Hockinson and La Center students head back to class

Four other Clark County districts started their school year on Tuesday

Hockinson High School Principal Andy Schoonover greets students on their first day back in class for the 2019-2020 school year.

BRUSH PRAIRIE — It was another day of back to school in Clark County, this time for students in La Center and Hockinson. Evergreen, Vancouver, Battle Ground, and Washougal students were back in class on Tuesday, Ridgefield students head back on Thursday, while Camas won’t start until the day after Labor Day.

“We’re excited to welcome back our Hawks,” said Hockinson High School Principal Andy Schoonover. “Learning expectations, getting to know kids, getting to know teachers.”

Hockinson and La Center students head back to class
Hockinson High School students returned to class for the 2019-2020 school year on Wednesday. Photo by Mike Schultz

Students were greeted by teachers and administrators, as well as fellow classmates, as they exited the bus and headed to the first day of their new classes. Most seemed excited to be starting the new school year, if somewhat disappointed to see another Summer in the rearview mirror.

It was also the first school day for incoming Hockinson Superintendent Steven Marshall, who has been in the process of implementing a few new ideas. One of those included asking administrators at a recent work session what qualities they felt made a great teacher.

Hockinson and La Center students head back to class
Clark County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officer Shaun Robertson greets students heading back to class at Hockinson High School. Photo by Mike Schultz

The list included things like creating a positive classroom environment, making students feel like it’s safe to share ideas and take risks. A good educator should also give students clear goals and tools to reach them.

“An effective teacher is someone who is a learner themselves, and is reflective about their instruction; someone who’s a mentor to other teachers,’’ Marshall said. “So it’s not just about their students or themselves, it’s that they give their expertise to others, too, because they want to see the school or all students succeed.”

Marshall says he also asked school administrators for a list of teachers they felt embodied those qualities, and that there were “a lot of teachers’ names mentioned in this discussion.”

Hockinson and La Center students head back to class
Everybody needs a friend for your first day back at Hockinson Heights Elementary School. Photo courtesy Hockinson School District

Marshall decided to bring a group of those teachers in to each board meeting throughout the Fall in order for them to be recognized for their accomplishments, and for the board to get to know them a bit better. Each will also receive a pin with the letters HSD as a token of esteem.

“These are all examples, and not favorites or anything like that,” Marshall told the board. “But these are just people who work so hard on behalf of our students.”

Recognized at Monday’s meeting were elementary school teacher Shaun Wallis-Spadolini, middle school teacher Anna-Melissa Lyons, and high school teacher Elizabeth Fortier.

Marshall said he actually worked with Fortier at Mountain View High School and remembers her dedication to all learners.

Hockinson and La Center students head back to class
Hockinson High School secretary Becky Hawkins helps students get where they need to go on their first day back in class. Photo by Mike Schultz

“She steps up and says, ‘I’ll take them on. Who’s the difficult kid? Send to me, I want to ignite a love of learning in them,’” said Marshall.

Of Wallis-Spadolini, Marshall said the fifth-grade teacher is known for creating an “electric atmosphere” that gets students excited about what they’re doing.

“It’s consistency and relationship,” said Wallis-Spadolini of his approach. “Really teaching them about the growth mindset and what does it mean to learn. A lot of those feelings can be interpreted as negative and you avoid them. Trying to get them accustomed to the kind of anxiety that comes along with something challenging.”

While the teachers that will be singled out and recognized at the upcoming board meetings were spoken of highly by their administrators, Marshall said he wanted it noted that they represent just a sampling of the great work being done by the district’s 200-plus educators every day.

La Center begins on time

The school year was very nearly delayed in the La Center School District as teachers had voted to strike if a new contract couldn’t be reached. But a deal was struck over the weekend and ratified on Tuesday in time for classes to begin for the district’s 1,700 students. You can read more about that contract here.

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