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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.

2018-11-07T15:28:48+00:00November 6th, 2018|

Cascade Middle School student says, “Don’t give up.”

“Don’t give up,” is eleven-year-old Christine “CC” Carman’s message for young people. After undergoing open-heart surgery in January 2018, the Cascade Middle School seventh grader is confident she can do just about anything in life. “Even as a little kid you can do anything, it just depends on how big of an imagination you have,” Christine says.

In October of 2017 a friend of Christine’s talked about having a heart murmur as they exercised during PE class. When Christine felt her own heartbeat while the two friends were running, she could feel it skip a beat. The friend recommended she talk to her doctor.

Pre-surgery with the anesthesia doctor.

Christine’s mother Sarah Carman took Christine to her regular doctor for a visit and explained that Christine had asthma-like symptoms including shortness of breath.  The doctor listened to Christine’s heart and recommended an electrocardiogram (EKG) commonly used to detect heart problems. The EKG test came back with a conclusion of “normally abnormal”, meaning there were abnormal readings within the scope of being normal.  The doctor suggested further testing, and an appointment with a cardiologist was set.

The cardiologist’s test results were more definitive. Open-heart surgery would cure Christine’s conditions of Partial Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (PAPVR) and Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). With PAPVR, pulmonary veins in a person’s heart returns blood to the right atrium instead of the left atrium. This causes oxygen-rich blood to flow back to the lungs instead of to the rest of the body. ASD is a hole in the heart between the right and left atrium, which causes oxygenated blood from the left side of the heart to flow through the hole into the oxygen poor right side of the heart.

Christine said, “The doctor drew me a picture, explaining what was happening with my heart and that surgery would fix it – which kind of calmed me down.” It turns out Christine’s grandmother also had ASD, a hole in her heart that closed up naturally over time.

Surgery was scheduled at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. The surgery was postponed when Christine caught the flu, and then rescheduled for early 2018.  Christine didn’t want the surgery to be postponed, instead wanting to be in the hospital over Christmas to help cheer up the other kids undergoing treatment. “There were a bunch of kids without friends and family and I wanted to be there for them,” Christine said.

The day before the surgery, Christine was at her grandma and grandpa’s house, surrounded by family, but worried and anxious. She stayed up late into the night texting her friends, and woke the next morning nauseated. Her Mom sent her back to bed until it was time to leave for the hospital.

Arriving at the hospital, Christine was nervous and shaky. The anesthesia team gave Christine and her cardiologist Dr. Kaysere Christine a “pink drink which tasted nasty”, and the surgery team did another EKG and ultrasound of Christine’s heart. One of Christine’s few memories is having a stuffed bunny with her.

Christine and her cardiologist Dr. Kayser

The surgery lasted 4 hours with updates every hour, starting when the first incision was made, then when Christine went on the heart bypass machine, and finally when surgery ended. By the time the surgery finished and Christine was being wheeled into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) her heart was beating well on its own and she was breathing without any help.

Prior to surgery, the PAPVR and ASD had caused the right side of Christine’s heart to enlarge. By the time she reached the PICU her heart had already shrunk and was returning to normal size. Christine felt better immediately, even though she caught the flu again. She felt better and had more energy being sick with the flu than she did before the surgery.

Cascade Middle School principal Mr. Rugg and counselor Mrs. Holmes visited Christine in the hospital, bringing her a teddy bear and some candy. Mrs. Enyeart emailed Christine several times to make sure everything was all right. Christine returned to school two weeks after the surgery on a part-time basis.

Upon return, classmates and teachers looked after her to make sure she got her locker open and to class.  Mr. Bechtel welcomed Christine back and let the class know to look out for her.  While her heart was now fine, her chest took time to heal from the surgery. Through cooperation with Cascade teachers, Christine made up her coursework while being out for surgery without her grades falling.

The first time Christine participated in PE class after surgery, her family realized just how sick Christine had been.  After exerting herself in PE Christine came home and told her mom, “Did you know your body is not supposed to hurt after every PE class?” What Christine’s body knew as normal – really wasn’t.  Christine had never known anything else than her body hurting after exertion.

Fast forward ten months and Christine has just finished playing on the Cascade Cavalier volleyball team. Christine was voted “Most Improved Player” for the “C” squad, and the team went undefeated for the season. “It was very fun,” she said.  During the last game, a player from the other team spiked the ball at Christine. The ball slammed Christine in the chest – but the team still got the ball back over the net. The incident did not scare Christine; she knew she would be fine.  Next, Christine is looking forward to running on the track team. She wants to run hurdle events and do the long jump.

Christine was fortunate to have her conditions discovered early; some people live their entire lives with undiscovered heart conditions.  The malfunction in Christine’s heart stunted her growth and ability to gain weight, but since the surgery in January she’s grown 6 inches and gained weight. Christine’s prognosis is for a normal life.

Christine’s not exactly sure what she wants to be when she grows up, maybe a kindergarten teacher or a nurse at Randall Children’s Hospital. Since she was in pain at Randall Children’s Hospital, “I would like to help other kids in pain,” she said

After the challenges Christine has faced she says, “I can do anything.”

2018-11-01T14:57:10+00:00November 1st, 2018|
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