Tag Archive for: Washougal Schools

Washougal, WA — The roles of Washougal School District School Counselors have been altered during the pandemic, in the sense that the journey has changed, but not the destination. Their goal remains to build relationships with all students and families and provide children an outlet to be seen and heard.

“During a typical school year, I am able to see my students at any point throughout a school day, which makes it much easier to have quick check-ins, help problem solve in the moment, and to help students de-escalate and be in a state where they are ready to learn and engage with others,” explained Alysia Noriega, Hathaway Elementary School Counselor. “During remote learning, this is obviously much more difficult to do. While I am still able to connect with my students through many different means such as whole classroom lessons, small groups, and one-on-one, it takes much more coordination between myself, the student, and their families to make it happen.”

“Weekly lessons in social emotional learning are important at any time,” said Catherine Post, Gause Elementary School Counselor. “Right now, they are especially important because of the situation we are in. The lessons provide tools for students to utilize when they are struggling with our current schooling situation. These skills will also be of value when we are able to continue with in person learning again.”

It is important that every Washougal student has someone they feel comfortable with and can turn to in times of need. 

“By having these weekly lessons, I am guaranteed time with all my students,” said Noriega. “I can focus on continuing to build on the relationships I have already established with them, as well as develop relationships with our new Hathaway kiddos.” 

Additionally, it is important for students to spend time building social/emotional skills and language. Having a designated time each week to come together as a whole grade level and learn more about themselves and each other provides an enriching opportunity. 

“Because the students don’t have recess and other outlets for interacting with their peers, my lessons are a combination of check-in time to hear what everyone is doing and excited about, lessons from the district approved social emotional curriculum of Second Steps, and extra videos and games that apply to those lessons,” said Post. “The 30-minute sessions with each grade are very organic in feel. Each grade may need something different on any given day, so I remain flexible to let them have more or less of any of the lesson parts depending on how things go.”


Noriega has a similar approach. 

“I have been able to do a variety of different lessons and activities with my students, and the focus of these lessons vary from week to week, and from grade level to grade level,” she explained. “Topics we have covered this year include coping strategies, problem solving, emotion regulation skills, growth mindset, friendship building, and bullying prevention.” To keep students engaged, Noriega keeps things as interactive and fun as possible, and often incorporates videos, games, drawing activities, read-alouds, and activities that allow them to move.

“This year has brought on a host of different challenges that we didn’t know we would have to endure,” admits Noriega. “I believe one of students’ greatest challenges during this time is not having access to a learning environment that is consistent and structured. As a parent myself, I know how difficult it can be to balance my own work while also helping my kids with their schooling.”

For students to fully engage with their work and get the most out of their school days, it is helpful for them to have a consistent routine, be in a place that is free of distractions, and to be spending an adequate amount of time each day working on academic-related activities. However, it can be difficult for some families to create this kind of environment at home, which can create challenges for our students’ success.

Amongst all the obstacles that this year has brought, Post and Noriega have been able to do their job in a meaningful, successful way. “One main area of success is that I have been able to build strong, positive, and unique relationships with all of my Hathaway students,” said Noriega.  “I have been able to do this not only through my weekly SEL zoom lessons, but also by hosting small lunch groups, working with students 1:1, doing home visits, and delivering personalized notes to students.” 

“This year I have seen success in getting students with barriers to connect with their teachers,” added Post. “I have seen kindergarteners learn how to be students. I have also worked with staff and talked with them about tools to help with their emotional health because we cannot help our students if we do not take care of ourselves. Our Gause students know we care about them, and that is the best feeling of success.”

Washougal, WA — Remote learning has been a challenge to navigate for all students, teachers and administrator, but for two first-year teachers at Washougal High School, the challenge comes as they begin their careers in education.  

Jered Barker, WHS 9th and 10th Grade Algebra/Geometry teacher said his biggest challenge has been to build a relationship with students.

“Relationships are the key to any successful classroom and in the virtual world it has become increasingly difficult,” he said. “Students rarely have their cameras on, so I don’t even know what some of my students look like outside of one picture in their Skyward account. I love building relationships with my students so I have done the best I can with what they will give me.”

Elise Piet, WHS 9th Grade English and 10th Grade World History agrees. 

“It is difficult to get to know my students and their needs,” she said. “I have to help my Freshmen navigate high school and the demands of it, without them ever having set foot in the building.”

Both Barker and Piet use conversation starters in their ZOOM classrooms to help develop connections.

“I spend time every class talking with the students about their interests, things that have happened to them,” explained Piet. “The time I spend getting to know the students has paid off ten-fold as they are more likely to come to class, engage, and feel valued in my classroom.”

Barker starts his class with a silly question that has nothing to do with academics.

“The goal is to get the students talking to me and to each other,” he said. “This has built a sense of community in our classroom. I get to learn what they like and dislike and interesting facts about each student.”

Barker came prepared for the distance teaching having attended Western Governors University, which is a completely online University.

“All my classes were taught using a webcam with a teacher sometimes I never even saw,” he said. “All the work was left up to me to complete at my own leisure, so I know how the students are feeling because this type of learning involves a lot of self-motivation to get work done.”

Piet attended Washington State University Vancouver, and her program focused a great deal on restorative practices. 

“That relationship building aspect has helped me navigate classroom management and community and culture,” she explained.  “I also took a Technology in the Classroom course that has helped me navigate online learning, so I am able to better help my students when they have questions with tech.”

“For both of these educators; the first year of teaching is a scary and tumultuous time,” said Sheree Clark, WHS Principal. “The fact that they were not only willing but excited to start their first year of teaching during a pandemic, speaks to their dedication as educators.” 

Clark has heard feedback from both parents and students that Piet’s class is engaging and the students feel truly cared for.

“Elise also has a way of making history come alive and connect it to current world issues,” said Clark. “And Jered brings with him an energy that engages students yet challenges their math thinking skills. He has taken bold technical steps by using multiple platforms to help students engage during remote learning.  We are delighted Jared and Elise are both Panthers!”

Piet said she feels students are much kinder to not only their peers, but to themselves, which is a positive result of remote learning.

“They have really stepped up to the plate and are trying to help each other get through this,” she said. “Not just in my classroom, but district-wide students are volunteering, helping out, sending virtual hugs, and checking in with each other.”

An unexpected positive for Barker has been having more time at home with his newborn daughter. 

“It has been a blessing to get to work from home and see my daughter all day and help my wife out by changing diapers in between lessons,” he said. “It has not been easy or the first year that I expected but I am grateful to have a job and work with an amazing staff,” Barker admits. “I know going forward this will only make me a better teacher because I have learned new ways of teaching that I never would have thought of without the distance learning. I cannot wait to get into my classroom and see my students, some for the first time!”

Jered Barker, WHS 9th and 10th Grade Algebra/Geometry teacher.

Washougal, WA – Washougal School District is making plans to reopen a two-day per week hybrid learning model in January.  Following Washington State Department of Health updated guidelines for school reopening released this week, the district will begin the phased implementation of its hybrid model, starting with students in grades K-3.  The hybrid model features both school and remote learning components.

“We are so excited to welcome additional students back in-person, we know how critical this is for student success,” said Mary Templeton, WSD Superintendent.  “We know this will be a huge support to our students and their families, and make so much more learning possible.”

These new state guidelines include new metrics, based on emerging research and data gathered by state and national officials, that will allow schools to have increased in-person learning opportunities for students.  

“We are working with our teachers and staff, public health officials, and other area school districts to review our safety protocols,” said Aaron Hansen, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Student Support, in a letter to parents and staff.  “We will get students into classrooms as quickly as we safely can within these new frameworks.”  School and class schedules will be posted as soon as they are available.

The WSD timeline calls for grades K-3 to begin the hybrid model starting Tuesday, January 19, 2021.  Grades 4 & 5 would begin the hybrid learning model starting shortly thereafter, as long as transmission in the school environment is limited.  Students are placed in small cohorts, or groups of 15 or fewer students per group.  They will be assigned their group alphabetically by their guardian’s last name. 

“We want our families to know they have a choice to come back to the classroom in the hybrid learning model, or to stay in distance learning,” said Templeton.  “Families can let the school office know if their student will remain in full-time distance learning, and teachers are provided time each week to support these students.”

According to state guidance, plans for middle and high school will be available once the spread of COVID in our community declines to levels specified in the updated reopening guidance (average cases per 100,000 over 14 days below 350 for middle school, below 200 for high school).  “In order to serve more students in our classrooms safely, all of us must wear masks, watch our distance, and wash our hands,” added Templeton. “Health officials studying the spread of COVID emphasize these simple, but critical steps the entire community can take to enable next steps in our reopening.” 

For more information visit the WSD website at:   http://www.washougal.k12.wa.us/covid-19-communications/


Washougal and Camas, WA — The 14th annual Stuff The Bus event is happening now through December 11, and the need is greater than ever, say event organizers. 

The primary beneficiary, Children’s Home Society, is serving 350 families a month, which is about 100 more families than a year ago. Children’s Home Society is also serving local families through the backpack program.

“We’ve had to come up with a new plan,” said Stuff The Bus organizer, Tabitha Shaffer. “All schools in Washougal and Camas are allowing anyone to drop off food at the schools during normal business hours. You may also drop off food at the Camas Fire Department (Station 42) on Parker Street.”

What type of food is needed?

Non-perishable canned food, such as fruits, vegetables, stew, beans, and soup. They need cereal (small boxes), oatmeal, peanut butter, tuna fish, canned meats, such as SPAM, ham, etc. Spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, individual sized apple sauce, Mac and cheese, rice.

The C.A.R.O.L. Program works hard every year to serve 150 families each Christmas, which includes serving dinner, extra food, and presents.

Cash donations are also accepted via www.donatetostuffthebus.com

Under normal circumstances, students from both school districts participate by gathering donated food from all schools, and then distribute that food to various charitable organizations, such as Children’s Home Society, C.A.R.O.L., and American Legion Skamania County.

Key Stuff The Bus sponsors are: Long Building Technologies, Dan Jones Conveyor, and Caliber Home Loans.

Washougal, WA — The Association of Washington School Principals has named David Cooke, Principal of Jemtegaard Middle School, as the Washington State Secondary School Principal of the Year for 2020!  The Secondary School Principal of the Year award is given to individuals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, and community involvement, as well as advocating for education. 

“I am honored to be the Principal of Jemtegaard Middle School,” said Cooke. “It is an incredible place to work. This award represents the culture and efforts of the staff and students who come here every day.”

AWSP leadership joined WSD leadership at a middle school staff meeting to make the announcement to Cooke and his staff.  Superintendent Mary Templeton announced the guests from AWSP, who proceeded to share accolades with Cooke. 

“Under David’s leadership, Jemtegaard Middle School has gone from a school that was failing to make progress under No Child Left Behind to one that has been State Recognized multiple times for academic performance increases and closing the achievement gap,” Templeton said. “Through this work, Washougal students are rising, and our district with them!  I could not be happier for David receiving this great recognition!  It is so well deserved.”

Cooke has fostered a culture of support for students and their families, focusing on equity, positive behavior expectations, high engagement, and the whole child.

“At every opportunity, David credits the teachers and staff at Jemtegaard for the school’s accomplishments,” said Kurt Hatch, AWSP Associate Director of Middle Level Leadership, adding “His staff has a willingness to challenge practices, remove barriers to success, and do what is right for students.”

“I could not be prouder of my staff,” said Cooke. “About six years ago, we knew that we needed to make changes to ensure that all students could be successful. It was not easy, but we persevered as a team to make difficult decisions, learn together, and build the best opportunities for all students. As a result, our students have experienced significant growth. We have been supported along the way by so many including our fellow Washougal teachers, staff, District Office and an amazing Washougal community.”

Cooke has overseen implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention Support system at Jemtegaard, featuring common classroom expectations, quick support responses, and a focus on ensuring that students who need help are guided through restorative practices and back in the classroom as quickly as possible.  This has led to a dramatic reduction in missed instructional time, and fewer discipline referrals for students. 

“David exemplifies the best of the best in school leaders in his relentless pursuit of bringing adults together in a common purpose and mission. Their focus on equity, student achievement, and intentional impact on each and every child is what brought his nomination to the top,” said Scott Seaman, AWSP Executive Director. “Leading educational change that is student-centered takes an entire school community and David’s leadership has fostered that ongoing culture.”

“Our students are caring, hardworking and resilient,” Cooke said. “They support each other in their academic, social, and emotional growth.”

The Spanish Speaking Family Night initiative was started by Cooke in response to feedback from second language speaking families, who wanted to connect with the school and learn how they could be part of their students’ learning.  Cooke worked with community leaders and Spanish speaking staff and translators to build relationships with students and their families, identifying resource gaps, communication barriers, and providing support and resources that ensure families and students have what they need to succeed. 

Washougal WA — A student’s classroom can be almost anywhere during this time of remote learning.  For second grade students Marina Guevara, Julie Taie and Lisa Haskin at Gause Elementary, their field science assignment took them out into the world to look for and study signs of erosion.

“We began the year by thinking about what it looks like to be a scientist,” said Guevara.  “We felt that this unit provided good opportunities to ‘unplug’ and have students apply what they are learning.” 

Once they received permission to go outdoors, students were challenged to collect and examine rocks and take a photo or draw a picture of a nearby body of water to identify possible signs of erosion. 

The lesson included looking closely at phenomena happening at a beach in Northcove, WA, nicknamed “Washaway Beach” due to erosion.

“We are continuing to read to learn more about rivers, rocks, beaches, and oceans to help us understand what is happening and possible solutions once we do understand,” said Taie.

According to Guevara, taking this time away from the computer screen gives students a needed change of pace.

“We could see students, and even families, excited and engaged in this project,” she said.  “I think it’s powerful that they found these examples on their own. It is also exciting that this current distance learning situation allows us to collect a variety of responses and data to study.”

“If examples were provided in the classroom or in a group, all the students would see the same thing,” said Haskin. “This way we have different sets of eyes and ears finding evidence of erosion in a variety of places and making observations to share with the class.”

One of the biggest challenges with distance learning for all teachers is fostering connections.

“Creating relationships comes first for me,” said Guevara. “I want my students to know I am there for them and that I care about them.  Being behind a screen is a whole different ball game. Connections can be difficult to foster via technology.” 

But projects like this provide for moments of connection as they show their learning and share what they have seen. Students were connecting with the shared photos saying things like, “I know that place! I’ve been there!” 

“The pictures submitted by students not only provide different data points but also included some special moments shared by families exploring together,” said Guevara. “We were lucky that we had some nice sunny days to work with too!”   

Guevara says she sees evidence of resilience in her class of seven and eight-year-olds every day. 

“The end of last school year and the beginning of this one has been filled with challenges and growing pains,” she admits. “But I feel like we are really getting the hang of it. We have found a rhythm. Part of our learning mantra this year is ‘I’m here to grow every day,’ and I see our students embody that in how they approach their learning, how they communicate with me and with peers, and even how they advocate for themselves through technology.”

“Learning and communicating through screens can be daunting but we are still interacting with our students and they are showing a keen desire to learn despite the challenges,” Guevara said.  “We are so proud of them.”

Having a fun day.

Washougal, WA — Washougal High School Associated Student Body leaders are putting 21st Century Skills to use as they work to reimagine their role to unite and inspire classmates. Gone are the tried and true pep assemblies, spirit activities, work parties and school events.  

Ethan Mills, WHS ASB President, said it is a challenge for ASB to do their job to help students feel spirit and unite a school community when everyone is learning remotely.  “We have been isolated for a long time,” he said. “For me, I’m definitely more of an in-person leader and it’s hard to feed off the energy of others when you are just on camera. I’ve learned that you just have to put yourself out there and do your best no matter what the situation is.”

According to WHS ASB Advisor, Kyla Ritchey, there were many discussions on how to shift the group’s thinking for this school year.  “Before the school year started the class met to discuss what we should do and how they are going to best serve their students’ needs as well as the Washougal Community,” she said. “What impressed me about the students was their honesty.  They had no idea where to start but felt the need to help. It was from this conversation that the idea of multiple surveys throughout the year would be the best way to gauge the needs of the WHS students.”

The first survey was given out before school started and ASB is using this data to drive the work that is being done.  “The surveys collected different points of views from the student body,” said ASB Senior Senator, Briahna Ruth.  “It was important to us to try and hear from as many students as possible since we are all learning remotely.”  

“A possible benefit to this situation is that, I believe, we are understanding more of our student body’s needs and their expectation,” added Mills. “Through our survey there are more voices being heard.”

WHS ASB students recently split into three project groups that were determined from the collected data. Each group is assigned a specific area of concern that came up frequently in the survey.  They are social opportunities, communication, and resources.  With the help from partner organization, Unite! Washougal Coalition, a “mantra” was created for students to consider as they work on creating their projects.  It is to “connect, grow, and be well.”

“Students will need to be able to explain how each project will help WHS students and staff feel connected, grow as an individual, and continue to be well whether that is mentally or physically,” Ritchey said. “While projects have not been determined yet, there are a lot of great ideas being thrown around right now.” 


A major challenge for the group is getting to know one another and working together in this time of social distancing and remote learning. “Typically, they would see each other every day during class and multiple times over the weekend when working on events,” Ritchey said. “If they had a question, they could find each other at lunch or before school to get the answers. Currently, they only see each other twice a week during Zoom meetings. We are still working on community building and feeling comfortable working together.” 

Students are also being challenged to think outside of the box.  “These kids have great ideas,” said Ritchey.  “Some of the ideas though we just aren’t able to do for a multitude of reasons. Instead of giving up on the idea, I have encouraged them to think outside of the box to make some changes to the idea that would make it work. It may not be the exact picture they had in their heads but at the end of the day, it will accomplish their overall goal.”

“Our role as ASB, especially for the younger grades, is to help them keep in mind that they will be getting back to class,” explained Ruth.  “There are still good things to look forward to.”  For instance, the group is working on ways to celebrate virtual spirit weeks, development of a kindness week, exploring socially distanced events when it is safe to do so and plans to reimagine the annual Stuff the Bus food drive.  

The biggest challenge for Ritchey as their advisor is to keep the students motivated. “A lot of them feel overwhelmed and hopeless, this was not the year they had pictured,” she admits.  “I try to keep it positive during class, encourage them, and let them know that even though it may not look the same, we can still create some new experiences and traditions.” 

Overall, the WHS ASB students have shown resilience time and time again.  “Whether it be the laughs we share instead of showing frustration in the situation, or finding common ground when disagreeing on a topic,” said Ritchey. “These kids are really great and impress me more and more every time we meet. Being a student leader during this time is more of a challenge than ever before, but I couldn’t pick a better group of students to work with.”

“This is definitely a challenging year, and everything is harder to get done since we are not all together in person,” said Mills.  “I am learning a lot about leadership and resilience that should help us all prepare for our futures.”

Washougal WA — Flashing red lights on a brand new brushfire rig and a cluster of red balloons welcomed Cape Horn-Skye Elementary first grade students of Nichol Yung and Darcy Hickey as they arrived at the school parking lot to meet some local heroes on October 9.  Through their family car windows, and wearing masks, students handed their handmade thank you cards to representatives from Camas-Washougal Firefighters, Chris Kassel and Matthew Miller, also masked and wearing gloves. In return, each student was given a shiny red fire hat. Although no one could actually see the smiles behind masks, you could feel the joy felt by firefighters and students in the exchange. 

“These written notes are so important because they provide an opportunity for the students to show gratitude and connect with people in our community who work and volunteer to keep them safe,” said Yung of her students appreciation for the firefighters. “In a world where there is so much ‘virtual’ and for a 6 year old, it’s oftentimes difficult for them to distinguish between what is real and what is make-believe, these cards provide that bridge from what they may see on the news or hear friends and family talk about to something concrete.”

The class learned about wildfires and discussed how local fires had impacted the area. Some students shared how their families had to be ready to evacuate here in Washougal. 

“We had some students keenly aware of how some of their extended family members in Oregon were affected by the recent fires,” Hickey said.

The project gave these kids an opportunity to open up and process their feelings from what they had encountered during that difficult time.

“Since all of the students were directly affected by the fires, especially with the smoke, they were able to offer support by providing a listening ear and observe the courage they all had in getting through this scary time,” said Yung. “This was a real-life experience for all of them and with the chance to meet some firefighters, they can make the connection with what they experienced to those who helped put the fires out.”

“It was great to just be out in the community and see all of these happy kids,” said Miller.  “The cards were very sweet and mean so much to us.”

“We really enjoy being a part of these type of events,” said Kassel.  “It is important for children to see us in normal situations so they know we are not scary, so in a time of emergency, they will not shy away from us.”

Student Ada Berg hoped her card made the firefighters happy.  “I wanted to thank them for fighting fires and helping to keep people safe,” she said.  For Berg and her family, the fires were very real with her grandparents evacuated from their home in Estacada, Oregon.

“I want to be a firefighter,” admitted student Grason Powell.  “I want to help save the world.”

“We want the students to be able to understand that just as firefighters have a huge impact on communities in keeping them safe, children also have something to contribute by way of showing gratitude and support,” said Yung. “We hope that this show of gratitude and support will not only be evidenced in this activity but in every aspect of their lives and that it is a life-long attribute that can only help them have positive emotions, which can be easily shared. We want them to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’.”

“We are so excited to see the kids hand the firefighters their cards because we know that firefighters don’t always get recognized unless there is an emergency,” said Hickey. “We want them to know that, emergency or not, they are appreciated and we hope that we see the light in their faces as they receive a heartfelt card and well-wish from a 6-year old who admires them for their bravery.”

Greeting students.

Washougal, WA — Response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought sweeping changes to education. Teachers at Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard Middle Schools are experiencing a small benefit of that change as they come together weekly for their Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting via ZOOM. PLCs require whole-staff involvement in a process to reflect on instructional practices and student data, as well as monitoring outcomes to ensure success.

“The combined CCMS/JMS PLCs has been one of the few positives to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tim Davis, JMS Math and Robotics teacher.  “We have always enjoyed working with the CCMS math team a few times a year for curriculum training.  We did a lot of sharing of lesson ideas, tech tricks, student motivation techniques and engagement ideas but ended each time saying we should do this more often.  It never materialized because we would lose at least 30 minutes of our valuable time driving from one building to the other.  Along comes the pandemic, the move to ZOOM, and two forward-thinking administrators and here we are!”

The major focus of the PLC groups is to analyze student data to help determine if students are benefiting from lessons, and to adjust instruction for students who need additional time to master standards, as well as to plan instruction for those who have achieved mastery.  Davis, who teaches the only Algebra class at JMS, had never had anybody to examine his Algebra data and outcomes until the schools combined their PLC groups. 

“Now with more minds focused on the data, we are able to see multiple ways to address students’ needs,” he said.  “We commonly work past our allotted time because it’s refreshing to have new ideas to explore.  I look forward every week to our Wednesday PLC time!”

According to Davis, the credit for the combined middle school PLCs goes to JMS principal David Cooke and CCMS principal Brian Amundson. 

“I witnessed how well they worked together in the past when they were both at JMS,” he explained. “This is an indication of how well they will work together in the future.  I think we will see the two middle schools working together on additional exciting ways to help our students in the future.”

“Having an opportunity to hear what others are bringing to the classroom, and borrow a few lesson plans, has been a thrill,” said Jason Barnes, CCMS English Language Arts and History teacher. “This has also given us the chance to affirm each other’s practices, which is especially life-giving in the current isolation of COVID-19.”


And, Washougal’s Superintendent agrees.

“Washougal School District invests heavily in PLCs and believes in their power to help enhance teaching skills and the academic performance of students,” said WSD Superintendent Mary Templeton. “The combined PLCs allow more minds to get together and share and refine lessons to keep our students engaged and achieve higher levels of success.”

Barnes, who has been a part of the social studies PLC this year, explained that the group has a shared Google Classroom set up for an exchange of information and resources, and are able to ask for advice on lessons that would otherwise be challenging to navigate solo. “We have also been able to align our units more closely with each other, getting our middle schools in a better alignment as we prepare them for high school,” he said.

“I have personally found it exciting to hear about the various ways that some of our more senior-tenured teachers approach their history classes, left mesmerized at their thrilling unit plans,” said Barnes. “It really helps to know that we are all doing great things in our classrooms.”

Washougal WA — It is 7:45 am and 60 first grade students at Columbia River Gorge Elementary are beginning their school day.  At their home workspace, they log in to a Zoom classroom to welcoming music and each is greeted by name.  On the screen is a list of materials they will need for the day’s instruction flacked by smiling and waving bitmojis illustrations of their teachers.  A five-minute countdown begins at 8:00 am, and at 8:05 am, each student, now prepared for their day, breaks into individual virtual classrooms with teachers Allison McGranahan, Sydney Termini and Taryn Tedford.

“We feel it is important to start our day by having everyone together and greet each student by their name,” explained Tedford.  “The bitmojis are just a fun way to represent us and our excitement for what’s to come.  For instance, we had them wearing scrubs on the day we were studying the human body. Our morning routine is a small way to build a sense of community and connectivity that is missing in distance learning.”   

Once broken out into classrooms, teachers lead an hour lesson.  The larger group comes back together again at 9am to meet with a specialist for instruction and activities in art, music, PE and even Library.  “It is important that students are able to stay connected with other teachers and continue to learn in these other important curriculum areas,” McGanahan said. 

Students then go back to their classroom group for the last half hour of instruction.  The remainder of the school day is spent viewing selected pre-recorded lessons and completing assignments.

The CRGE first grade team’s approach to teaching changed some since last spring, when teachers everywhere were asked to turn on a dime to online classes.  They began this year by reviewing curriculum and deciding which lessons to begin with for remote learning. “We know that certain topics were okay being recorded and others are more conducive to being live lessons,” explained McGanahan. “We’ve tried to make it so that even if kids aren’t able to be at the Zoom lessons, they are able to engage in the learning lessons.”


Like the K-2 teachers of the Washougal School District, they are using the educational software app, SeeSaw to capture learning during the distance learning. They are able to send video lessons and activities for students to interact with during the afternoon asynchronous learning time.

Teachers set up activity buttons for students to connect to three lessons.  One day may include math, a listen and learn activity and a skills practice, such as handwriting or answering questions about a story.  There are also activities for the areas of science and even community building.  Students can log in at any time in the day to complete the work.  “I had a student who had a dentist appointment during class time but was still able to participate easily in the activities,” said McGanahan.  “This offers a lot of flexibility for families.”

A good example of Seesaw’s use was a recent first grade unit on folk tales. “The assignment was for students to retell a folk tale or fable in their own words,” explained McGanahan. “They recorded themselves telling the story and even downloaded artwork they created to illustrate it.  Then we were able to watch and listen to their work.” 

“I am so amazed at how committed many of our families and students are to this whole distance learning process,” McGanahan added.  “It is a lot and it is a challenge, but we have had kids show up when the power is off, the wind is blowing, and the smoke is in the air. Kids show up and participate when they are tired and are not feeling well. I have had a kid show up to Zoom because he did not want to miss it, even though his tummy hurt, and he had to leave because he was getting sick. Our students are not giving up just because we are doing distance learning! They are actively engaged and will be able to pick up right where we left off when we get the chance to be back in the building.”

Youngest learners thrive with structure and routine and the CRGE team understands that it is a struggle for students to not be in the classroom. “Even with all the tools we have in place, this is not the same as it would be in person,” McGanahan said. “Sometimes students just need to be near the teacher and talk through a problem without the whole group watching. They need to get up and move and learn in different ways, and that is difficult over Zoom.”

Termini agrees.  “It is a challenge for me to not see each students’ process,” she explained.  “I don’t see them individually as they work through an assignment to recognize where they may have struggled. I just see the outcome, not how they problem solve and approach the work.”  

Another challenge to distance learning is lesson preparation that must take weeks of lead time to gather and distribute materials to families who drive to the school at specific times for pick up.  “It was such a treat to see students as they came to pick up bags,” said Termini. “It was good to touch base face to face with our students and their parents to check in on how it is going.”   

A benefit that has risen from remote learning is the stronger connections being made with many of the students’ families.  “We are working hard to address parent needs as much as we can and support them,” said Tedford.  “The partnership we have with parents is so important and is being fine-tuned.” 

“We are not able to do our job without family support and I absolutely love the depth of connection with parents I am able to make because of distance learning,” said McGanahan.  

 “I appreciate how supportive our student’s families have been,” added Termini. “We couldn’t do it without them!”

Greeting students.