West Valley School District #363

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The West Valley School District's Summer Hours are 7:30 am - 4:30 pm Monday - Thursday.  You can reach us at 509-924-2150.

West Valley School District Teacher Feature and Staff Shout Out!



This week’s Teacher Feature goes to Keelyn Ward, WVSD 5th Grade Virtual Teacher.  Keelyn has served several roles in West Valley, first as a substitute teacher, then in 2002, she was hired as a 4th Grade teacher at Ness Elementary.  In 2010 she transferred to Seth Woodard Elementary to serve as the Library Media Specialist.  Keelyn enjoyed teaching Library and Technology, but when COVID changed the look of schools she took on the task of 5th Grade Virtual Teacher.

The hardest part of this learning experience has been trying to establish a relationship with students virtually.  The other challenge has been attempting to learn, understand, and then teach unfamiliar curriculum.  But with the challenges have come BIG rewards!  The biggest reward this year has been getting to know her 5th-grade students!  They are SMART, RESILIENT, and FUN!  Keelyn feels privileged to have had the opportunity to be their teacher, as well as learning new skills to demonstrate to her students through the virtual experience.  She now gets to share her own challenges that she has overcome with her current and future students. 

To keep her students engaged she has tried to include several fun activities during the week.  Every day, right after lunch, Keelyn has scheduled a joke and riddle time.  She has encouraged creativity with a Friday virtual art day.  These activities have encouraged laughter and given the ability for teachers and students to get to know each other better.  They have been feeding their love to learn through fun activities all while developing the grit to get through some of the harder 5th-grade lessons. 

This week's Teacher Feature goes to Darlea Chatburn, WVSD’s 4th Grade Virtual Teacher. Darlea has been with the West Valley School District for three years as the Library Media Specialist for Orchard Center. Prior to West Valley, Darlea taught Math, Robotics, and Art at Moscow Charter School in Moscow, ID, and served as an AmeriCorps volunteer at West Valley School Districts Outdoor Learning Center. When the need for Virtual Teachers arose due to COVID, Darlea was one of our teachers that took up the challenge.
One of the hardest parts of her job this year has been not getting to see student’s work in person, especially in math. It has also been more challenging for kids to have time to be social. Because this year has been such a challenge it’s nice to be able to bring any bit of fun or joy into the class. Darlea has been able to host fun class parties and she enjoys putting fun things into her students’ pick up packets. It is such a reward to hear their excitement after getting them. In order to keep her students engaged she plans 45 minutes into each day for “chatting” so the students get to know each other. Students use this time to ask questions about schoolwork, but mostly to just talk and socialize with each other. If there was one thing she would like her families to know it is that reading is powerful for both learning and mood. Make sure your students have some good books to read over the summer!
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The West Valley Staff SHOUT OUT this week goes to the WVSD Maintenance Crew. Across the district jobs of repair, replace, create, maintain, weed, mow, trim, paint, plow, shovel, pickup, and deliver are done every week. You might think that there would be a designated grounds crew, maintenance crew, and paint crew, but all of this is accomplished by seven main individuals. When visiting schools around our district you can see the evidence of their care. Our buildings and their grounds are beautiful. They are mostly in and out of our buildings without us even knowing. They appear, fix or replace, and go. Or they start long before we arrive so that we come to work to plowed parking lots and safe walkways. George Castor and Vici Branum orchestrate and organize the maintenance staff. Vici keeps the systems in place and ensures every "i" we dotted and every "t" is crossed. George's official title is Director of Maintenance and Custodial, but you will him pitching in when necessary. He has often been spied on the district office early in the morning shoveling snow. He is a great combination of caring and get 'er done. We are very thankful for these hard-working individuals, they are not ones who like being in the spotlight, they are just WVSD staff doing their best, but we think it is important for them to know we appreciate them! Thank you, Joel, Doug, Darren, Bobby, Sam, Kameron, Gerad, Vici, and George!
This week’s Teacher Feature goes to Ashley Bonfield, WVSD 1st Grade Virtual Teacher. This year has been a year of adjusting and adapting to the ever-changing circumstances, and the WVSD Virtual Teacher’s are a shining example of this. Ashley has been part of the West Valley School District for 8 years, serving as the Library Media Specialist for Ness Elementary. Due to COVID, West Valley had to abruptly change the roles of several of our teachers, and Ashley was one of the teachers that took up the challenge.
One of the hardest aspects of Ashley’s job this year is that she misses seeing the students in person, even though she does enjoy getting to see their smiles because they don’t need to wear a mask! Another challenge has been the need to give the 1st graders the guidance and modeling that 1st graders often need when completing new tasks, and that can be very difficult through a computer screen. The biggest reward has been seeing their perseverance and their ability to connect with each other and become friends. They love talking and sharing with each other. It is also amazing to see such tremendous educational growth throughout the year. Ashley keeps her students engaged through movement, music, hand-on activities, and creating a sense of belonging. She is very thankful for the virtual student’s, their families, and their patience!
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This week the West Valley School District STAFF SHOUT OUT goes to the Technology Crew. The WVSD Tech Crew is made up of 6 individuals that take care of the whole District. The Tech Department is headed by Rod Newman. His knowledge is vast, his experience great and his attention to detail amazing. His goal is to continue to lead us into an age where we are in command of our technology and continue to grow as technology changes at lightning speed.
Shanda Gorder acknowledges that her job took a sharp learning curve since the ChromeBook became a lifeline to our students. She has learned more about Chromebooks and repair than she ever imagined.
The four techs who are rarely in one place for long round out this great group of people. While they each specialize in different areas, they all work together and are mostly away from the office and out in our schools on a daily basis.
Pat Beal, Jason Dean, Jeff Dibble, and Andy Mitchell keep WSVD running. We can't predict when we need them most of the time. Our technology is a lean mean fighting machine. We are fortunate to have them.
To put into perspective what these 6 individuals take care of, here are the numbers:
  • 4200 Chromebooks &
  • Chromeboxes
  • 625 Windows 10 computing devices
  • 100 Printing Devices
  • 450 Security Cameras
  • 13 sites with over 150 networking switches
  • 13 sites with building Security and HVAC Controllers
  • 9 sites with bells, clocks, and intercom systems
  • 265 Wireless Access points
  • 511 Phones
  • 40+ servers
  • 190 Classrooms with teacher workstation, projector/document camera, smartboard, speakers, and other A/V equipment.
  • 3800 Student and 550 Staff Google Accounts
  • 10 Gigabit fiber optic network connecting all sites.
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This week's Teacher Feature is on one of WVSD Virtual Teachers, McCall Skay. This year has been a year of adjusting and adapting to the ever-changing circumstances, and the WVSD Virtual teachers are a shining example of this. McCall’s roots in West Valley run deep having attended West Valley schools in grades K-12 and graduating from West Valley High School. After earning her teaching credentials, McCall returned to West Valley as a much sought-after substitute teacher. This year she was to begin the year as a Flex Teacher, teaching both P .E. and English Arts between several buildings, but as we all know, nothing this year has gone as planned. Due to COVID West Valley was in need of Virtual Teachers, and McCall stepped into the 3rd Grade Virtual Teacher position.
The hardest part of McCall’s job this year has been not getting to see her students in person. She has found ways to motivate, encourage and engage with her students in spite of this. To keep her students engaged she tries to celebrate all the little and big things. In this difficult year, she believes that students need to be reminded that even the smallest goals they achieve are just as important as the big ones. McCall likes to make things fun as well, with dress-up days, fun projects, and art time. Her biggest reward this year has been watching her students grow and become more confident in themselves. If there was one thing she would like her families to know it is how proud she is of her students and how hard they continue to work. Learning on the computer is not always the easiest, but yet they always show up ready to learn.
This week's STAFF SHOUT OUT goes to the Paraeducators at Ness Elementary! Paraeducators around the district have gone above and beyond in this year of changes.
Magic Johnson said; All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them. This describes each Ness Paraeducator. As Mrs. Vessel says, they are AwesomeNESS!
On March 16th, 2020 education changed for everyone. Along with all district staff members, Ness Paraeducators had to redefine their roles and responsibilities at lightning speed, they never took their eye off the prize, Ness students. Each Paraeducator continues to adapt to the ever-changing conditions, they also continue to take it to new levels. At every shift of the educational path, Ness Paraeducators always demonstrate our core values with grace. Each gives their 100 percent to create and recreate schedules, charts, playground zones, lunchroom procedures, home visits, and have a shoulder for those in need. Mrs. Endres calls them Superheroes.
Erica, Sadie, Marilyn, Julene, Joanne, Candace, and Judy make Ness Elementary a place where students belong, teachers are supported, and where families continue to find hope for what the future holds for their children. Mrs. Anderson said, “Paraeducators are the most dedicated, talented, and hardworking group of professionals. We’re lucky to be on the same team”.
Every Paraeducator is committed to the work and the students at Ness. Mrs. Jackson says, “Amazing women!! It is truly an honor and a privilege to be surrounded by such thoughtful, talented, and hard-working people”!
With so much gratitude, appreciation, and love, the staff at Ness want you to know you are the Best!
This week we would like to feature the staff at Millwood Kindergarten Center and their focus on the Social Emotional Learning of their students. Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an important part of school for kindergarten students. Staff at Millwood Kindergarten Center use the We Thinkers! series to help students better understand themselves and others. The curriculum guides students in developing self-awareness, taking in other perspectives, problem solving, building relationships and establishing overall social-emotional health. The series uses five storybooks with likeable characters who work through the same types of problems a typical kindergartner would face. MKC staff has used their professional development time to explore the curriculum more deeply and to develop sets of materials for their classrooms. Thank you MKC for the love and care that you show to out kindergartners!
This week's Teacher Feature goes to Centennial Middle School and Chapter Advisors Heather Wright and Brian Hickman along with students Noah Sutherland, Brian McKenzie, Derek Maney, Alexis Lennon and Evan McKenzie.
Centennial Middle School loves to provide our students with extended learning opportunities. Throughout the pandemic, having these clubs has been more difficult, but our Centennial TSA Advisors have been working hard to figure out how students can still participate. One of our after-school clubs, Technology Student Association, has been creatively working to complete their competition projects and team service project virtually. Instead of our students working together as a team in the building as they would do in a normal year, they have been completing their projects individually and supporting each other virtually through team Google Meets. Our TSA community service project was a virtual blood drive this year where our Centennial staff and community members used the TSA blood drive weblink to sign up for an appointment at a donation center near them. Finally, our community Health Advisory Committee, which is a group of community members from local industry, valley school districts, and universities and colleges, provided an online opportunity for our TSA students to participate in an activity that helps students understand the interview process and the importance of “soft skills” in the workplace. This week, our students finished submitting their competition projects to the State TSA Conference and they are eagerly awaiting their results. All in all it has been through the combined efforts of our Centennial staff and community members to meet the challenges of this year so that our students can still participate in these learning experiences.
This weeks Teacher Feature is presented by Spokane Valley High School student Jayda Pimsanguan:
As a freshman I was really excited about this school year, looking forward to learning new things and meeting new people. But with Covid, this year has been so different. We all started 100% online and to be honest Eric, Seth, and Joni all made it an enjoyable experience. Every day they are ready for class with a smile and as students we know we can go to our teachers with any problem or concern and every one of them would be willing to listen and take what we say into consideration. They are great listeners and make time for each student. Even while teaching online, they have created a learning environment where students feel happy and cared for. But now that students are going back to school in person, things have changed.
They are now experiencing the challenges of teaching virtually and in person. Being a 100% virtual student I don’t personally get to see how they manage their classrooms but I know that they are fantastic teachers who have amazing preparation and teamwork skills. I don’t have to experience learning in-person to know that Seth Eric and Joni work hard together to teach all of us, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything they do. They make online school much easier and have made a positive impact on my learning experience. Thank you, teachers. I appreciate all of you.
Casey Sherrill has been with the West Valley School District since 2005 and has been an important part of the Seth Woodard Elementary team for the past 3 years. This past year has been challenging and a learning experience, with the new health and cleaning guidelines and keeping up with all the individual needs. The biggest challenge he has faced has been the need for the extra communication. With the ever-changing guidelines it can be overwhelming at times, but our staff and team have been very proactive with communication and information that is passed through the district. Staying calm and working together has been a blessing here at SETH! Casey enjoys helping others and taking care of things. It's in his nature to lend a hand and he comes to work every day with a positive attitude and a smile that is contagious. The buildings are getting the care they deserve and I believe that is seen throughout the district. The custodial and maintenance team has been taking care of business since last March and they continue to excel. We are very grateful to have him on our staff. 
Courtney Aulisio is a science teacher here at WV. She has such an incredible attitude and has tried to always make the best of what has been, at times, a difficult situation.
“We’ll see you on Monday. There is still school Monday, and we have a test. It’s okay guys, we are just closing school for a couple of weeks, then we will all get back together and it will be like this virus thing never happened.” Those were the last words I said in person to the students in the 2019-2020 school year. One girl looked at me like she was dying, and said, “I have to spend the next two weeks with just me and my grandma...arg? Are stores still going to be open?” I shrugged and shook my head. “I don’t know.”
We never did have school that Monday. A Covid case was identified at one of our events on campus and school was ultimately closed. The plan was to close for two weeks then reopen, so I decided not to give the chemistry test on “Naming Compounds” and just start a new unit with the kids when they got back in the classroom. I spent many of the first days “off” rewriting a unit on solving chemical equations, being careful to keep it fun and engaging so the kids could have a great return to the building. Well that new unit was thrown out as more news about the virus and the rising infection rate kept us from reopening safely. The rules were changing fast. We needed to plan virtual lessons for the students and we couldn’t give zeros for work that was not attempted due to many kids not having internet or computers in their homes. If a kid had an A when school closed, they couldn’t get anything less than an A for the semester. This news was shared right away with the students so guess what happened? Most kids with A’s stopped logging in and completing assignments. Now I was teaching only to students who wanted a better grade.
It took a few hours to plan the weekly lessons at first which were mostly reading and answering questions. My chemistry class quickly became a reading comprehension class, but they were at least reading about chemistry...something few would have done on their own. Creating math based questions posed an interesting challenge. Luckily I knew how to maneuver google slides and google classroom, thanks to our administration for hosting Saturday training classes and pushing us to use digital tools in order to go paperless. So at that point I was able to create templates where students could fill in the numbers. Now my students could do conversions and I could see their work!
Collaborating with other teachers was great too. We discussed how to present an assignment to the students. How to write out schedules for our week. We were instructed to keep it basic. “Everyone do the same thing and the kids won’t get confused. Call the schedule ‘Week at a Glance!’” That was the general instruction. And it worked, the kids who were working for better grades, seemed to know what to do.
They logged in, they completed their assignments. Some of them did this even after they had attained an A. Sure they may have felt obligated or just wanted to make us happy, but to those few students that did everything I asked them to, I can truly say “You are amazing, I am proud of you, and your perseverance is going to take you someplace great in this world!”
The biggest letdown came when it was announced that school would not open in the fall. That we had to meet our students virtually. I researched ways to engage students online. I spent the rest of the summer in seminars and collaborations trying to find little tricks to get the kids talking. Talking to me, and to each other.
“Breakout rooms’ they’re called, and you can group the kids for a quick lesson.”
Well yikes, what teenager is going to essentially video-conference three other kids they don’t know. So class period after class period of “a failure to communicate” in the breakout rooms, I finally tried something called a ‘shared document’ with the students. They all shared what they knew about Ecology. All of them! Success!
I learned it was important to shorten up my lessons. Only key topics in manageable chunks. I make every third slide interactive where the students just have to move images or words around. Each week I basically write an interactive booklet for the kids to follow. I work with simple platforms. Google slides, google docs, images, and paint. Booklets are complete with stop signs for each day and reminders to “turn this in on Friday.” Most of them like this. They are resilient. Here is the link to one of my booklets:
Now that the kids are back in the building for a few days I want to give them a break from their computers so we are doing labs. I had to decide which labs to do since the kids can’t touch much or share anything. So I planned the best lab of all. The kids are simultaneously learning Prokaryotic Cell Division, Bacterial Growth and life cycles, and Bacterial Aseptic Technique. Each day the students do one part of a larger project. In the end they will have prepared-for, grown, and viewed a microscopic organism which they can describe by form. Definitely not a waste of their time! They are researching, reading articles, answering questions, and making observations. Although we are working with bacteria, Bacterial Aseptic Technique is the cleanest lab we do because we have to disinfect everything before and after use. Perfect!
So was virtual learning a big flop? Not in my opinion. The kids took a year off and learned how to navigate the virtual world, which is a lesson in itself. Most of these kids figured out how to be flexible, accept change and to work from home. Something no amount of in-school hours could ever do for them. And to the kids who just couldn’t deal with the change, and couldn’t be flexible, I say to you “I understand. I respect you, and just as soon as I can, I will be there for you too!”
Our 5th grade team at Orchard Center, Julie Henriksen and Julie MacDonald, have found creative ways to engage all members of their classrooms whether they are in person or learning virtually. Every day all students at home join the virtual classroom while in person students connect with their at-home classmates on Chromebooks. They read together, peer edit writing assignments, and work through complex math problems. It has been an innovative way to keep their classrooms feeling like a cohesive learning community.
Way to go, Team 5th Grade!!
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