American Education Week 2021

Clover Park School District Celebrates American Education Week
Posted on 11/17/2021
American Education Week Image

Clover Park School District is celebrating American Education Week by highlighting some of the great teachers providing students with the opportunities they need to learn and grow in the classroom.

Katrina Howe, Carter Lake Elementary

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Carter Lake Elementary teacher Katrina Howe lets her third grade students play with math concepts before she ever teaches them how they work. She cuts colored paper into pieces so students can touch and feel fractions and sings songs with them about multiplication. Her students often don’t even realize they’re learning about math at first.

“Math is all around us, so students are using it all the time. They should be able to see it,” she said. “They get to make connections with math before they ever even learn about the concepts.”

They talk about what makes a good mathematician, and she always emphasize that making mistakes is part of the process. “That’s how our brains actually grow,” she said. “We took the whole first week to focus on getting rid of the stigmas in our minds that we’re not good at math or we’re too slow because it’s just not true.”

Sean Bruce-Aijan, Clover Park High School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Clover Park High School algebra teacher Sean Bruce-Aijan knows that each of his students has different challenges when it comes to learning math. For some, math is natural. For others, it’s much more of a struggle. He builds relationships and learns about each student to figure how to make math instruction work best for them.

“We have to begin with a personal connection before we can dig into the math,” he said. “Me and my co-teacher are always working to individualize student needs and trying to find ways that each learner can approach and show their work in a way that makes sense for them.”

Sean focuses a lot of his teaching on financial literacy and showing students how learning math can help protect themselves financially. “Many students who come into my class say they don’t see math in their future,” he said. “But everyone uses money and that’s one way we can all connect with math.”

Darcy Magee, Tyee Park Elementary School

Talia Kircher, Lochburn Middle School

Tyee Park Elementary School third grade teacher Darcy Magee believes that teaching can only begin by grabbing the attention of her students. By telling stories or making learning visual and concrete, students perk up and engage.

Recently, Darcy began a lesson on adjectives by showing, opening and passing around a can of sardines. Students described what they saw, heard and even tasted. “When teaching reading and writing, we’re often competing with video games,” she said. “I always start with something that can grab their attention and get them motivated and enthused for learning.”

She also builds trust with her students. By fostering a family atmosphere in the classroom, students feel comfortable sharing, making mistakes and growing together. “They are allowed to take risks,” she said. “They are willing to share their work because they know no one is going to criticize or laugh at them if they make a mistake.”

Talia Kircher, Lochburn Middle School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Lochburn Middle School English teacher Talia Kircher works hard to understand her sixth graders and figure out their interests. She believes increasing engagement with reading and writing begins by finding the genres, stories and writing styles that appeal to each individual student.

“As an English teacher, I just love to ignite the passion of reading, especially for my reluctant readers,” she said. “I am always trying to find the books that will get them excited to read.”

Talia emphasizes group work and collaboration among her students. By understanding each other’s differences, students learn how to effectively communicate and work together. “I really believe in teamwork and want my students to know they need to learn to work with others,” she said. “I lean on my colleagues for support, and I let my students know how helpful that kind of collaboration can be.”

Susan Grewe, Tillicum Elementary School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Tillicum Elementary School fifth grade teacher Susan Grewe makes science a part of everything her students do in the classroom. They read and write about science. They do math problems related to science. Even their art and P.E. activities are a chance to learn about science.

“I really want my students to love and care about science as much as I do,” she said. “The more they’re exposed to it, the more they think about it and the more they’re questioning the world around them in a positive way.”

Susan emphasizes hands-on learning in her classroom. It allows students to wonder about and explore how the universe works. “It makes students really try to figure out how they can make a difference in the world,” she said. “When they are learning about ecosystems and the environment up close, it causes them to question what small steps they can take to make things better.”

Heather Matsuda, Lakes High School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Lakes High School anatomy and physiology teacher Heather Matsuda worked in health care for more than a decade before becoming a teacher. She brings the stories and experiences she gained during her previous career with her into the classroom every day. 

“I want to show my students how what we are learning is tangible for them in the real world,” she said. “I share my experiences and try to relate concepts directly to what my students experience as well. It helps the light bulb turn on for them.”

Heather doesn’t have all the answers to the questions her students ask but that makes the teaching and learning process more interesting for everyone. “If I don’t know something, I say ‘let’s find out,’” she said. “We will open our textbooks and fire up our search engines to find the answer together. It helps build curiosity.”

Colleen Moran, Idlewild Elementary School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Idlewild Elementary School fourth grade teacher Colleen Moran weaves social studies into her teaching no matter what subject her students are learning. Students work on creative writing through historical fiction or strengthen their reading skills by researching a historical subject.

“Rather than having a specific block in the day where we are working on social studies, it’s always a part of what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re not teaching our subjects in isolation, so it’s a lot more engaging and fun for students and teachers to bring different subjects together.”

Colleen is always looking for ways to give her students more control over their learning. A lesson on government, for example, allows students to research and study a type of government, such as democracy or monarchy, that interests them. “Students are so much more excited to learn when they have agency over what they’re doing,” she said.

Ian Lewis, Hudtloff Middle School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Hudtloff Middle School social studies teacher Ian Lewis brings history to life in his classroom. Embracing the skills and knowledge he gained in his previous career as an archeologist, Ian uses hands-on projects and access to real cultural artifacts to get his seventh-grade students excited about Washington state history.

“I have a lot of passion for history that I can share with them,” he said. “I do my best to bring in as many different resources as I can to get them interested in doing their own research and make their own discoveries about history.”

Ian recently brought in an ice block and pushed it along the school’s track to show the impact glaciers had on shaping the landscape of Washington state. “They can really visualize what is happening and how glaciers are changing our land,” he said. “It’s one example of how we can take what they’re learning in the textbook and make it more real for them.”

Peter Giardina, Hillside Elementary School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Hillside Elementary School music teacher Peter Giardina views music education as a chance to encourage creativity and problem solving for his students. He begins teaching music by focusing on voice and body percussion. Students experiment with the different sounds they can make without even touching an instrument.

“They come up with a lot of different ideas about what they can use to make different sounds,” he said. “If you have a voice and can talk, you have an instrument, and they often think about things around the house that make certain sounds like pots and pans or desks and tables.”

A skilled musician, Peter enjoys playing instruments and having fun while teaching. “Music really gives us the opportunity to be fun and silly while still learning,” he said. “Whether we’re telling stories or making jokes, it’s a chance entertain and teach at the same time.”

Ryan Harris, Harrison Preparatory School

Teacher stands in classroom for American Education Week, which runs November 15-19

Harrison Preparatory School choir director Ryan Harris makes leadership a key part of his choir classes. He empowers students as officers and section leaders to take on key roles in keeping the program running smoothly. He also selects an assistant conductor to work with him each week and eventually conduct a song of their own at ensemble performances.

“I believe it’s vital to empower and cultivate student leadership structures at school,” he said. “I want my students to see that they’re working at an elite level and filling roles that go beyond what a typical choir student may do.”

Harris views his classes as opportunities to teach life lessons that go far beyond music. “My mission is not to create an army of professional musicians,” he said. “I am trying to prepare students for life and teach them how to be strong team members and part of something bigger than themselves.”