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Family Resource Center opens at Monticello

Teachers and support team members across the district are seeing a growing number of kids and families who lack a stable food source and/or housing. To help the kids and families the district opened a Family Resource Center at Monticello Middle School. The resource center gives parents a place to get help and connect with food, housing, mental health or other services. It doesn’t matter which school a child attends – the family resource center is open to help them. The resource center was put together through donations and did not require district funds.

The Daily News wrote a front page story about the resource center that published March 2. This is another example of the district putting extra effort towards helping our kids be successful.

The Family Resource Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 11 am and from 1 pm to 3 pm.

 

2019-03-08T14:24:07+00:00March 7th, 2019|

Calendar information 2019-2020 school year

Planning for vacation and family celebrations is important. While final details of the next year’s school calendar are not yet finished, several important key dates are set. To help you with planning below are important dates for the 2019-2020 school year. These dates have been finalized and approved by the School Board. (Please note the calendar for Broadway Learning Center is different and parents should check with Broadway for 2019-2020 calendar dates.)

Event Date
First day of school August 28, 2019
Winter holiday December 23, 2019 – January 3, 2020
Spring Break April 6-10, 2020
High school graduation June 6, 2020
Last day of school June 11, 2020

A more detailed 2019-2020 school calendar will be sent to parents and families in the Spring. If you have questions please contact your local school.

2019-01-25T15:05:18+00:00January 25th, 2019|

Spotlight – Ms. Norvaisis, CVG Counselor

Spotlight  – Q & A

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Bellingham, WA.

What did you do this summer? I got married to Brian Norvaisis. The wedding planning took two years, so I was ready.

Mrs. Norvaisis

What high school did you attend? I went to Sehome High School in Bellingham, class of 1999.

Did you always plan to be a teacher? No. My parents were both teachers, my Dad was a coach too. Growing up I liked working with kids and animals.

What sort of animals do you like? I started training dogs and llamas in high school. Our next-door neighbor got me involved training and showing llamas.

Why llamas? My sister got a horse, so I thought I would be different and work with llamas.

What are llamas like? A llama is like a big cat – they tolerate you. A llama’s fur is soft; they are curious animals and fun to work with. Llamas are skittish; I enjoyed the challenge of getting the animals to trust me.

What did you do after high school graduation? I was passionate about doing something I enjoyed and that was my thought process. I wasn’t excited about heading off to college, so I moved to New Jersey to train llamas.

How did you get to New Jersey? The son of the person I worked for was transporting animals back across the county so I rode with him and got to see the country. We started on Orcas Island and travelled through to New Jersey.

What did you train the llamas to do? Functionally, llamas are pack animals. People use llamas to carry all their stuff when they go hiking. Llamas don’t beat up the trails as much as horses do and can travel to areas horses cannot.

How do you train a llama? Since llamas are skittish, you have to expose them to different environments. We trained llamas to walk over bridges, walk through kiddie pools, just things to get the animal to trust you. 

Did you show llamas too? Yes, it’s much like showing dogs. You get the llama to stand still and walk around presenting itself to the judges.

What did you learn? I learned the more I worked at training, the better I got.

What was life like on the farm in New Jersey? I lived on the owner’s farm, cleaning the barn, doing chores and working with the animals, this lasted through the summer. After about six months, I flew home and enrolled at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.

Did you work while attending Whatcom Community College? Yes, I worked at the Bellisfair Mall making sandwiches at the Great American Turkey Company.

How long did you attend Whatcom CC? After a year at Whatcom Community College, my friends and I decided to move to Seattle and enroll at Shoreline Community College.

How is Seattle different from Bellingham? I was “struck” by the racial disparity and poverty. My Dad worked with homeless people and I started seeing a world I had been sheltered from and became very passionate about helping.

What was your favorite class in college? My favorite class was sociology. I looked at focusing on American Ethnic studies, but I liked sociology and working with people.

What school did you attend afterwards? I got my transfer degree from Shoreline CC and enrolled at the University of Washington, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology.

Did you work while attending UW? I worked at a youth homeless shelter and at a needle exchange. I was driven by the idea that people don’t choose to turn to drugs. I started thinking, maybe I wanted to be a teacher. I went to an information session for Teach for America and figured teaching is what I wanted to do.

Where did Teach for America send you? I taught in Quitman County, Mississippi, in the town of Lambert. I taught kindergarten for five years in Lambert. The Teach for America commitment is two years, but I enjoyed it, so I stayed longer.

Is Mississippi different from the Northwest? In Mississippi, corporal punishment happens in some schools, so that was difficult for me. The veteran teachers were supportive and helped me get through the first year. I fell in love with my students, the community and the Delta area. It is a community of trust.

When did you come back? After 5 years in Lambert, some of my friends had left and principals changed and I was finishing my master’s degree from the University of Mississippi in Instruction, so I looked for another opportunity. I ended up taking a job at a charter school in Arkansas.

What was the charter school in Arkansas like? The school was brand new and I was excited to be involved with a more rigorous curriculum. I taught at the charter school for two years.

What were some of the challenges you faced in Arkansas? I felt very connected to the kids who’s “heart hurt”, but as their teacher, the focus is to move them academically.

My heart broke when I couldn’t help some kids, so I started looking into school counseling programs. In turned out Western Washington University had a great program, so I went home to Bellingham.

What did you do after graduating from WWU? After graduating with a Master’s Degree from Western Washington University I worked the graveyard shift at an adolescent center for drug addicted young women. From there I got a job at Columbia Valley Gardens Elementary.

What do like about your job at CVG? The kids are my biggest joy. Being able to see the best in the kids, even the most challenging ones.

How long have you worked at CVG? This is my fifth year at CVG.

What makes for a good school counselor? Having a big heart for kids. As a school counselor, you can get bogged down trying to help everyone, so I use data to help me.

What types of data do you use? For elementary kids discipline and attendance are red flags. Some of the data is qualitative like talking with teachers about which students are struggling. The national board has been an amazing process to help me look at data and how I am performing.

Does your experience as a teacher help you in the role of counselor? Most definitely. I believe preventative education of social emotional skills is by far the most important thing. Teaching kid’s specific ways to handle their emotions at an early age is important.

Are kids able to learn social emotional skills? Yes, kids are so resilient and awesome, once taught they can manage their emotions on their own.

Do community issues effect school? The social problems in the community are causing a lot of stress to families. The divisiveness of the times can cause people not to see the best in each other and that effects kids. It’s critical we teach our kids that values and character are important.

What are the kids of today like? The kids of today have so much joy and so many gifts that we miss due to other stresses. The kids need love and support as much as they can get.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I enjoy watching kids discover what works for them. In addition, it’s amazing watching our talented teachers connect with kids and form relationships.

2019-01-16T11:48:14+00:00January 16th, 2019|

Capital bond information and input sessions

Longview Public Schools plans to put a capital bond measure to voters later this year. Capital bonds raise funds for school districts to upgrade facilities and build new schools.

To provide citizens information about the bond measure three community input sessions will be held. At the meeting you will get information on the facility upgrades and changes the district’s Facilities Advisory Committee has recommended.

Thursday, January 24 at 6 pm, district administrative offices next to RA Long High School – 2715 Lilac Street.

Wednesday, January 30 at 5 pm, Mark Morris High School.

Tuesday, February 5 at 5 pm, Mint Valley Elementary School.

We hope to see you at one of the community input sessions.

2019-01-25T11:07:08+00:00January 15th, 2019|

Teacher spotlight – Ms. Niemi, CVG

Q & A

Where did you grow up? I was born in Corvallis, Oregon. My family moved to the area when I was about 2 years old.

 What schools did you attend? I attended Kelso schools and graduated from Kelso High School, class of 2008.

Ms. Niemi, CVG 1st grade teacher

Where did you go to college? After high school, I enrolled at Lower Columbia College (LCC) and earned an Associate of Arts degree, then transferred to Central Washington University (CWU).

Why did you choose Central Washington University? I visited the campus and really liked the feel. Central has smaller classrooms and a personalized experience.

What did you study? I focused on Elementary Education; my minor was English as a Second Language.

Did you ever study abroad?  Yes, one of my professors set up a trip to Honduras.

What was Honduras like? The Honduran culture is completely different from ours. My light skin and blonde hair stood out like a sore thumb.

What did you think of the Honduran people? The people were very nice, very welcoming.  We worked with kids K-12 helping them learn to speak English. I had a lot of fun – it was a blast.

How long were you in Honduras? The trip lasted three weeks and was one of my favorite things I did at CWU.

Why did you choose a degree in elementary education? I liked working with young kids, the elementary age group fits well with my personality.

What do you like about being a teacher? The growth and excitement kids show when they learn. The confidence students build during the year and the “lightbulb moments” are definitely the best.

What do you do in your off time? Stay active, work out, and go on hikes. I like to try different recipes and bake. I love to read too.

What do you bake? At Christmas time I always do “treat plates” for family and friends. I will make different kinds of cookies, sweet treats, Chex mix and fudge.

What are some of your favorite dinners to cook? Lately, I’ve been loving chicken stir-fry – lots of protein and veggies. On occasion, I enjoy a good cheeseburger or pizza.

Where are some of your favorite hiking spots? One of my favorite hikes is Angels Rest in the Columbia Gorge. The hike is steep, but the view at the top is beautiful.

Do you have any hikes planned? Yes, I want to hike the Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. It is a 7.8-mile hike with ten different waterfalls to see along the way.

How often do you exercise? I work out 4 to 5 times per week doing the beach body workout.

What else do you do outside of teaching? I spend time with friends and family – go to movies. I like comedy and action adventure movies the best. Jurassic Park, Rocky and Die Hard are good movies.

What are some traits of great teachers? Being dedicated and having strong connections with the kids. It is important to continue to grow as a teacher, ask for help from other teachers or a specialist to figure out how to be better.

Why is building connections with kids so important? Connections help create a safe environment. If students don’t feel safe, they aren’t in a position to learn. Kids must be able ask for help and know it’s okay to make a mistake.

What sort of learning mindset does this foster? We want a growth mindset. Getting away from “I can’t do this,” to “I can’t do this – yet.”

How long have you been teaching? For 6 years.

What advice would you give a brand new teacher? Do your best and focus on building connections with the kids. Students need to know you support them. So many of the kids have difficult home lives, so it’s important to build relationships.

Do difficult home situations influence teaching? Yes, students have trouble focusing. We teach conscious discipline and composure, assertiveness and encouragement. We are teaching kids to manage their own emotions and positively affect the emotions of others.

Has the social-emotional approach been effective? Absolutely. One of my students who has a hard time regulating emotion goes to the safe space in the room when he starts to lose his composure, instead of interrupting class or throwing things across the room. Managing emotions well leads to more problem solving and less “tattling”, which means less class disruption and fewer behavior referrals.

What do you like most about your classroom? Having the other two first grade teachers on each side of my room. If I need help, they are close by.

Do the three CVG first grade teachers work together? All the time. We plan lessons, talk about what is working, track data, set goals – we’re always talking to each other. I love the team here.

Do you like being a teacher? I love it. Teaching is a challenge. The light bulb moments are great.

How are you improving as a teacher? Last year I completed the National Boards and just certified. This year I’m working towards my Master’s degree in reading with an emphasis on elementary education.

Do you enjoy teaching kids to read? Over the last several year’s teaching reading has become a passion of mine.

What piqued your interest in reading and writing? Over the last few years working to obtain National Board Certification, and working with other great teachers and reading specialists, I’ve learned how the brain learns to read.

What are some of the challenges to learning how to read? The process the brain goes through to learn how to read is interesting. Your brain is not actually wired to learn how to read. Humans focus on verbal communication, to read we associate letters and shapes to sounds.

Do your students read much in class? In my classroom students read quite a bit. We play books on tape during lunchtime; I will read to them at times. Students have all sorts of literacy opportunities throughout each day.

Do students start writing in first grade? Yes, we write daily. One of our ‘stations’ is a writing station, so my expectation is for them to write two or more sentences at the station.

What are the kids of today like? Kids of today are wonderful. They have more challenging lives than most people think. When I was in elementary school, I don’t remember having so many kids who struggled with emotions and tough home lives – it’s different now. It is the biggest challenge to teaching.

Is the outlook for the future positive? I think so; there are many great kids out there.

Tell us about the National Board certification process? It was a very tough and rigorous process. You have to reflect on the choices you’re making in class and why you are making them, then decide if or how you could be more effective. The process is very reflective, it makes you focus on best practices and why you are using them.

What example does your continuing education set for the kids? It shows the kids you should never stop learning.

Do students work on the computer during class? Yes, I have had to do very little training on how to use the Chromebooks, the kids just learn computer skills very fast. Kids have grown up with technology – it’s what they know.

Are you a sports fan? I like the Seahawks. My boyfriend is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter.

What do you think of MMA? MMA is a completely different world, but it’s his passion. My boyfriend coaches, trains and fights. Overall, I like it.

Have you gone to any MMA fights? Yes, I’ve been to four of his fights. The fights are fun and I’ve met a lot of new people.

What it’s like being a teacher? Teaching is a huge challenge, but comes with a huge reward. The kids soak up the information like a sponge. When the kids learn things and get in the growth mindset, teaching is wonderful.

2019-01-09T16:32:25+00:00January 9th, 2019|

Longview teachers have class

We’re proud of our educators and are taking this opportunity to introduce you to two of them, in their own words. They have different interests but share a passion for preparing Longview students for successful futures!

This is a supplement to the Longview Public Schools annual report. Both Gail Wells and Sam Kell are featured in the printed version of the annual report.  

Gail Wells, math teacher, Monticello Middle School.

Gail Wells believes everyone can do math. She works the room and uses technology to gauge how much each student understands, even those who never raise their hands.

Where did you grow up and go to school? I was born in North Dakota and grew up in Federal Way, Washington. I was in the first graduating class at Thomas Jefferson High School in Auburn and went to Western Washington University for a degree in home economics.

How did you get from home economics to math? My passion was food and nutrition, but math is completely entrenched in home economics—measuring food, finance, sewing …

Why do people think math is so hard? Society doesn’t allow people not to be “readers,” but for some reason it’s OK to not be good at math. The mindset should be that “I can do it,” because everyone can.

How long have you been teaching? Twenty-six or 27 years—10 years at St. Helens and 10 years at Robert Gray, with four years as a math coach at Kessler and Robert Gray. Now I’m finishing at Monticello Middle School.

How has teaching math changed? When I was in school, it was, “Here is how you do it. Now copy what I do.” We don’t do that anymore. Instead of just handing students an algorithm or a way to do something, we do a lot of concrete building of understanding before moving to the abstract.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? That look on a student’s face when they “get it”—it’s priceless.

What are some of the keys to being a good teacher? Number one is understanding what the goal is. For me it’s the state standards—I have to know what the students need to know. Also …

  • Making sure the students get the needed feedback so they can self-evaluate.
  • Being ready when they walk through the door—knowing where you’re going and how to get there, not just turning the page on the book and teaching them what’s on the next page.
  • Adjusting if the students are not getting it.

The big thing here at Monticello is I have an amazing teaching partner, Phil Hartley. We collaborate, do assessments, reflect on student work, talk about the goals and are transparent about our work. Today we are going to share kids and do some interventions, so we can get them where they need to be right now.

To be a good teacher, it’s everything, including a great administration that supports you. It’s not just one thing.

What advice do you have for new teachers? Don’t think you already know everything. I’ve been teaching for 26 or 27 years, and every year I learn something new. Every year I get better. So listen to your colleagues, listen to your students, and be willing to adapt. Be a part of the team.

What’s something people might not know about you? I’ve been making gingerbread houses for 30 years. I have two sons who were in the armed service—one still is. I send gingerbread houses to Afghanistan and Bosnia. My daughter taught English in South Korea, so I sent one to her.

What would you tell the community about what life is like in school? When those kids come up the stairs and say hi to me, it’s wonderful. It’s the best place in the world to work.

What are students like today? Students are considerate of each other. They want to do their best—they want to succeed.

Anything else? This is my last year of teaching. I want to have more time with my family and visit my grandchildren—I have six. My career as a teacher has been an amazing journey. I feel deeply blessed by every student I’ve ever had.

 

 

Sam Kell, industrial arts teacher, Mark Morris High School

Sam Kell practices what he teaches. At school, he introduces pre-apprenticeship students (pg. 3) to technical skills like carpentry. In his spare time, he works on his own fixer-upper house.

Where did you grow up and go to school? I spent my childhood in Kelso and Longview, and went to Catlin Elementary, Columbia Heights Elementary, Cascade Middle School and Mark Morris High School. I spent one year at Lower Columbia College and finished my final three years at Central Washington University in the industrial arts program.

Why did you get into teaching? I always liked working with people and going through the learning process. My mom is a pre-school teacher.

Who introduced you to industrial arts? My dad is a self-employed residential contractor. He flips houses and owns rentals. I started working with my dad when I was 10 or 11 years old. I was just a helping hand with sheetrock and roofs. In school I excelled in shop classes and was happiest in project-based learning.

What’s the best part about being a teacher? Building relationships with the students. Teaching is all about the relationships and the growth.

What are the students of today like? They are hard-working and task driven. People may assume students never get off their smartphone or think, “It’s not like when we were in school.” But I still see the drive in students to get things done. Sometimes it takes different teaching styles to motivate different students.

What is one thing you want to teach every student? One thing I’d like to teach every student is lifelong learning and self-evaluation. To be able to reflect on the job you just completed is a very important skill no matter what you do. I learned a long time ago, “reflect and do better.”

What would you like people to know about school? School is about learning, and failure is okay.

 Do you have hobbies? I love hunting, fishing and hiking, and I share season tickets to the Trailblazers. I’ve been a Blazers fan since elementary school. I watched Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler play. I also own a house in Kelso—it’s a fixer upper.

 Anything else? It’s important for young people in our community to recognize their own skills and recognize what Longview has to offer. Longview is a great place.

2018-11-07T15:28:49+00:00November 6th, 2018|
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