More SPS Stories

  • Empowering Young Women Summit connects girls with local leaders

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 5/26/2023

    A woman speaking into a microphone on a panel with other women to a group of high school students.

    "Be willing to walk through the door when it's opened to you. Even when you're nervous about what's on the other side, even if you're not sure it's what you want to do … walk through it and see."

    That was advice from Innovia Foundation CEO Shelly O'Quinn to group of 70 high school students during Spokane Public Schools' first Empowering Young Women Summit at the NEWESD 101 Talbott Event Center on Wednesday, May 24.

    The day itself was full of open doors, as students heard advice from 22 local women who have found professional success in diverse industries – including academia and education, emergency services, journalism, engineering and construction, banking and finance, and more.

    "We organized this event to introduce young women in our high schools to successful women. We want them to learn from local leaders that hard work, dedication, and a support network helps create a bright future as they achieve their post-secondary goals," said Becky Ramsey, SPS Director of Teaching and Learning.

    Students asked questions about making sure their work is valued and working with people who may not always offer respect. They also had time to connect one-on-one with panelists, asking advice about specific careers.

    Montana Elder, a junior at North Central High School, said she was excited to attend because she likes hearing other women’s stories. "I want to know how they got to the position they are in. I want to be inspired as well," she said.

    A woman speaks with students.

    Following a lunch provided by students in NEWTech Prep’s Culinary and Hospitality program, students also participated in a Q&A with local elected leaders, moderated by KREM 2 News investigative reporter and anchor Whitney Ward.

    Students shared about dealing with discouragement and asked how leaders overcame barriers to their goals.

    Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney talked about wanting to improve conditions for other women interested in leadership roles. "You need to have the courage to have conversations and have the facts, so you can challenge others in a respectful way," she said. "If you are kind and respectful, then they will get the point."

    "You have to have a good relationship with yourself," said Ochoa-Bruck. "You've heard of imposter syndrome? You must affirm yourself. You've earned this job, you belong here."

    Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward reminded the group that even when making goals and striving for something, they should be flexible and forgiving if things don’t go according to plan. "Let yourself make mistakes. Give yourself grace if you decide to change course, your path will still get you where you want to go," she said.

    "Try not to be intimidated," Councilwoman Karen Statton advised. "Think about the people that you want to be strong for."

    SPS School Board Vice President Nikki Lockwood, who was the first person of Latinx/Hispanic heritage elected to public office in Spokane, told the group it can be hard to see yourself as a leader when you’ve never seen a role model resembling yourself. "We are the hopes and dreams of our ancestors, we all came from strong people," she said, reminding students to stay positive even in negative situations.

     Thank you to these guests for their time and support of SPS students:

    Dr. Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Washington State University Health Sciences Spokane

    Dr. Melissa Bedford, Spark Central; SPS Board of Directors

    Alisha Benson, Greater Spokane Inc.

    Bridget Blackmore, Spokane Fire Department

    Catherine Brazil, University of Washington

    Channing Curtis, KREM 2 News

    Shannon Demant, College Success Foundation

    Marty Dickinson, STCU

    Anna Franklin, Providence EWA/MT

    Coach Lisa Fortier, Gonzaga University Women’s Basketball

    Melissa Gombosky, Gombosky Public Affairs

    Michelle Hege, DH

    Dr. Lori Hunt, Community Colleges of Spokane

    Bri Kastning, McKinstry

    Commissioner Mary Kuney, Spokane County

    Director Nikki Otero Lockwood, SPS Board of Directors

    Judge Julie McKay, Spokane County Superior Court

    Captain Tracie Meidl, Spokane Police Department

    Shelly O'Quinn, Innovia Foundation

    Judge Gloria Ochoa-Bruck, City of Spokane Municipal Court

    Tracy Poindexter-Canton, NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101; Artist

    Destiny Richards, KXLY 4 News Now

    Councilwoman Karen Stratton, Spokane City Council

    Stephanie Simpkins, North Star Enterprises

    Linda Underwood, Banner Bank

    Whitney Ward, KREM 2 News

    Mayor Nadine Woodward, City of Spokane

    Weiling Zhu, Spokane Symphony

    Special thanks to event sponsor STCU, whose financial support helped make this opportunity possible.


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  • Students, community make regalia for the first Pauline Flett Pow Wow

    Posted by Theresa Tanner on 5/19/2023

    Student cutting ribbon for skirt.

    “For a long time, Indigenous people couldn’t be who we are – our culture was banned,” said SPS Native Education coordinator Tamika LaMere, a member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. “For me personally, ribbon skirts and shirts are a symbol of Indigenous pride, of resiliency, of power. It shows that we are still here.” 

    This week, about 25 students, school staff and community members gathered at Flett Middle School for a Ribbon Skirt and Shirt making workshop with Spokane Schools Native Education, in preparation for the first ever Pauline Flett Pow Wow on Saturday, May 20, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 

    In the later part of the 18th century, European colonizers brought silk ribbons and other items to trade with the Anishinaabe people in the Great Lakes region. The ribbons were used as an appliqué to decorate garments like skirts and shawls, and the craft was adopted by tribes throughout Turtle Island – the name of the North American continent among many Indigenous tribes.  

    The practice had all but vanished by the early 1900s as the U.S. government separated tribes from their homelands and ways of life, but a resurgence of Native American cultural traditions and activism helped to revive the craft in the 1970s. Today, garments adorned with ribbons are often worn at native cultural events, like pow wows. More information and history about ribbon work can be found at Milwaukee Public Museum. 

    At this week’s workshop, measurements were taken, then fabric was cut by Anna Eagle Bear, an SPS Multi-Tiered System of Supports specialist who is a member of the Diné tribe. Students, staff, and community volunteers cut ribbons and affixed them with basting adhesive before the fabric was sewn together. Everyone supported one another, whether showing someone how to use a sewing machine or helping to pick out and place ribbons. 

    “They can choose whatever fabric and colors speak to them as an individual,” Tamika said, as students laid out ribbons across patterned fabric.  

    See more photos of the activity on Facebook.

    The students will have the opportunity to wear their regalia at the inaugural Pauline Flett Pow Wow on Saturday, which is being organized in collaboration with multiple individuals and organizations to honor Pauline Pascal Flett and her legacy; check out this video by KSPS to learn more about Spokane Tribe elder Pauline Flett and her lifelong efforts to save the Spokane Salish language: 

    Flett principal Dr. Matthew Henshaw hopes to expand opportunities for students to connect with Native cultural traditions next year, with more workshops to make regalia and learn songs and dances in preparation for the new tradition at the school. 

    Learn more about the first Pauline Flett Pow Wow and thank you to the community partners that are sponsoring this event: WSU Spokane Native American Health Sciences, Salish School of Spokane, The NATIVE Project, University of Washington, Sister Sky, Elk Soup, and Spokane Tribe of Indians. 

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  • Clancy Heine leads Shaw’s Islander Club while planning for its future

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 5/8/2023

    Shaw Islander Club Members

    Late in the 2021-22 school year, Shaw Middle School eighth graders approached English Language Development teacher Cynthia Hagan about starting a club for the school’s large number of Pacific Islander students.

    While there wasn’t a lot of time to host many meetings, Principal Jon Swett asked the fledgling Islander Club to host a celebration for the entire school in honor of Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May.

    “The kids came together, they learned a dance and did it in front of the whole school,” Hagan said.

    It was a hit, and to ensure the club was sustainable, Hagan picked some students who really stood out to lead the club for the 2022-23 school year. One of them was Clancy Heine, a Marshallese student who’s lived in Spokane since 2015.

    Heine was suddenly thrust into leading the club after his friend and fellow Shaw Pacific Islander student Henry tragically passed away last summer in an accident. This forced Heine to grow up quickly and lead the burgeoning group to honor his friend.

    Heine has learned a valuable lesson in leading the group under such circumstances.

    “There’s good times and we have bad times, but it’s mostly good times,” he said. “We learn how to overcome challenges and learn who we are.”

    The Islander Club at Shaw is now busy preparing for another schoolwide showcase. Heine and his fellow club members, which include his sister, are also serving as mentors and positive examples for their fellow Islanders and classmates. Hagan said Heine is often in the hallways encouraging others.

    “He comes along and if he sees sixth and seventh graders in the halls when they’re not supposed to be, it’s ‘Get to class, don’t be tardy.’ He’s setting that example for them, too,” Hagan said.

    Heine hopes to be a role model, and to encourage others to keep the club going after he leaves for Rogers High School next year.

    “We’re training them to be like us next year when we’re in ninth grade,” he said. “It’s been challenging at times but it’s good.”

    Clancy Chase Youth Award Heine’s strength in the face of adversity helped him win this year’s Chase Youth Award for Leadership for middle school students.

    “I was shocked,” he said of his award. “I thought I wasn’t going win until I heard my name. I was happy.”

    Hagan was extremely proud of the award, which is a testament to Heine’s growth and maturity in leading Shaw’s Islander Club.

    “The main reason I nominated him was because it was a very hard start to the year for us and he stepped up to the plate and said, ‘I’m going to be a leader for Henry’ and he did,” she said.

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  • Fifth grade project tackles a big question: How to change the world

    Posted by Ryan Lancaster on 5/4/2023

    Student speaks to woman in front of a display.

    Trifold posterboards lined the Libby Center’s multipurpose room last week, each flanked by a student proudly presenting research to meandering family members.

    No, not a science fair. More of a call to action, led by fifth graders.

    Since early January, Shannon Gilfeather’s class at Odyssey has been working on a passion project with a community service twist. Student in front of a display, smiling.

    “I gave them the challenge to pick something that they’re interested in and passionate about and then pushed them to create a connection back to their community,” Shannon said. “We titled the project ‘Be the Change,’ to do individual research into something you love and contribute to the community in which we live.” 

    Their efforts culminated on Thursday, April 27, with the “Be the Change Family Festival,” which included an array of projects. Several centered on homelessness, environmental concerns, and animal welfare.

    Girl with mom and brother in front of display. Zoey investigated what types of toys make cats happiest, then made and donated a slew of them to local shelters. Kelsey’s presentation explained the mental health benefits of pets, which she hopes may lead more people to adopt one of their own. 

    Camden made polar fleece dog coats he’ll donate to local homeless shelters for the dogs of unhoused individuals.

    “They don’t really have enough money to keep the dogs warm enough during the winter,” he said. “I learned that a dog’s body temperature is usually 102 degrees, which is fever temperature for humans.”

    One student wrote a how-to for making and donating no-sew fleece blankets to homeless shelters, while another modeled how 3-D printed houses might provide a longer-term solution to homelessness.Group of people in front of a display.

    “My project is about how birthday parties affect people who are living in shelters,” said E, who volunteers at St. Margaret’s Shelter with their parents. “There are a lot of homeless children there. Birthday parties increase happiness, hope, and cohesion among their families and others living at the shelters.” 

    Avoiding fast fashion while supporting local shops, 3-D printing toys for children at Sacred Heart, creating handmade cards and delivering them to the elderly – every project was carefully considered and executed with one central goal in mind – making our world a better place.

    “I’m so proud of these students,” Shannon told the gathered group. “They’ve spent the last four months putting their best ingenuity, heart, thought, and soul into these projects. They blew it out of the water.” 

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  • SPS board member Melissa Bedford celebrates her Asian American heritage

    Posted by Communications Staff on 5/2/2023

    Melissa Bedford In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Melissa Bedford, Executive Director of Spark Central and a member of the Spokane Public Schools Board of Directors, shares barriers and victories she has faced as an Asian American woman.

    How has your Asian American heritage shaped your world view?

    I have to go backwards a little bit here to where I started growing up and for me, I identify as Chinese, Filipino, and half white. So multiracial Asian American.

    It really wasn’t until high school where I had an incident that was the starting point of the shift for my worldview. Sophomore year in high school, the boy down the street and I got into an argument because he was kind of a bully. He insulted me using a racial slur, and I remember I was so in shock, I did not know how to respond. That was one of those moments where I think about how it shaped my worldview. There are people who sadly have hate in their heart and will use your race against you.

    I see young folks who are also multiracial, and I think, if they can see me as someone to look up to, as someone who has this multiracial identity, it really is inspiring. I view my identity as a powerful, positive tool of being able to inspire and get into rooms to use my cultural background in a way that promotes good and positive change.

    Who are the role models that have helped guide you in your culture?

    I would absolutely say my mom and my wawa (which means “grandmother” in Tagalog). Knowing all they have done being Asian and Chinese, and the hurdles they went through to support me to get where I am now. My parents were always hardworking and again, so thankful for Wawa, for helping raise me because that made it possible for my parents to work their jobs.

    My wawa raised eight children in a very small apartment. She would go without food sometimes to make sure that the kids ate. If there was anything leftover, that’s what she would have. But it was always putting her children first.

    How did you come to appreciate your own culture?

    Paying attention to what’s happening in the world around us has helped me appreciate my culture more because I feel like differences shouldn’t pull us apart. It should bring us together, right? When we come together, we can create such a beautiful place. So that has definitely impacted me, just really appreciating and being very proud of who I am.

    I see these older Asian Americans, these Asian actors and, politicians and just leaders in our communities and I look up to them, and so I think, “What about these young folks? Who can they look up to?” If I could be that to someone, I feel like I've won. Those are the aspects that just keep me going. I am so proud to be who I am and like I said, it wasn't always that way.

    What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Month mean to you?

    I’m very thankful that we have these months to celebrate and highlight our Asian Americans in our communities and in our world. One of the things I do always say, especially as I’ve taught future teachers, is always remember, people exist outside these months. It’s very humbling and I just feel very honored that I get to use my voice and hopefully inspire people.

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  • SPS teachers using Artificial Intelligence to improve their practice

    Posted by Kevin Dudley on 4/26/2023

    AI header

    Artificial Intelligence isn’t new, but how AI is being used certainly is. That’s especially true in K-12 education, as AI’s emergence is turning heads throughout the industry.

    Instead of shying away from AI, Spokane Public Schools is exploring uses that may improve the way we learn and work. That includes the classroom, of course, which is where Jared Kennedy is embracing the technology.

    Kennedy is an instructional coach at Frances Scott Elementary, where he works with teachers to identify instructional goals intended to enhance student achievement. Kennedy connected with SPS special programs coordinator Nick Lundberg, who connected him with software called AI Coach that helps educators assess their own teaching methods.

    Here’s how it works: Teachers record themselves giving a lesson, then upload the video to the software, which walks them through a step-by-step assessment based on specific, teacher-selected goals. The software provides feedback as if it were observing in the classroom, much like a principal or other administrator does for evaluations.

    “It’s very difficult to watch yourself teach. However, it’s one of the most powerful professional development opportunities as a teacher,” Lundberg said. “So, this is a great first step, because it’s safe. Nobody watches the video except for the teacher. It’s a great entry point for teachers to ger started.”

    Kennedy started using AI software in December with some of the teachers at Scott Elementary.

    “By being able to reflect with video, it gives you the chance to have that objective evaluation about how the lesson went,” he said. “A lot of times you can glean cool information that’s really actionable.”

    The teachers Kennedy works with have provided positive feedback about using the software, which SPS is piloting. While traditional principal evaluations aren’t going anywhere, AI allows teachers to own their assessment and use it for personal professional development.

    “They’re the ones truly reflecting and they’re kind of getting stimulating questions from the AI,” Kennedy said. “The big pitch was that it gives you a chance to reflect on your own productions without having to feel any pressure from any other person guiding you through the process.”

    Since the teacher is the one choosing the goals, they control their development. AI provides feedback that allows them to think more deeply about their practice.

    Like any emerging technology, AI might be viewed with some trepidation or skepticism. That hasn’t been the case with the SPS staff piloting this approach.

    “The timing and the explosion into ChatGPT and all that was perfect because it gets people interested in it,” Lundberg said. “So far there hasn’t been any hesitancy that I’ve heard. There’s actually been a lot of interest.”

    From a professional development perspective, the next goal for Lundberg is to expand AI's use in schools or intervention groups. Kennedy also sees a day where teams of teachers use it to learn about their teaching styles and learn from others.

    “I think the possibilities are pretty endless with this. I think it would be cool to allow teachers to engage with one another to see different video clips and reflect that way,” Kennedy said.

    AI is here to stay. Teachers in SPS are embracing it to become better at their craft, which will ultimately help students.

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  • SPS environmental clubs prepare for Earth Day

    Posted by Ryan Lancaster on 4/18/2023

    Students standing with bags of trash outdoors.

    Every day is Earth Day, but in the leadup to April 22 (actual Earth Day), we checked in with environmental clubs at Ferris, Shadle Park, and Lewis & Clark high schools to see how they celebrate, and why they feel it’s important to get involved.

    Ferris’ club has been handed down from one class of students to the next for the past six years.

    “Our mission is to bring together like-minded individuals to discuss current issues pertaining to our local and global communities as well as brainstorming ideas to make environmental conversations more attainable for our entire school,” said current club president and senior Cadence Lay.

    Cadence said it’s vital to preserve the health and stability of the environment – and by extension our entire society – no matter who you are or where you come from. Young people are especially important, she said, because this generation will affect the wellbeing of the planet for decades.

    “Our willingness to engage in the problems our world faces today will push us in the direction of a brighter future,” she said.

    Shadle Park club president Jo Caslow agrees, saying, “Young people help to build our environment for the future generations, and those generations deserve to live in a healthy community and ecosystem.” 

    Jo and other club members joined the annual Spokane River Cleanup, and are working after school with the local organization Growing Neighbors to finish beds for a community garden on Longfellow Avenue this spring.

    Lewis & Clark’s club is also active. This past Sunday they also took part in a river cleanup, and are attending Earth Fest activities at Turbull Wildlife Refuge on Saturday (, and the Hope For Creation Conference later in the day (

    Students cleaning up a riverbank. LC club advisor Cory Davis said they’ve been going strong for about 5 years, with involvement of students from all grades.

    “I’m most proud of this group for the fact that they run this themselves,” Cory said. “The environment is facing serious challenges, and the scientific forecasts of 20 years ago are here, now. The energy of our younger generation along with their hope and creativity coupled with the knowledge, finances, and positions those who are older hold is an encouraging prospect.”

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  • LCHS Culture Night brings school and community together

    Posted by Communications Staff on 3/27/2023

    LC Culture Night

    Jet Shee is a sophomore at Lewis & Clark High School. About seven years ago, he and his family fled their home country of Thailand and came to Spokane as refugees through World Relief.

    Anilang Alee, also a sophomore at Lewis & Clark, came to Spokane 12 years ago with his parents from the Marshall Islands looking for jobs and better opportunities where the water wasn’t contaminated with radiation.

    Shee and Alee are now involved with LC’s Multicultural Club and helped organize their second annual Culture Night for students and families to celebrate their cultures and those of their classmates.

    The event was student-led, and Shee and Alee were at the microphone throughout the evening introducing dancers, singers and a fashion show to showcase the common attire from different cultures. A meal followed with students and families from LC’s feeder pattern schools.

    “It’s a way to represent our cultures and our school,” Shee said of the event. “Being in the middle of this city, we’re going to have all sorts of people from everywhere. It’s a great way to represent and show our stories.”LC Culture Night Display

    “We wanted to host this so people can get their story out,” Alee added. “People that don’t know about our cultures will learn about our cultures. We wanted to create this so we can have fun explaining our cultures.”

    The fun was on full display in the LC commons.

    The dances, songs and fashion show were a huge hit with students confidently showcasing their culture. Students also arranged about 20 display tables to share what it’s like living in Mexico, Iraq, Tonga, and lots of other places around the globe.

    “There are a lot of different backgrounds at LC,” Shee said. “Some people come from places where there are wars that destroyed their country and they had to flee to here. Others came for better opportunities.”

    LC Culture Night Dance In the afternoon before Culture Night, displays were set up during the school day for all of LC’s 1,700-plus students to explore and learn. Shee and Alee both said the student turnout was higher this year.

    “A lot more people were interested and curious because they heard how good it was last year,” Shee said.

    Culture Night is a big celebration, but there’s also a long-term benefit to hosting these events. Both Shee and Alee said they felt the events invigorated the overall culture at LC and educated students, too.

    “I think this event makes the kids happy because there’s more for them to teach and more kids that want to learn about their culture,” Alee said.

    The event also educates the international students. While organizing the event, Shee was enlightened about the diversity of his school.

    “I was really surprised at how many refugees we have, specifically from Ukraine, but also Iraq, Afghanistan,” he said. “It surprised me that there are kids with similar backgrounds or backgrounds of war or poverty. They came from all around the world to here.”

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  • STEM clubs reach young girls and introduce them to potential careers

    Posted by Communications Staff on 3/20/2023

    Girls Who Code

    Women are making gains in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, according to research (as shown here and here). But they’re still underrepresented in relation to male counterparts. That’s one reason why Spokane Public Schools elementary STEM clubs are so important: they get kids – especially girls – to take an early interest in these fields.

    “At such a young age, girls can go in a lot of different career paths. If they’re not encouraged to go into STEM, they might go a different direction,” said Nicole Limberg, a second-year medical student at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in Spokane and the leader of the Girls in STEM Club at Grant Elementary. “I’m just introducing this idea, having them do hands-on activities and introducing very specific careers to show them they have options.”

    Girls in STEM

    Students have continuing opportunities in middle and high school to deeply explore different career paths in STEM through Career and Technical Education programs. But early exposure via library information specialists and STEM-related clubs starts them on their way.

    Girls in STEM Lela is a fourth grader at Grant who wants to be a scientist when she grows up. That’s why she joined the Girls in STEM Club at her school.

    “I like science a lot. I can do actual science like designing stuff in this club,” she said. “One time we built a volcano with baking powder, and it was really fun.”

    “Every session is focused on a STEM career and then the girls build something related to it,” said Limberg, who volunteers her time at Grant as part of WSU’s community engagement program.

    The club recently read about ecology and how animals adapt to different environments. After a brief lesson, club members built models of animals and compared how they might adapt to different settings.

    The hands-on activities pique the interest of Adelaide, a fifth grader at Grant.

    “It’s not boring and it helps explain what’s going on and what you’re doing,” she said.

    At Moran Prairie Elementary, the Girls Who Code Club is in its first year. Karen Branin, a substitute teacher in Spokane Public Schools and a chemical engineer by trade, leads the group of fourth, fifth and sixth graders. Branin was only exposed to coding in college, and wants kids, particularly girls, to be introduced at an earlier age to spark curiosity about the trade.

    Branin uses curriculum developed by Girls Who Code, the national computer science advocacy group. The curriculum is set up for elementary students. Instead of writing traditional HTML code, students learn how to create a digital scene with characters, indoor and outdoor settings, animals and more, while problem solving to figure out how to make their characters do what they want.

    One student wanted their character to be in an ocean setting talking to a crab with sunglasses. She found blocks of code that would make her character talk, move to the right within five seconds, and more.Girls who Code

    “They’re still at the age where they’re willing to try new things and fail without being embarrassed or wondering what their peers might think,” Branin said.

    That’s a lesson fourth grader Alaina took to heart.

    “I’ve learned that when you make a mistake, you have to just try again and it’s always OK to ask for help even if you think you don’t need it,” she said, adding that she likes the creativity of coding. “I like how you can kind of make whatever you want. It’s fun to just experiment to see what you’re making.”

    Her friend Taylor agrees.

    “I like how you get to have your imagination go. You get to make up things that probably wouldn’t happen in real life,” she said.

    Coding, being creative and solving problems isn’t something the students knew much about before joining the club. Now, they’re mesmerized.

    “We start with an hour, but these girls can code for way past an hour,” Branin said. “When I have to tell them to shut down the computer, they’re all screaming, ‘Just a minute more!’ because they all want to keep going.”

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  • Education Club creating a pipeline for future teachers

    Posted by Ryan Lancaster on 3/12/2023

    Students and teachers standing in front of school

    It’s after school on Wednesday at Frances Scott Elementary, and 17 students have willingly stayed behind for a surprising reason – to practice school.

    “We’re going to run through some scenarios,” explains Sean Mills, one of three teachers in the classroom. “Think about what you would do if you were the teacher. Table talk.”

    He slides a worksheet under the projector: “One student is doing all the work in their group’s activity. Their peers are messing around. How would you make sure everyone contributes and has their voice heard?”

    Students consider, then share out. Some choose immediate discipline while others opt for a softer approach. “I’d probably sit with that group and explain why each person has to do something,” one girl contributes.

    Welcome to Education Club, a unique experiment aiming to inspire future teachers who – after some growing and a few diplomas – will hopefully return to this very school and start the process anew.

    Teacher speaking with students at desk. Club rules are straightforward. Any 5th or 6th grader at Scott with an interest in teaching was invited to join. Members must maintain quality classwork to participate in visits to younger classes once a week, where they’re expected to observe teaching methods, help out where asked, and jot notes to address in their bi-weekly group meeting after school.

    “Some have been tasked with being a one-on-one helper with students who need additional support, others are asked to help whenever they see something that needs to be done in the classroom,” says Ian McKinley, one of the teachers who advises the students. “We’re still in the early stages of this club and students will be given more responsibilities as the year progresses.”

    Lindsey is a sixth grader who joined to experience what being a teacher is like. She describes the first time she stood in front of a classroom of younger students as “nerve-wracking, with lots of eyes staring at me and kids talking a lot.” She loves it now and has dreams of becoming a 7th grade history teacher.

    Another 6th grade club member, Sussity, wants to teach kindergarteners.

    “They’re sweet and cute and they listen,” she says, underlining a common grievance among club members. “The biggest challenge is getting kids to pay attention.”

    Fifth grade club member Anya says the club experience is making her more attentive with her own teachers.

    “When I think of myself in the teacher’s position, I now know how it would feel kind of to have a classroom full of people and have put so much time into something when nobody listens, and you feel like they don’t care.”

    Sarah Hawkes attended this school from kindergarten to sixth grade. The first in her family to attend college, she now teaches first grade at Scott and is helping with the club. Her sixth-grade son, Brandon, is a member. Young girl teaching students.

    “I always wanted to come back and teach in this community, to give back to here,” Sarah says, adding that sharing her example is why she’s involved. “I built a good life for myself, and I know my son sees that. I’m a single parent for two boys, and this is a great career to have time with them while being able to provide for them. We live in a community with struggles, but so many options exist for these kids.”

    Sarah says the club can be a silly place for kids to just connect as kids, but it’s most gratifying when she sees the students take charge.

    “Seeing them with the kids in class in a leadership role is just beautiful,” she says. “Watching them actually engage in a mature way to help a younger student.”

    Ian says another benefit of the club is that it’s giving students of color a chance to envision themselves as educators. While the racial and ethnic diversity of K-12 public school teachers has increased in recent decades, it hasn’t kept pace with the rapid growth in student diversity, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

    “When we were starting this, we discussed how there’s no real route to get experience as an educator for students, especially those from underserved backgrounds,” he says. “We wanted to ensure that the students in our school were able to see teaching as a real option for themselves in their futures rather than something that would be unattainable.”

    Amiyah, a club sixth grader, sums it up: “I want a chance to become a teacher, figure out how to motivate kids and influence them to do their best.”


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