daughter from an abusive husband. Their road to Spokane was long, but she said she has found a home here.

    “People don't believe it, but it really is true: this is the land of opportunity,” she said. “I've seen it.”

    The event raised more than $700 for Maureen and her daughter.

    “This school is really about working with the community and helping others,” Devine said. “And while we’re doing that we’re also learning. That’s the best thing about it.”

    students help out at dinner

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