More SPS Stories

  • Students Honor Carla Peperzak Through Art

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 6/3/2024

    Student and Carla

    Carla Peperzak, the namesake of Peperzak Middle School, has been honored in countless ways since she began sharing her story of surviving the Holocaust. On May 31, students found another way to honor her through art. 

    On Track Academy senior Mackenzie Winchell visited Peperzak Middle School to present a stained-glass piece she created and donated to the school. The piece, titled Ometz, the Hebrew word for “courage,” is up for a national award and won the Jessica Stein Memorial Art Contest earlier this spring. 

    Winchell also gifted Carla a smaller stained-glass piece that samples Ometz. 

    “I will share my artwork and experience learning about Carla by donating a copy of my stained-glass window panel to Peperzak Middle School—as a colorful, hopeful reminder that being brave enough to do the right thing makes anyone a hero, and in honor of Carla’s 100th birthday year,” Winchell said in prepared remarks in front of the entire student body. 

    Students with CarlaPeperzak students in Kim Vandervert’s art class also spent weeks preparing, studying and designing a mural of Carla that is now displayed in the school’s hallway. Three of Vandervert’s students shared these remarks in front of Carla and their peers: 


    My favorite part of making the Peperzak mural was finding out how to blend assorted colors to find what looks good and makes Carla’s picture in the middle stand out. Another feature I loved was learning how to do pointillism and then applying my knowledge on the portrait and really seeing it come to life. 

    This mural is important to me because it signifies Carla Peperzak and her survival through the Holocaust. Carla resembles our school with the kindness and hope she has for us and all future generations. I want our mural to be an example of who to look up to and traits we should strive for.  


    This mural is important because it’s a way of saying, “Thank You” to Carla from the students. It’s a gift from us to her. 

    My favorite part was getting to work with my classmates. 

    Working on this project made me feel like I’m fully connecting with Carla and her experience. 


    I helped to draw the art for the mural that my classmates would bring to life with pointillism and triadic colors. The mural is important to me because it shows respect to Mrs. Peperzak. She is an amazing person who shows what it really means to become your best self. 

    “Becoming your best self” is a mantra at Peperzak Middle School, and the artwork dedicated and donated this spring is proof of students living that out. 

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  • Work Study at SPS gives college students experience in their field

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 5/23/2024

    Andrew Kendys and Yasuhara Middle School nurse Colleen Connell

    Spokane Public Schools staff are always looking for ways to introduce career options to students by providing access to hands-on learning experiences that prepare them for the workforce.

    And we provide similar opportunities for non-students as well.

    Last year, Andrew Kendys was an SPS student. He moved from Ukraine to Spokane two years ago and received his diploma from Ferris High School in June 2023. He enrolled at Spokane Falls Community College last fall and was eligible for a Work Study position through his government-funded financial aid award.

    Both federal and state-funded Work Study programs allow students to work part-time to support their education expenses. While many college students may have an on-campus job, Work Study positions can also be held at nonprofits and public agencies, like school districts.

    SPS Student Services specialist Christal Raver coordinates with local universities and community colleges to find positions for students, and posts SPS job opportunities on their job board platforms. Students who are hired must be cleared by Human Resources and attend employee orientation like any new hire, and the district is reimbursed for 70% of their total wages.

    There are approximately 20-40 Work Study students working in various schools and district departments throughout recent school years, although the positions were almost doubled pre-COVID.

    “Every year, they are slowly coming back,” Christal said.

    She considers several factors when placing students in a position.

    “Location is a big part of placement, since many students don’t have transportation. I try to place them close to their college or their home address,” she said.

    “I also ask what they are studying in hopes that I can place them in their field of study, which looks great on a resume and gives them experience in their field of study,” she added. They may be placed as a tutor or classroom assistant if they’re interested in teaching, or in a department related to their field, like accounting or technology.

    Andrew is studying nursing, with the goal of transferring to Washington State University’s nursing program after graduating from SFCC. Health care is a bit of a family tradition; his great-grandmother was a doctor, and his grandmother was a nurse. He hopes to eventually become a nurse anesthetist to care for patients during surgical procedures.

    Knowing his interest, Christal placed him as Nursing Assistant at Yasuhara Middle School. He supports the school’s nurse three times a week, making sure ice packs and supplies are stocked, and helps other staff if extra hands or support are needed.

    “It’s a good experience,” Andrew said, noting that the work will enhance his resume and WSU application someday.

    He also gets to learn from Nurse Colleen Connell as she attends students’ health care needs, and has been able to contribute to supporting students if they are feeling anxious when visiting the health room.

    “It’s an amazing feeling when you can help someone,” he said.

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  • Kindergarten Teacher Feature: Emily Sobczuk, Holmes Elementary

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 5/15/2024

    kindergarten class

    Kindergarten is an important stage in a child's life. At Spokane Public Schools, kindergarten teachers are essential for introducing kids to the daily routine of going to school, learning through play, and being around other kids.

    We talked to Emily Sobczuk, a kindergarten teacher at Holmes Elementary, to get her perspective on teaching kindergarten:

    What kind of growth do you see in your kindergarten this time of year compared to the first day of school?
    I think students grow every year they are in school, but I can’t imagine that other grade levels see the rapid growth that kindergarten teachers do. Many students come in timid and unsure of themselves and leave as confident learners ready to take on the world. They come in not being able to stay in alphabetical order while walking to lunch to being able to put themselves in order and knowing exactly where the new student will stand based on the first letter of their last name. They learn to follow rules, take turns, and even include others in their play. They learn to share their opinions and listen to the opinions of others. They learn to consider multiple perspectives to help themselves solve social problems without an adult. Students may come in knowing a few letters or only being able to count to 5, but they leave kindergarten as scholars, readers, writers, scientists and mathematicians. Students come alive and come into their own. They begin to realize they are able to be successful in a space without a grown up being beside them at all times. The level of independence and confidence gained in one year is unmatched. 

    Going to school all day long is a big change for many kindergartners. What do you do as a teacher to ensure a smooth transition?
    Transitioning to kindergarten can be a big change for both kindergartners and their grown ups. I think making connections with the families at the beginning of the year is key. We are fortunate enough to be able to start the year with WaKIDS and family conferences. At these conferences I am able to meet families and learn about my students as individuals. I am also able to learn how I can best support students and families. These conferences also give students a chance to meet me, become familiar with the classroom and materials we will be using, and tour the building.

    At SPS, we also have a philosophy that kindergarten should begin like preschool and move toward looking more like first grade at the end of the year. This philosophy is helpful in creating a smooth transition. If students attended preschool, their first experiences of kindergarten will feel very familiar. Being able to start the year with an emphasis on play-based and social emotional learning allows me to meet the kids where they are and create a community of learners who care about one another. I think being part of a joyful learning environment and a community where students feel accepted and valued helps ease any anxieties they may have and keeps them coming back for more.

    What can parents do over the summer to prepare their child for kindergarten?teacher taking a picture
    I think the biggest thing that parents can do during the summer is to start talking about what kindergarten will be like and asking their child how they are feeling about it. Answering any questions they may have and asking if there is anything they are nervous about will help children begin to identify their feelings and may ease some of their concerns. Learning how to express their feelings and ask for help, if necessary, will be important skills they need in kindergarten.  

    A school schedule may be a new routine for many children. Toward the end of the summer, I recommend practicing the new schedule. Starting a bedtime routine and going to bed early as well as setting up a morning routine that mimics what it might feel like on school days will help students be able to get the rest they need. We do have quiet time at the beginning of the year, but there are no naps in kindergarten so if your child still takes naps, it might be a good idea to start shortening them or phasing them out.

    If parents want to start practicing some of the beginning of the year kindergarten skills, listening to a story and talking about it, following directions, practicing writing their name, drawing pictures, counting, and cutting shapes would all be beneficial.

    What is something the public might not know about teaching kindergarten?
    A kindergarten teacher wears many hats and everyday brings new and different experiences, challenges, and triumphs. Somedays I get to be a nurse and help put Band-Aids on a scrape or two. I get to be a mediator while helping students problem solve whose turn it is to be the mommy or daddy at the Housekeeping Center. I put on a coach’s hat when I help students learn to step with their opposite foot when throwing a ball and catch it with two hands. Sometimes I feel like a maid as I clean up paint spills, snack crumbs, and forgotten crayon wrappers or paper scraps. I am a computer technician as I constantly trouble shoot how students have locked themselves out of their computers and how I am going to get them back in. I am a dentist as I look into a wide-open mouth to inspect the first wiggly tooth and explain that the pain of a loose tooth is common and won’t last much longer. I am a professional photographer as I rush over to take a picture of the newest block structure or freshly made plate of Playdough cookies. At lunchtime, I get to go back to my waitressing days as I help open milk, grab an extra napkin, or help students eat a balanced meal. Every day I am a cheerleader as I congratulate students for completing a task they have worked on for days or encourage children to keep going and letting them know I believe in them. And of course, I get to be a teacher, as I read a new book, or teach a new math game, or introduce students to a new item in one of the Play-Based Centers or inspire a student to try something new or do more research about something they have shown an interest in.

    To say the least, I burn a lot of calories and definitely meet my step goals every day! It truly is the best job in the whole world!  

    kindergarten classWhy is kindergarten such an important stage in kids' lives?
    For many students (and their families), kindergarten is their first experience with formal schooling. It is where students start forming their beliefs of who they are as a learner, what school is about, and how they fit into the community. Potentially, it sets the tone for the rest of their educational career. Kindergartners learn how to cooperate with others and how to be a contributing member of a learning community. Kindergarten teaches important life skills as well as basics that students will need throughout their school years. It is the foundation for both social-emotional development and academic learning.

    What do you like about being a kindergarten teacher?
    There is nothing quite like the brain of a kindergartner. They are curious and love to learn and you can get them excited about anything. I love to watch their minds work as they begin to make connections, discover new things, and wrestle with misconceptions. They love to sing and dance and have the best imaginations. They also have the biggest hearts. They love school, their teacher, and their friends. And if you spend even a short amount of time with a kindergartner, you will soon discover that they are hilarious. There is never a dull moment in kindergarten.  

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  • Celebrate Nutrition Services on School Lunch Hero Day

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 5/3/2024

    Lainey Watson, Wilson Elementary School Kitchen Manager, and students

    Nutrition Service workers are essential members of our schools’ staff, serving 29,000 meals per day to make sure that students can focus on learning and participating in school activities.

    For School Lunch Hero Day, we wanted to learn more from some great members of our staff!

    Lainey Watson, Wilson Elementary School Kitchen Manager (above)

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN NUTRITION SERVICES? I started working for Nutrition Services back in 2011.

    WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Having the honor and opportunity to get to know my students who come in for breakfast and lunch. I love greeting them with a smile and chatting with them, hearing about their weekend, pets, or vacation, siblings, etc.. as they come through my line, while providing them with a nutritious meal to help fuel them for learning throughout their day. Just knowing that I can provide a safe place for them to come in and eat is awesome. My own kids are grown adults now, so getting to see my Wilson kiddos brings a smile to my face and makes my heart happy!

    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO COOK, EITHER AT WORK OR HOME? My favorite thing to cook at school is the Mac and Cheese because it’s one of the kid’s favorites and I like seeing their faces light up with excitement. At home, I love to cook just about everything whether it’s a curry dish, a strata or quiche, or just grilling a good ol’ rib eye in the summer!

    WHAT DO YOU WISH THE COMMUNITY KNEW ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? I guess I wish the community knew how hard my colleagues and I work at our job, and that feeding the kids is not as easy as it may sound. I sometimes feel as though we get dismissed by people. That our job isn’t very important and “Oh, you’re just a ‘lunch lady.’” I think some people are often surprised when I tell them a little more about the details of what my job consists of daily, especially when they find out that I work alone in my kitchen. At our job, we need to be detail oriented, organized, be able to multitask, good with time management, have good people skills and communication, computer skills, ordering the food, and so much more! I also would want them to know that I have the children’s best interest at heart, and I care about them. That’s why I like doing the job I do!

    Erika Myers, Scott Elementary School Kitchen ManagerErika Myers, Scott Elementary School Kitchen Manager

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN NUTRITION SERVICES? I have worked in Nutrition Services for 7 years.

    WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? What I love most about my job is that I get to make delicious food for the kiddos to help them grow and learn!

    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO COOK, EITHER AT WORK OR HOME? My favorite thing to cook is pot roast! This is my family’s favorite meal!

    WHAT DO YOU WISH THE COMMUNITY KNEW ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? I wish that the community knew how hard we work to provide healthy, delicious food for the kiddos. We come in early to make sure we can feed them breakfast to start their day off right and lunch to keep them going throughout the day. I love to see the kids smiling, laughing, and having fun at breakfast and lunch.

    Angela Noble, Indian Trail Elementary School Kitchen ManagerAngela Noble, Indian Trail Elementary School Kitchen Manager

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN NUTRITION SERVICES? I have spent 13 years in Nutrition Services for SPS.

    WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? The thing I love most about my job is the kids! I love seeing them twice a day, sometimes more. I love to cook and bake at home and to see the kids enjoying their food. It makes me happy.

    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO COOK, EITHER AT WORK OR HOME? I love to cook and bake but anything Italian is my favorite to cook for my family.

    WHAT DO YOU WISH THE COMMUNITY KNEW ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? That my coworkers and I at Nutrition Services make good quality food everyday for some pretty amazing kids and sometimes staff! I want anyone to be able to come to me with their questions about our food because I would love to educate anyone that will listen. We "lunch workers" have a reputation have serving not-so-great food but I want everyone to know, kids and parents, it is just not true.

    Krystal Hakes, Peperzak Middle School Kitchen ManagerKrystal Hakes, Peperzak Middle School Kitchen Manager

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN NUTRITION SERVICES? I have worked in school nutrition services for 12 years, nine of them with Spokane Public Schools.

    WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Putting a smile on the kids faces and knowing in some small way we can improve their day.

    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO COOK, EITHER AT WORK OR HOME? At work, it would be the buffalo mac and cheese. The kids get so excited for it! At home I love to bake.

    WHAT DO YOU WISH THE COMMUNITY KNEW ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? That for most of us this is more than just a job. We put our whole hearts and care into it as if every kid we’re feeding was our own.

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  • New Artwork at Shaw Middle School Honors Spokane, Hillyard and Shaw Students

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 5/2/2024

    Shaw art piece

    New public buildings in Washington are required to spend a small percentage of construction funds on art. With 57 buildings across the city, Spokane Public Schools has one of the largest public art collections of any school district in our state.

    The latest piece was recently installed at Shaw Middle School. This week, the school gathered to learn about the artwork, which is displayed on a column in the school’s nutritional commons.

    Misha Tyutyunik created the painting with the help of students and staff, who were included as part of his effort to truly make it Shaw’s art.

    “If you’re creating a piece of artwork in a specific space and you’re not taking into account the people that live there, is it for them, or is it for you?” he said.

    Learn about the process in this video:

    The school and Washington State Arts Commission officially dedicated the art on April 30 at an all-school assembly. Social studies teacher Sarah Smith, who was part of the art selection committee, shared these remarks about the artwork and its meaning:

    Hello Shaw and our guests for this dedication,

    I am honored to be here as a representative from the art selection committee. We worked over the course of several months to select an artist that would best represent our school and community. Once our team selected Misha, we worked with him to gather input from our students on what Shaw, Hillyard, and Spokane mean to them and how they wanted to be represented. Misha used the input from students to design this unique mural.

    There are a few parts of the mural that I want to point out and encourage you to find for yourself when you next enter the Shaw commons. And let me know if you find other things I haven't seen yet!

    First, in the upper left, you will see a Spokane indigenous youth looking into the sun. The Spokanes are the “Children of the Sun.” Below that you'll see the railroad and factory stacks of Hillyard's proud past.

    In the upper right you see birds and stars to represent the hopes and aspirations of all students, with a rainbow to represent our inclusion of all students.

    Below you see Shaw students together around a book while a teacher figure points to those flying birds, showing the path between learning and your future.

    In the center left you can see the Monroe Street bridge with the Spokane River flowing through it. Along the river rides a Viking ship — go Shaw Vikings! —with the addition of a turtle — a Pacific Islander symbol of strength and protection.

    The design is meant to encourage your eye to see something new each time you look, to see new connections and draw new meaning for yourself. Although the actual students whose voices inspired Misha are now in high school, please know that this mural is for all members of our school and community. In part, the selection committee chose Misha because we knew he would create art that would make all who entered Shaw feel welcome and represented.

    Our schools are filled with state-commissioned artwork. See all the public art in our schools here.

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  • Beyond the Desk: The Principal’s Role in Modern Schools

    Posted by Spokane Public Schools on 5/1/2024

    Collage of photos of principals

    The principal’s office is often the last place you’ll find one.

    Instead of sitting behind a desk dispensing discipline, you’re more likely to see a principal out supervising recess, problem-solving with a family, or helping a student process heartbreak.

    For Principal Appreciation Day (May 1), we reached out to three of our 57 school principals – one at each level – to get a sense of what their work entails these days.

    It’s a big, complicated role that requires a knack for relationship building, resource management, campus safety, and much more – usually all at once.

    “I always say my number one job is to ‘make it work,’” said Ferris High School principal John O’Dell. “That means if something isn’t going right, it is my job to help surface solutions and get things going smoothly again.”

    Flett Middle School principal Matthew Henshaw said the complexity of his position has increased in relation to the broader role schools play in the community.

    “More services, activities, and supports are provided within our neighborhood schools than ever before,” he said. “The principal’s role then is to help coordinate these many varied supports to ensure they are cohesive and support the larger mission of the school.”  

    In addition to managing how her building operates each day, Ridgeview Elementary School principal Lara Nybo is focused on fostering a positive place for learning. That requires getting to know each of Ridgeview’s roughly 300 students, and their families, by being visible and accessible each day.

    “This allows me to get a pulse on things,” she said. “When I can be out at recess with my students, not only do I get to learn and know my students outside of the classrooms, but I’m more able to mitigate conflict and support students with social situations and monitor safety.” 

    A lot is expected of principals, but even on challenging days they are consistently reminded of the rewards of their positions. 

    “The thing I love most about my job is working with teachers and students,” said Mr. O’Dell. “Teachers are smart, passionate, and motivated people. As a principal I get to help support them by making life-changing contributions to our students’ lives. The students make everything more fun. They bring passion, excitement, and are always growing. It is a lot of work and takes a lot of time, but I get to be part of so many amazing moments.”

    Dr. Henshaw also finds gratification in how the role allows him to support everyone in his community in multiple ways.

    “We work with students, families, the community, and other schools,” he said. “We’re responsible for the instructional program as well as managing operations including facilities, budgets, and staffing. The opportunity to have an impactful one-on-conversation with a student and collaborate with a community partner to hold an event, on the same day, is one of the things I find rewarding.”

    Ms. Nybo said being a principal is unlike any job she’s experienced before.

    “Of course, like any job, there are ups and downs, positive and negatives,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to the kids and there is truly no greater reward than making a positive impact in the life of a child. The growth and impact I’ve been able to see these past couple years has been incredibly rewarding.”

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  • Spokane Public Schools Students and Staff Recognized at 2024 Chase Youth Awards

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 4/24/2024

    Chase Youth Awards at the Fox Theater, April 23, 2024 from Spokane Public Schools on Vimeo.

    The Chase Youth Awards, Spokane's annual recognition of outstanding youth in the greater Spokane area, were handed out April 23, and students and staff from Spokane Public Schools were well represented.

    SPS students and staff took home 17 of the 43 awards handed out in categories ranging from leadership to compassion to cultural awareness and more. Watch the event above, and here are the winners from SPS:

    Elementary School Student: Arts and Creativity

    Dakota Potter, Bryant/TEC

    Dakota has always loved to sing, started taking classes and over time is getting better and better. She is so good that our brothers wrestling coach asked her to sing at a tournament where she did so well she was asked to sing the national anthem at the State wrestling tournament. She sang in front of 21,000 people at the Tacoma Dome and received major applause for her performance. One of the organizers reached out and asked her to sing the national anthem at the 2024 Women's National Wrestling Championship where she will also be on TV. Quite an accomplishment for a nine year old and a great example of how young girls can achieve great things through hard work and dedication.

    Elementary School Group: Arts and Creativity

    Mullan Road Elementary Kelso Kids

    The Kelso Kids volunteer their time during recess and lunch to model appropriate peacemaking skills and conflict resolution. Kelso's Choices is an elementary curriculum that teaches problem solving skills to young students. These students write their own skits and demonstrate the ways to solve small problems, performing for kindergarten and first grade classrooms. They end their presentation teaching the kids a song they all perform together. These students have shown maturity, responsibility, role modeling and creativity this year.

    Teen Group: Arts and Creativity

    Shadle Park High School Theatre

    In my 30 years of teaching, I have never seen a more diverse group of students working together, and for one play there was no such thing as a marginalized community. The entire cast should get an award, but I am particularly proud of 5 students. Dominic is the first student with Down Syndrome to take a theater class.  He worked hard to break a barrier. Because of his example, 17 students with learning impairments or difficulties ended up in the theatre program. George is also a person with developmental delays. The most important thing he did was kick the door open for all students who are not neurotypical. Two of their neurotypical peers, Malaya and Alyssa really enjoyed acting with George and Dom and did an amazing job of helping them find success in the program. Finally, Jamie was the student leader for the event. She was organized and made sure all the students felt valued and heard. We recognize them for the successful inclusion of historically underrepresented students in the theatre program.

    Middle School Student: Community Service

    Marielle Sokoloff, Bryant/TEC

    I distinctly remember walking through the door and seeing Marielle standing at the kitchen counter with a stack of paper bags, bags of bread, jars of peanut butter and jelly, and bags of oranges. She made bags complete with a water bottle, sandwich, an orange, coupled with a blanket, to hand out to homeless people she saw living on the streets of Spokane. She spent hours delivering those bags and you would never know this is a girl who is too shy to talk to new people.

    Elementary School Student: Compassion

    Tori Trimble, Hutton Elementary

    Tori has Down Syndrome, but that's no what makes Tori different, it's her compassion, kindness and confidence that differentiates her from the rest. People always say "how does Tori know everybody?" and her mom and day always say it's because she isn't afraid to approach people and make friends. You could say that everybody needs a little bit of Tori in them. Who doesn't want a kind, sweet girl to come up and just be nice or play on the playground with kindness in their heart.

    Middle School Student: Compassion

    Levi Eberle, Scajawea Middle School

    Levi has always wanted to help people and will often take time out of his day to help others. Levi is the youngest of five kids and rather than keep up with his siblings and their activities, he recently volunteered to regularly help his grandma with household chores. It's not common for a seventh grader to put their own interests aside to help others, but that's just his nature. His helpful nature also comes through at school in the way he interacts with his peers, always wiling to lend a helping hand wherever needed.

    Teen: Compassion

    Larissa Truax, Rogers High School

    Larissa is one of the most observant Girl Scouts in the Council and is always looking to help others. Attending school at Rogers, she sees many needs in her neighborhood. One thing she noticed is the lack of fellowship at retirement centers. She decided to adopt a retirement center and bring some brightness there, so she brings decorations for every holiday. Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, and fall festival she adds color to the retirement center walls, bringing smiles to the residents. She also set up times with the activity director to do activities with the residents, always smiling when she comes to visit. She goes the extra mile and there are no traffic jams on that extra mile.

    Teen Group: Cultural Awareness

    Ferris High School Hispanic Honor Society

    In conjunction with the American Association of Teachers of Spanish's new group of Ambassadors, members who are heritage Spanish speakers from around the globe who have relocated to Spokane, the Ferris Hispanic Honor Society started a Conversation Club in which both Spanish and English language learners convene weekly to practice conversational skills. This Club validates our youth's confidence and identity in heritage language and cultures, while also demystifying diversity and creating empathy among youth.  In addition, they organized a partnership with the Spokane Public Language Immersion program at the Libby Center, working with students from 1st - 6th grade on Readers Theater, preparing a play called Trabajando Juntos (working together), continuing language development. There is no doubt that having serious helpers in younger language classrooms is a wonderful asset to developing multilingual youth!

    Middle School Group: Innovation

    Sacajawea Middle School Advanced Engineering, semesters 1 and 2

    Semester 1:

    After researching some of the common problems associated with Alzheimer's, the students learned that seniors living with dementia and Alzheimer's become confused and anxious about being on time. Their day is based on a schedule revolving around breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in such cases, a reliable clock designed with seniors specific needs in mind can make a significant difference in their daily lives. The students then decided to create pendulum clocks for patients at Royal Park Retirement Facility. They crafted beautiful one-of-a-kind clocks using a CAD program, laser cutters, 3D printers and measurements. When the clocks were completed the kids delivered them and met with the 30 seniors in the activity room, enjoying conversation, cookies and hot chocolate.  

    Semester 2:

    These students chose to work with JOYA Child and Family Development Center and after being presented with a dozen challenges from the head educational specialist, they decided to focus on mobility. When students researched wheelchairs, they were shocked to learn that they are made for mass market and haven't really changed over the last four decades.  Students build wheelchairs with the newest digital technology to give two boys mobility, safety and accessibility. The students began with a Porsche car seat, using it as a base and built a removable robotic wheelchair custom-made for each of the boys. One of the boys was unable to use his arms so students created a joystick he could move with his chin. Students also invented three smaller wheelchairs and tummy devices to improve children's core strength; a visual and tactile light wall similar to a light bright that teachers, parents and students can manipulate to create words, pictures, or just work on hand-eye coordination; and ten therapy toys for all students at JOYA.

    Elementary School Group: Leadership

    Wilson Elementary Leadership Team

    The leadership students recognized that it can be hard for new students to feel a sense of belonging when they enter their school. To address this, they focused their attention on a plan to welcome new students and parents called the Wilson Welcome Wagon, giving them a tour and introducing them to key staff members. They are then paired with a buddy, someone they can sit with at lunch and play with at recess, introducing them to new friends their first few days of school. In addition to supporting new students, the leadership team is embracing the traits of belonging and inclusion by looking out for any students who may feel lonely. They support school wide assemblies and create skits to teach our community about the important character traits such as kindness, empathy and teamwork. These leaders are having a positive impact on their school culture by embodying the message that you don't have to change and fit in to belong, we welcome and celebrate you just as you are.

    Middle School Student: Leadership

    Adler Masiarek, Flett Middle School

    Adler is involved in so many things at Flett and does them all with a can-do attitude, taking on many different roles, all with a smile. At Flett, we have a house system where students are grouped into one of four houses, students are required to run for election for head of house and are voted on by their peers. Adler has been head of house for two years, leading his house, uniting others and encouraging them to get involved in competitions. Students often comment how good he is at this role and they are so thankful for his being part of their house. He is also part of the student leadership group for Flett. He is involved in organizing activities to build community, and is a compassionate leader who knows how to balance taking the lead with stepping aside to provide opportunities for others. He is one of the kindest students and his level of commitment is unparalleled. He is committed to bettering himself, his classmates, his teammates, and his school community.

    Middle School Student: Personal Achievement

    Esther Mutono, Yasuhara Middle School

    Esther was born in the country of Malawi, her parents are from the Congo and her primary language is Swahili, though she also speaks Fuliiru, Chichewa and English. She is incredibly welcoming to new students at Yasuhara, especially those who arrive from other countries. She has made so much progress in her academic English vocabulary, she has helped translate to other students. Esther applied, interviewed and was selected to be in the AVID course at Yasuhara where she continues to thrive as a student. She is a member of ASB and regularly attends meetings and participates in events to help our school community. Esther is a stellar academic student who consistently has A's and B's despite only attending US schools for 2 years. She is consistently looking for ways to learn new skills, meet new people and help her school and community.

    Teen Group: Personal Achievement

    Lewis and Clark High School Boys Long Distance Track Team

    The boys team was completing a hill repeats workout when their Volunteer Assistant Coach experienced a medical emergency and collapsed. The young man who was next to him quickly summoned help from the others. They immediately called 911 and the others rolled him over, cleared his airway and began CPR. The team immediately took on a variety of rolls; some summoned help from neighbors, others went to the nearest intersection to direct emergency personnel, while some upperclassmen moved the younger athletes away from the situation while a focused group performed life saving measures on the coach. When emergency personnel arrived, they quickly revived coach with electric shock. A number of doctors, first responders, and medical personnel went out of their way to comment on what effective CPR was performed on coach and he likely would not have survived without it. This group exemplifies what team is about and how to care for eachother and work together when it matters most.

    Elementary School Student: Social Advocacy

    Marie Ross, Wilson Elementary School

    Marie is a shy kid who has always been very meek. Despite that, she is not afraid to advocate for the good of her school and classmates. The skit group at her school needed some extra funding for an activity they were planning, so she took the initiative to gather some of the other members and attend the parent-teacher group meetings to present their ideas and ask for financial support. Until she joined this group, she did not like talking to people she didn't know, let alone a room of adult strangers, but her conviction was strong and her desire to help them was put above her own fears.  

    Teen Group: Social Advocacy

    Lewis and Clark High School Hope Squad

    Hope Squad is a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program built around the power of connection. Hope Squad members have a goal of preventing suicide through public awareness and education, reducing stigma, and serving as a resource to those touched by suicide. The program is aimed at spreading hope, increasing help-seeking behavior, and fostering community and connection.  Hope Squad members are nominated and chosen by their classmates as trustworthy peers. Since first introduced at LCHS in September of this school year, the Hope Squad has already helped 9 students, assisting them with everything ranging from a serious mental health crisis to conflict resolution. In February, they put on an amazing hope week where they promoted positive school culture through education and activities to bring further awareness. This group is working together to reduce stigma and bring positive influence to their school culture.

    James E. Chase Adult Award

    Fondra Magee, Stevens Elementary

    Fondra's contribution and impact to Stevens Elementary is so profound that she was recently named Washington State Counselor of the Year! She goes above and beyond daily, tirelessly working to ensure our students and families are cared for emotionally, physically and mentally. Stevens is a high-needs school with approximately 93% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch, experiencing homelessness, and many coping with significant levels of trauma. In response to those challenges, Fondra has created a counseling program that addresses the comprehensive well-being of our students. Her commitment to meeting the diverse needs of our students is evident through her application of play therapy, innovative classroom lessons addressing social skills, playground etiquette, and behavior management, and her individualized approaches in connecting with and meeting the needs of students and families from many different backgrounds. Fondra also actively engages our parents and guardians through initiatives such as the "Coffee with Counselors" group where valuable parenting skills are shared. The relationships and safe spaces Fondra provides our students are also extended to our families and it shows in the trusting relationships she has built with them as a partner in their child's education and well-being. Fondra's work will continue to inspire and make a lasting difference in the lives of our students, families and staff, as well as all those she serves.

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  • Shadle Leadership Class Evolves to Include More Students

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 4/22/2024

    Scott Harmon in class

    April 22 – 26 is National Student Leadership Week. We visited the leadership class at Shadle Park High School recently to see student leaders in action and how the leadership class has evolved.

    In the leadership class at Shadle Park High School, 50 students spread out over two classrooms, in the school and across Spokane’s north side.

    The hustle and bustle of the leadership class never stops. Some students are visiting feeder pattern elementary schools to mentor kids and spend time with them at recess. Others are in the gym practicing for the school’s upcoming spring sports pep con. Others are in the classroom creating materials for the upcoming talent show and the staff vs. students kickball match.

    Student leadership classes in SPS high schools have evolved over the last few decades. In the past, seats at Shadle were limited to about 25 students who had to be juniors or seniors—generally those who were heavily involved in school activities.

    Now, schools are opening more seats for students to be involved in school leadership. At Shadle, that meant getting a second teacher involved.

    Scott Harmon and Brooke Meyer were both heavily involved in student leadership in their days as students at Shadle Park. Now teachers, they partnered three years ago to team up and advise the class, which allowed them to raise the total number of students to 50. They also opened it up to sophomores.

    “We’re trying not to be exclusive,” Harmon said. “We are trying to get it so we are more inclusive by having a more broader swath of students, and not just those who are involved in other school activities.”Student in gym

    The traditional high school leadership class involved tons of activities – from pep cons to spirit games to school dances and other events. That hasn’t gone away, though it waxes and wanes each school year. Harmon and Meyer are interested in providing more lessons on leadership for their students.

    “We’re looking at doing College in the Classroom next year in leadership, so that should ramp it up to teaching more leadership skills and not just activities. We need to teach within those activities,” Meyer said.

    “There is a business leadership model, a military leadership model, and athletics and coaching leadership model – there are lots of different models, so we try and demonstrate those through actions,” Harmon added.

    Harmon and Meyer have invited speakers to talk to the class about leadership and the skills necessary to be a good leader.

    The class isn’t as predictable as, say, a history class with defined units throughout each semester. With so many activities and events happening in high school, leadership students are needed in a variety of ways.

    “We’ve team taught for three years and have known each other for 30 years, and yet every day is something new,” Harmon said. “We never sit down and think, ‘What should we do today?’ You can’t do that in this class.”

    The activities managed by the leadership class still offer valuable lessons that students will take with them after graduation.

    “Leadership has been mislabeled an easy A, but the class has different levels of stress for different projects,” Harmon said. “We talk about stress for a final exam. Well, planning Groovy Shoes is a final exam in a major way. Or a school dance, or an event for our DI (Designed Instruction) program. It’s more of a life lesson on how you deal with adversity, how you deal with pressure, how you deal with communications, all those things.”

    Harmon and Meyer learned those lessons at Shadle when they were in high school. Now, they’re teaching the same lessons and passing the baton to our future leaders.

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  • Students at The Community School Team up with KREM 2 to Broadcast the TCS News Hour

    Posted by The Community School on 4/11/2024

    TCS students at KREM news desk

    On February 5, 2024, juniors and seniors at The Community School (TCS), along with their facilitators Tami Linane-Booey and Nathan Seaburg, partnered with the national student journalism program, PBS Student Reporting Labs. The project, Student Reporters, asked students the question, How can we communicate complex ideas in an authoritative, balanced and effective manner? 

    Students were first introduced to the idea of journalistic writing and were challenged to craft a news article about a career in media. The students worked vigorously, researching and gathering feedback in order to produce their articles. Local journalists from KREM TV, The Inlander and The Spokesman-Review came to TCS to speak to students about their jobs and give advice.

    Next, students looked at all the possible topics for the national contest, a chance to have their news story featured on PBS NewsHour. These groups then began to brainstorm and peruse the internet, narrowing down their main topic. They looked at the broad topics of gun violence, real life lessons, and book bans, and learned how to turn those topics into newsworthy stories. Each reporting team outlined, scripted, filmed and edited 3- to 5-minute news packages. Stories ranged from financial literacy laws, to how local authors deal with book bans, and stories on meditation in schools and the local music scene. Local PBS affiliate KSPS and representatives from Student Reporting Labs as well as Community Minded TV all supported students with expertise and equipment.student at news desk

    With two weeks left before the national contest deadline, students were given the option to take on a new challenge and make their own news hour. On Monday, March 11, this select group of students bused to KREM. Long-time reporter Laura Pepetti gave the students a tour and allowed us to watch her report during the noon broadcast.

    Students went to work the next day. A student-run production team formed and jobs and deadlines created. They had three days to create a show! The following Monday, students arrived back at KREM, but this time they took over the studio! The logo, on-air graphics, and script were ready.  Now, they recorded their written anchor segments. Laura Papetti and the rest of her team advised TCS students throughout the recordings, and gave meaningful feedback with tips on how to act on camera. 

    Back at TCS, they put it all together. Students scramble to complete last-minute edits, marketing, and even created public service announcements. A bonus for this team was lead editor, Devin Gibbs. Devin is the first student from TCS to be a part of the KSPS Media Makers internship. He has worked at KSPS all year, learning to edit and produce content. Head of graphics, Josephine Kahler, created the logo and supervised all the graphic contests. Josephine, a senior at TCS, spent their junior year in the graphic arts department at Skill Center.  

    “This project was a great way to explore new skills, and play to the strengths of different students,” Josephine said.

    After editing all the news segments, creating all the graphic transitions, and making the sound just right, it is ready for prime time! Enjoy the show:

    This blog was written by students at The Community School. Photographs taken by TCS junior Chase Dewey.

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  • School libraries: How the space, and use, has changed

    Posted by Ryan Lancaster on 4/9/2024

    Teacher looking at student in library.

    If you haven’t visited a school library in a while, you may picture a quiet home for dusty tomes, overseen by a shushing librarian and their well-ordered card catalog.

    But the spaces – and the people who manage them – have evolved to be more open and engaging, offering access to 21st century technology and a range of learning for every age group.

    They can even be – gasp – noisy.

    “We let students eat and be loud in the library,” said Lewis & Clark High School Library Information Specialist (LIS), Mark Robbins. “We host a lot of after-school clubs. And it feels more like a coffee shop than a computer lab, which is what it felt like to me before.”

    Students now bring their own laptops, and when Mark and fellow LIS Eric Woodard aren’t busy troubleshooting tech, they’re working to brand the library as a safe, comfortable place for all. The shelves are filled with locally purchased books co-curated by students and staff at the school. There's chess, a well-attended Nintendo and Dungeons & Dragons club, even sewing machines available for checkout.

    Librarian stands in front of a computer in a library.

    Thanks to more efficient systems, the process of checking out actual books takes up relatively little time, although Mark said he enjoys connecting with students over what they’re reading. He also coordinates with staff and teachers to promote literacy and finds resources to support what’s being taught in class.

    “We want the library to be an extension of every classroom,” Mark said.

    New space, new name

    Instead of a library, the recently built Flett Middle School has a “learning commons,” which has few walls and is located at the heart of the building. It’s a busy place, where students are encouraged to work and create together.

    LIS Michelle Meek said the space and furniture are designed to facilitate collaboration while still allowing students to find quiet when needed. Like her high school counterparts, she does much more than process book borrowing.

    “We teach students how to use the self-check and Spokane Public Library resources so they have access to books anytime, which frees us to help students and teachers in other ways,” Michelle said.

    Librarian speaks with student.

    Most of that time is spent guiding students to be better learners by becoming adept at accessing information for research or personal interest, managing and using technology, growing into critical thinkers. "Sometimes we just provide a space and tools for them to take a break from the world,” she said. “What I love most about my job is that I get to connect with so many people for different purposes.”

    Beyond storytime

    A common misconception Katie Anderson hears about her job as Cooper Elementary School’s LIS is that it’s all about coloring, playing, and reading books with students.

    “There are of course times those things happen, but the 45 minutes we get each week with students are all used intentionally,” she said. “Our instruction must align with American Association of School Librarian standards that correlate to the report card. We give grades based not only on observational data, but multiple assessment data points as well, just like their classroom teachers.”

    Her students learn how to type, code, conduct ethical research, understand digital etiquette and safety, work with peers and much more. She collaborates with teachers to create interdisciplinary connections, helps students find great books and authors, and – yes – occasionally reads aloud to a group of rapt little people sitting crisscross applesauce.

    “What I love most is getting to teach all the students every year and getting to know them all so well,” Katie said. “I get to witness their growth and build on each skill or process as they move towards middle school.”

    All this happens in one moderately sized, very engaging space. Each square foot of the elementary library has a purpose, from Maker Spaces and story stairs to an interactive flat panel for students to manipulate. One area houses an audio book station for young readers while another hosts a KSPS PBS cart with iPads for classroom teacher checkout. There are book displays to pique student interest and curated bins of books based on each heritage month.

    Katie sums it up: “The library is no longer a just a computer lab with books; it's become much more encompassing than that.”

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  • Story ideas? Contact Director of Media/Marketing Ryan Lancaster: 509.354.7348