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Teacher Spotlight – Mr. Kessler, Cascade Middle School

Spotlight  – Q & A

Where did you grow up? I was born in Longview and raised in Toutle. My family on my father’s side lived in Toutle since the 1860’s. Some of the original homesteaders in the Toutle Valley are the Tippery’s, who are in my family tree. My grandmother on my Dad’s side was a Tippery. While my parents still live in Toutle, my family lives in Castle Rock now.

What high school did you attend? I graduated from Toutle High School – class of 1993. The Fighting Ducks!

Mr. Kessler

Where did you go to college? From Toutle High School I enrolled at Lower Columbia College (LCC) then transferred and graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Ellensburg is great, but it’s not “here”.

How is school different now from when you grew up? The transient nature of students is significantly different from when I grew up. The Toutle High School class I graduated with had about 40 kids, most of whom went through K-12 together. You just don’t see that anymore.

Why the transient nature? It’s socioeconomics. People living in poverty, having difficulty finding steady work or a stable place to live.

Where were you on May 18, 1980 when Mt St Helen’s erupted? I was sitting in the dining room learning how to tie my shoes. One of my sisters was helping me get ready for church. The neighbor came over and told us the mountain blew. We were forced to move to Longview for about a month before coming back home.

What memories do you have of the eruption? I remember trying to process the idea that all the logging equipment on the mountain was just gone – vanished. I remember Spirit Lake before the eruption, everything is very different now.

When you left high school, did you want to be a teacher? Being a teacher was in the back of my mind. My parents did not push us into college; they wanted us to find our own way. I think Dad wanted me to be an engineer.

 Did the eruption of Mt St Helens change your career path? The eruption changed the career path for many of us. By some estimates, the eruption blew away about 25 years’ worth of tree cutting. Cutting just wasn’t the same as it had been in the past, with much of the old growth timber gone, many people couldn’t make the same sort of living.

 Do you have a family? Yes, I am married with two kids a girl and a boy. I met my wife Amanda at LCC in an English composition class.

 What was college like? My advisor at LCC, Mike Dugaw, “chewed on me” one day for not being more dedicated to college. He promised a scholarship to LCC if I joined the debate team – which was a turning point in my life. I loved the debate team and solidified the idea of being a teacher.

What are some of the things Mr. Dugaw taught you? He never let us off the hook. Mr. Dugaw always had high expectations for us. Without Mike Dugaw, me staying in college was doubtful.

How did you pick Central Washington University? First, it was the least expensive state school and my sister Jennifer got her accounting degree there. In addition, I liked the town. For a kid from the country I fit in at CWU.

What are some of your college memories? I was accustomed to snow, but didn’t know much about cold weather. You learn “cold” in Ellensburg. I remember an old-timer helping me keep my engine block from freezing by suggesting I place a chicken lamp underneath the truck every night.  

Why did you choose teaching middle school? There is a different feeling in middle school versus elementary or high school. The students bring such energy and enthusiasm – it’s great.

How has teaching social studies changed? Changing family dynamics impact teaching. Many of our kids are dealing with very tough socioeconomic issues, the hierarchy of needs. Compared to when I was in school it’s very different.

What do you do after work? I’m on the Castle Rock City Council, coach football, wrestling and track at Cascade and for the last 17 years I’ve been on the Castle Rock reserve police force.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? The best parts…there are so many. I would say the immediate gratification of a kid learning something and the relationship you build. Then ten years from now, you see an ex-student who’s now a molecular biologist or a sports journalist. It’s so cool to see the students later in life. The impact one person can make on a person’s life can be dramatic.

What are some of the keys to being a good teacher? Get help from other teachers. Dena Enyeart gave me some great material for a lesson on Alexander the Great.

When did you get to Cascade? In the fall of 2002, about 16 years ago. When I first came here I taught science for a while, but teaching history is my passion – my hobby. I read magazines like “Frontiersman Magazine”, I love history.

Are history and science related? Yes, history and science linked. Our country’s advances in medicine, advances in the military all relate back to science. Bringing multi-disciplinary sciences into the classroom to teach history is great. It makes the lessons so much more valuable.

What advice would you have for new teachers? Coming in as a new teacher would be extremely difficult. The biggest thing would be to try to find a way to balance helping kids while still challenging them. Letting them know you care about them as a person, but also as a student who needs to learn – it’s balancing relationship and rigor.

How has your experience in other aspects of life helped your teaching? It helps me understand where many kids are “coming from”. The life experience helps me understand how to help families better. When we talk about the Constitution in class my experience as a police officer and city council person really helps.

What else? I believe in public service and will do whatever I can to help my students be successful.

2018-12-26T09:18:55-07:00December 26th, 2018|

Teacher Spotlight – Mrs. Trochim, Cascade Middle School

Spotlight  – Q & A

Where did you grow up? I was born in California and moved Longview at 2 years old. We moved here because my father got a new job at the Weyerhaeuser plant in Longview.

What schools did you attend? Growing up we lived in and around Longview, Kelso and Castle Rock. I attended Monticello Middle School and graduated from R.A. Long – class of 1984.

My memories of R.A. Long are great. Most young people want to move out of town. I graduated from high school then married my husband at the age of 18 and settled here – we’ve been married 34 years. Mrs. Trochim and her husband Phil have two adult girls.

Mrs. Trochim, Cascade Middle School

Where did you go to college? WSU Vancouver – I’ll I ever wanted to be was a teacher. I was offered a job at Cascade Middle School before graduating from college and took the job. I’ve been at Cascade ever since, and this is my 15th year here.

What subject do you teach? I started out teaching English/Language Arts and still do – it’s my passion. I am also fortunate to work with kids in the WEB (Where Everyone Belongs) Leadership program.

What sort of leadership activities does WEB do? This week twenty-nine eighth grade student leaders walked up to Columbia Heights and played math games with first graders. Both the older and younger students loved the exercise. The event showed the older kids leadership and giving back to the community, while the younger kids learned math skills.

What do you do in your off time? My husband and I have three grand kids, who we love spending time with. I love to work in the yard, and our three dogs keep us busy. I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction as often as possible.

How has teaching English/Language Arts changed? We are really targeted with our approach. There is a lot of testing, which takes significant time, but the data helps us focus on what to teach. The sad part is I’ve seen so much more homelessness and poverty. There was not this high of a level of issues back when I started.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? There’s so many things – but it’s the kids! Teaching them something they didn’t know – the love of reading and writing.

What are some of the keys to being a good teacher? Do something you are passionate about. If you’re passionate about being a teacher it’s great. You give your life to teaching, so hopefully it is enjoyable. Having been at Cascade fifteen years it feels like family. There’s been a lot of hope at Cascade since Mr. Rugg became the principal. He cares about kids.

How long have you worked in the district? 15 years – all at Cascade.

What advice would you have for new teachers? Don’t be too hard on yourself. I still learn a lot from my students, they’ll sometimes see something I didn’t catch. Keep it simple in the beginning. I coached volleyball for years and it’s hard to teach school, coach and get everything done – don’t take on too much.

How has teaching changed? Teaching is getting harder and harder because I want to do better and better.

What would you tell the community about what life is like in school? Because of social media I wouldn’t want to go back and be a middle school student again – social media has changed things. There’s a lot of goodness. The kids are great, but we need to find ways to help parents with mental health support, food, clothing and shelter. If we can educate a child nobody can take that away. It’s not a student’s fault they come from a difficult family situation. Education is the answer, it’s the way out.

How are students different from perceptions created by the media? Today’s students are more “worldly” than students of the past due to the Internet. The maturity of sixth graders versus eighth graders is pretty significant, so it depends on the grade your teaching.

What else? I care about kids and try do my best every day.


2018-12-18T09:33:33-07:00December 18th, 2018|

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.

2018-11-07T15:28:48-07:00November 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.”

2018-11-01T14:57:10-07:00November 1st, 2018|