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A nacortes S chool D istrict

Anacortes Pride


JUNE 2014

Schools earn recognition Three district schools earned the 2013 Washington Achievement Award, according to an announcement made last month by the state superintendent’s office. Anacortes High School won recognition for overall excellence, Fidalgo Elementary earned the award for high reading scores, and Island View Elementary landed a prize as one of the most improved schools in the state. The “overall excellence” award is based on reading and math scores, as well as graduation rates for the three most recent years. Anacortes High School placed in the top 5 percent of the state to secure the recognition. The reading award also goes to the top 5 percent of schools, based on student growth scores. In spite of a free-and-reduced lunch rate of 34 percent, Fidalgo Elementary bested state averages in reading by 12 to 18 percentage points in third through sixth grade. Island View Elementary earned the state award for “high progress” or overall improvement. The school qualified by being in the top 10 percent of elementaries making the most progress in reading and math for all student groups over three years. Schools with significant achievement gaps across subgroups are not eligible. Island View outperformed the state in math and reading at every grade level. It was the school’s first state achievement award. In an email to parents, principal Brian Hanrahan celebrated the school’s success: “This is an extraordinary accomplishment and is a direct reflection of the hard work of our students, the dedication of our teachers and staff, and the support and guidance of our parents,” he wrote. “The Island View staff has worked very hard to engage our students in relevant coursework that aligns with state standards and to set high expectations for student achievement. At the same time, we have never lost sight of the ‘whole child.’ All these efforts are validated by this impressive recognition.” While the awards offer an opportunity to recognize the great work of school staff, the real winners are the kids, says superintendent Mark Wenzel. “Quality instruction leads to greater success for students,” said Wenzel. “That’s been the mantra of this district for years – and it translates to reading, writing, math, thinking and problem-solving skills that prepare students for the future. When our schools earn awards like this, it means our students are learning at high levels.”

celebrating retirees • page 7

Class of 2014: ‘We made it!’

Anacortes High School valedictorians will join 185 classmates at graduation this year. Valedictorians achieved a cumulative grade point average of 4.0 – straight As for all four years of high school. They are: (top row) Kayla Matthews, (second row) Miranda Millard, Alex Rodriguez, Sarah Askey, Quint Foggin, (third row) Kevin Xue, Jillian Welk, and (bottom row) Lia Ferguson. Not pictured is Tyler Baker. Graduation is June 13, 7 p.m., at the high school gym.

District partnership supports military families A wave of purple rolled through Anacortes schools this spring as students across the district were encouraged to wear purple to show support for fellow classmates whose parents serve in the military. April was “Month of the Military Child,” a time to celebrate and recognize children of service members for the daily sacrifices they make Brenda Kovach s u p p o r t i n g their military parents. “The power of being recognized is incredible,” said Navy school liaison officer Brenda Kovach. “Just acknowledging military students goes so far in helping to build resilience.” Kovach has worked for NAS Whidbey Island for the last three years. She says her main goal is to mitigate the effects of the military lifestyle on children so they can have the same educational experiences as other students. Kovach connects those in the military with those from local school districts, whether it’s linking the commanding officer to

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the superintendent or bringing deployment support to the schools. Currently, she serves approximately 220 military students in Anacortes.

Deployment support

Five years ago, elementary school counselors Stacey Estenson and Tony Vecchione attended a course called Transitional Training. “I hadn’t done anything for military kids before the training, but it was very eye-opening. It brought me a lot of compassion for these families,” Estenson said. School counselors agree it’s vital to support military students because they have unique challenges such as deployments. Anacortes elementary schools have used an eight-week course to help students cope with issues. The class focuses on building resiliency. Children also learn about equipment such as carriers and planes and get to share feelings about what it’s like to have a parent gone. They learn how to take care of themselves and share what makes them proud about their parents. Kovach tells the story of a young student who was afraid his dad would fall over the side of the ship. The deployment support course taught him about the nets on the sides of a ship. The relief was palpable, Kovach said. Families go through three general phases during deployment: the build up, the actual time apart, and reuniting/reintegrating, says Kovach. The timing of deployments is unpredictable, so the uncertainty before the deployment even begins

The Bisbee family – Michael, daughter Kaitlin, son Zachary and Michelle – get ready to move to Japan this summer. Michael Bisbee has been deployed six times in his career. ‘The hardest part is missing out on the everyday things,” he said. ‘Those are years and moments you don’t get back.’

can be extremely stressful for the family. The final phase, readjusting when the service member returns, can last several months, not a day or a week. Island View dean of students Shannon Gilbert knows all about those phases. Her husband has been deployed 18 times in their 17-year marriage. She says the smallest amount of appreciation goes a long way. In April, Gilbert helped plan the Island View celebration by inviting military parents or a stand-in – uncle, grandmother etc. – to come to lunch and spend the afternoon with their children.

Moving to a new school

Beyond deployment, a second focus of support for families is helping them transition to new schools. On average, a military student moves every three years. Kovach works with schools, including PTAs and even student clubs, to help develop programs for new students. “It’s important for new kids to connect. If they’re up all night worrying about whom they’re going to sit with at lunch the next day, they’re probably not studying for the math test,” she said.

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JUNE 2014 ANACORTES pride • www.ASD103.ORG

SHOUT OUTS some special encouragement to keep them reading. Not only does she have one of the more difficult teaching jobs, she spends her personal time working with kids in our community and spending many unpaid hours planning and researching how to better educate these children with autism. Joy Pesaturo Parent

Team leader

To principal Tara Dowd for undying support for the science program at Fidalgo Elementary. She has backed up numerous enrichment ideas, programs, and field trips and helped put Fidalgo on the map for science achievement in Washington State. Thank you for your leadership and encouragement. Mira Lutz Fidalgo Elementary

Testing schedule

Shout out to Val Robinson, who provides technical support at Fidalgo Elementary. Val went above and beyond to create our state assessment schedule and to provide in-lab support before and during testing. This was a big deal as our state assessments all moved online this spring. Thank you, Val for taking on this daunting task! Megan Clancy Fidalgo Elementary

Positive presence

The AHS students in our special education program have been extremely fortunate to have two outstanding educators working with them daily. Para-educators Marcy Olsen and Kyle Wendling have been such an essential and positive presence in the lives of students, working with them to build advocacy skills, social and communication skills, and transitioning skills. In addition, they are in the classrooms working with all students who may need a little more attention and academic guidance. The level of kindness and respect given to each student is unparalleled! Our students know they are there for them and want them to be successful. Our high school and district are so fortunate to have them. Kim Liebscher Anacortes High School

Les Mis musicians

I would like to ‘sing’ the praises of three AHS students: Blake Clawson, Danielle Long, and Tim Graffius. They recently joined Anacortes Community Theatre’s orchestra for the production of Les Miserables. The students were professional, always on time, practiced many hours at home and at our orchestra rehearsals, and played with professional quality for 20 shows – all while keeping their grades up and participating in numerous other high school activities.   Les Miserables  received  standing ovations every night with raves for the music, the actors and the overall production. Much of the credit goes to the fabulous music these students helped create.   Marilyn Pinquoch Anacortes Community Theatre

Robotics commitment

Curt Oppel has given tireless hours to helping the robotics team. I know that he has loved the opportunity to work with these kids, but I have been impressed with his consistency and commitment to the program. It’s so good for our students to see an example of someone Curt Oppel who gives his time for others. What a great example of commitment to  our community. If we didn’t have volunteers like him, our program would not run as smoothly. Michelle Hackstadt Anacortes High School

Math help

The fourth grade teachers at Mt. Erie want to give a shout out to Anton Briefer, Russ Horr, Kathleen Horr, Roger Hoffman, and Martha Harper for designing and teaching challenging mathematics activities to a small group of students twice a week. The students have loved it and have grown so much! Luke Stanage Mount Erie Elementary

Trip to Disneyland

From May 17 through May 20, 47 members of the AHS band program traveled to Disneyland to perform in the park, attend a Disney studio music workshop, and enjoy theme parks to grow closer as a band. Laurie Julius-Carver took the role of the band’s trip planner and worked closely with our travel agents to organize the travel and activities from start to finish to ensure happy and healthy students throughout the trip. Mike and Debbie Graves arranged food and snacks and volunteered their time to drive band instruments and uniforms to Anaheim – a week long commitment! Wendy Ingels, Steve Hancock, Matt Connelly and Ginny Kerr joined as caring, fun and responsible chaperones to make the trip run smoothly

High school PTSA

With parent support, 47 Anacortes High School band members recently enjoyed a visit to Disneyland. Pictured are Sam Rockwood, John Mackinnon, Jaymee Graves and James Haley.

and stress free. Taking 47 students to L.A. was made possible by over a year’s worth of pre-planning, countless meetings, and ultimately, the patience of this parent support group. They were wonderful, and I am very thankful for their enthusiasm and efforts. Ian Simensen Anacortes High School

A treasure

Island View first grade teacher Samantha Ng has a clear passion for education. She demonstrates a deep commitment to the curriculum by integrating thematic units across several disciplines. Her assignments are well thought-out and expertly prepared, with directions, examples and grading rubrics that establish clear guidelines and expectations. Ms. Ng’s focus on academic rigor extends far beyond the required standards. In the five months since Ms. Ng has been teaching her, our daughter has begun to make remarkable connections between her curriculum and daily surroundings. Whether she is calculating the perimeter of a farm field we drive past, trying to determine the balance and counter-balance of moving objects around her, or comparing the running speed between herself and a Komodo dragon, our daughter has been inspired by her teacher to embrace the world as an astute observer and a learner. Marketa Vorel Parent


Middle school coaches Chris Crane and Kyle Wendling are difference-makers. My son, Kirby, had not been involved in AMS athletics until he started wrestling this season. But from the first practice, all he could talk about was Coach Wendling! Meanwhile, under the radar, he was making new friends and was engaged in something rewarding. Certainly a huge positive as opposed to having loose time on his hands, which we all can agree usually doesn’t end up well for 14-year-olds! Clearly his relationship with Kyle was the direct factor that led to joining the track and field team. Track is where he experienced Coach Crane in a different role than as his leadership teacher. Not long into the track season, where he was winning two and three events a meet, he clearly saw Chris as someone who inspired him in achieving his goals. Shortly after that, Kirby’s grade in leadership class shot up just like the shot put! There is no doubt that the broadening of his relationship with Coach Crane led to success on and off the field. He’s now a vocal leader and no longer on life’s sidelines; sports can do that for kids. The quality of these two coaches and their commitment to all our kids is commendable. Jim Roe

Mt. Erie recognition

This year was my fourth year directing Mt. Erie’s annual talent show. I could not

have done it without help from Bob Knorr. He is supposed to be retired, but every year he runs tech for the show, as well as helping coach kids with their stage presence and performances. Truly, without Bob, the show could not go on. He deserves an enormous shout out for all of his help through the years. Another individual worthy of praise is my son’s sixth grade teacher Nate Rozema. I’ve witnessed Nate take a personal interest in his students, helping their self confidence grow. In my opinion, nothing is a better foundation for eagerness and ability to learn than someone believing in you and telling you that you can do it. Nate personifies this in his classroom. Tina Hoxie Parent

Great teachers

I would love to give a shout out to all of my son’s teachers at Mt. Erie: Rachel Hofheimer, Jody Dylan, and Jonna Dunham. They have each helped and worked with Justin, so that he can have a love for learning and be happy each day coming to school. Thank you for all your hard work this year! Christina Coffey Parent

Small acts of kindness

Mt. Erie fifth grade student Jaycie Miller was recently “caught” reaching out to a community member. Jaycie saw a homeless woman with a dog downtown. The woman was holding a sign that said, “Help, Need Food. Need Shelter.” In Jaycie’s words: “When I looked in her eyes, I could see and feel her pain. I wanted to take her home, but I knew I couldn’t. So, I decided to walk to my house and get a quart of strawberries to bring back to the homeless woman.” Small acts of kindness. A better world. Stacey Estenson Mt. Erie

One direction

Anyone who can take a room full of children and move them along in one direction where they create such beautiful music deserves to be recognized for those efforts. Thank you, band director Ian Simensen, for all the patience you show! Shelby Pratt    Parent

Support for children

MaryJo Christianson teaches the autism spectrum class at Island View. In years past, she worked in the early learning program and conducted a program where she and others would visit lower income housing throughout the summer, bringing the children books and reading aloud to them.  The other day on my way to work, I saw her on her own weekend time visiting the children and bringing them new books. I asked her about it, and she said that she couldn’t bear to see those children and families go without

Thank you Anacortes High School PTSA. The work that gets accomplished could not get done without you: Jon Ronngren, Jeannette Papadakis, Trish Jager, Lori Halverson, Sandi Hiles, Debora Bisby & the newsletter folders, Kim Graf, Lori Keller, Patty Luciano, Laurel Harrison, Vicki Stowe, Rhonda McLaughlin & crew, Linda Everton, Gina Davis & crew, Kelley Bright & crew, Lisa Inabnit, Yemia Simonis, Carrie Starkovich, Lori Keller, Bernadette Bishop, Monique Malamma, Carey South and others. Your organization, time management skills, and willingness to take action set a great example for others. A special thank you to those of you who are continuing in your role, or maybe a new one, next year. You rock! Polly Welch, AHS PTSA Co-President

Open doors

Island View teachers Deslie English, Kristen Chambers, Emily Mansfield, Melissa Goforth, Alyssa Levesque, Kim Wedul, and Heather Shainin warmly opened their doors and their hearts to our special needs students this year. Each and every teacher made our students feel included, special and most importantly successful in the general education classroom. MaryJo Christianson Island View Elementary

Middle school success

We would like to give a shout out to Anacortes Middle School teachers Becky Motherwell and Karin Cooper for the special attention and concern they have shown for our granddaughter’s success in eighth grade. We appreciate their dedication. LeAnn and Frank Lane

Super nurse

District nurse Emily Nesheim has been a breath of fresh air in our office and always has a great attitude. She has established wonderful relationships with staff and students – all while keeping a laser-like focus on student health. Emily does this in an environment that has become much more complex over the years with increasing student health needs and state requirements. Monique Starkovich Mount Erie Elementary

Patient, kind, supportive

Special Education teacher Miriam Mehl is a saint. She has worked tirelessly this year with some exceptional students and is always patient, kind and supportive. She prioritizes the needs of students and goes way beyond to help each Miriam Mehl one achieve success. Miriam believes in her students, which then in turn causes them to believe in themselves. She models calm, adult mature behavior which is calming to students with traumatic backgrounds. I observed two of her fifth grade students recently, and they were so excited to have developed their skills to read chapter books. It is a pleasure to work with such a caring teacher. Peter Donaldson Mount Erie Elementary


JUNE 2014 ANACORTES pride •

Celebrating the year and looking ahead

I recently received an email from a parent expressing gratitude for her daughter ’s experience in our schools. The daughter, a graduating senior, started with us in second grade. The family moved here specifically for the schools. “We have not once regretted the move,” Dr. Mark Wenzel said the mom. “Our Superintendent experiences throughout the past 11 years have been outstanding.” In the email, the mother explained how her daughter “struggled immensely with reading and math.” With the encouragement and support of teachers and administrators throughout the system, she pushed through to achieve at high levels. Graduating with a 3.5 grade point average, the young woman is headed to Pacific Lutheran University to pursue a degree in nursing. A success story.

Positive relationships

Another happy moment came last month when the board and I visited Anacortes High School to conduct focus groups with a wide assortment of students across grade levels. We asked the students what worked well at school, what could be improved, and how they would

rate their overall education in Anacortes. Their feedback was candid – hands-on classes were more meaningful than traditional lectures; the advisory period at school could be improved; and they wanted more opportunities to do college-level writing and research. They also mentioned the depressed state of the physical building – and how it had a negative pull on the overall learning environment. At the same time, most students reported that their classes challenge them intellectually. They felt prepared for life after high school. The “feel good” moment happened when we asked students about relationships at school. Students noted that staff members care about their success, take time to know them as people, and find ways to support them socially and academically. Each participant said there was at least one adult at school with whom they had developed a meaningful connection – someone who cared about their success and provided guidance. They also noted an overall positive climate among students at the high school.

Reflection and planning

I mention the two stories above because it’s June, and that’s the time of year when we like to ask: “How have we done? Did we meet the needs of students and families in Anacortes?” The answer, of course, is always nuanced. We find ways to connect and support most students. But we know that some feel disconnected or uninspired, while others face huge life challenges that make school success much more difficult than their peers.

While we celebrate the accomplishments of so many students this June – and believe me, we have a lot to be proud of – we must not forget those who struggle. There’s no magic solution in addressing the needs of all students, but strong relationships, engaging classes, extra academic support, mental health counseling and community connections all play an important part. As we engage in strategic planning this summer, we intend to conduct a formal review of our “college and career readiness” goals. Our aim is to further create the opportunities and supports to ensure that every student leaves our system thankful they ended up in Anacortes because their school experience made such a big difference in their lives. The mother I referenced at the beginning of this column is Polly Welch. Her daughter is Madeline. To all Anacortes staff and community members who positively impacted Madeline’s life, thank you. And to our staff and community members who offered time and resources to touch the life one of our other 2,675 students, I also offer gratitude. Each of you has made a difference, and collectively that difference adds up to transformed lives and a stronger community. As we honor our graduates and watch other students move up a grade level, let’s celebrate the small and large wins. Each of us plays a role in helping shape these lives, as we strive to help our children grow in meaningful ways, find their passion and contribute to the larger world.

Facilities Committee members reflect on developing a bond proposal

Mayor Laurie Gere


Steve Wilhoit

Scott Burnett

Cory Ertel

he last four months, the district’s 32-member facilities committee has reviewed data, looked at 21st Century learning standards, discussed safety, watched a video of new high schools, and examined possible designs as part of a process to develop a bond proposal for a February 2015 election. Superintendent Mark Wenzel and project manager Marc Estvold will share the process and initial recommendations in community forums this summer. Here are committee member reflections:

Mayor Laurie Gere

It’s been a great process. We have committee members from all walks of life: industry, education, health care, parents and retirees. We did an overall assessment of the whole district, and the high school received a score of 51 out of 100. It’s failing. The infrastructure is failing, the safety is failing. The structure and condition of the school prevents our students from being competitive with their peers who are educated in 21st Century buildings. A new high school represents the vision I hold for Anacortes – ensuring that our children get the best possible education. Also on the economic development front, it helps our community attract first-rate professionals. They look for a community that provides excellent education. We need a new high school. It helps our students, and it helps our community. For me, it’s just a no-brainer.

Steve Wilhoit

My wife and I retired here, and don’t have children in the district. Our children are grown and are having children of their own. But we recognize that a successful, high-achieving

school district is really important to the sustainability and growth of the community. Anacortes begins as a fabulous community, and it has opportunities to get even better. A really top-notch high school is a huge draw for families coming from outside the area looking for jobs – high-end, professional jobs that every community wants. Anacortes High School is many decades old. We need to focus on ensuring we have a high school that will last another 50 years, just like this one has.

Scott Burnett

Those of who work at the high school know there are a lot of problems with safety, the size of classrooms, the flow of children, and failing structures. In fact, the state gave the high school a very low rating because of the poor functionality of the roof, electrical, mechanical and other systems. When students experience a new building, it changes their approach to learning and builds a greater sense of community. While the current building served us well for many years, it is not serving us well in the 21st Century. If we tried just to fix the existing deficiencies within the current struc-

ture, it would be like putting lipstick on a pig. We need a new, modern building.

Cory Ertel

I have three young children – ages 6 and under, and it is my hope that they will all go through Anacortes schools system. I’m really excited to think about the future of education and how we can create improved and modern learning spaces, along with enhanced security for our kids. One of things that I’ve been thinking a lot about is how this process to improve facilities here in the school district is more than just about the students and their educational experience; it’s about our whole community. When we think about a new high school, it’s really about matching the community pride we have in our local educational system with modern facilities that match that community pride and are built to guide our students towards a path of success in life. By improving our facilities, the high school can become an essential “center of gravity” in Anacortes, setting our community up to be vibrant and successful for decades to come. I’m honored to be part of the process.



Anacortes High School experienced a 42 percent spike in the number of advanced placement tests taken last month, compared to one year ago, according to principal Jon Ronngren. Students took a total of 368 exams – up from 257 in 2013. English language (82 tests taken) and English literature (60) topped the list, followed by U.S. History (52), calculus (48), environmental science (40), chemistry (26), U.S. government (26), statistics (25), studio art (6), Spanish (2) and physics (1). In all, 224 of 784 students took at least one exam – or 29 percent of the student body. “We’ve worked hard at Anacortes High School to build a culture of high expectations and academic rigor,” said Ronngren. “This is an important part of our mission: ensuring students are college and career ready. Our counselors, teachers and support staff deserve credit for helping to develop a school culture where students challenge themselves. We’re really excited by this increase in the number of AP tests.”

Job shadows

On May 21, 48 Anacortes Middle School students visited Island Hospital for a tour and job shadow to learn about different careers in health care. Later in the month, 67 eighth graders participated in job shadows at community businesses including Anacortes Police Department, Anacortes Fire Department, Shell Oil Refinery, and NAS Whidbey. Anacortes Rotary provided lunch for students at Skyline Beach Club on both days. “These job shadows offer a great opportunity for students to connect with business leaders in the community and share their experiences with Rotarians over lunch,” said counselor Mary Kiser. “We appreciate the Anacortes Noon Club Rotary for offering this to our students, giving them exposure and awareness of all of the job opportunities available.” The learning experience impacted students. “I never realized before visiting Island Hospital that I would want to be a nurse,” said eighth grader Morgan Billow. “I thought nurses were on the sidelines. Once I did the job shadow, I realized they are an important part of the hospital and how it runs.” Now my career plans have changed. I’m considering a career in nursing.” Rotary member Mark Leone said the group came away impressed by the process and by the professionalism of the students. “The job shadows went very well,” he said. “The questions the students asked were amazing! Speaking with other Rotarians after the lunch, they were all very impressed with how well the students spoke as well as the depth of their inquiries.”



JUNE 2014 ANACORTES pride •

NEWS BRIEFS our road High school events

The district will celebrate end-of-the-year activities in the next two weeks. Graduation is Friday June 13, 7 p.m., in the high school gymnasium. Baccalaureate is June 8 at 7 p.m. in Brodniak Auditorium. The high school choir concert is June 9 at 7 p.m. in Brodniak Auditorium. The Drama III class will present its annual play June 5 to 7, 7:30 p.m., also in Brodniak.

Safety meeting

A district safety committee will present its recommendations for elementary schools in a public meeting at Mt. Erie Elementary on June 12 at 6 p.m. in the school library. The committee consists of district representatives and community members examining all facets of school safety, including Mt. Erie’s entry buzzer. The public is welcome to attend.

Art show

Students ages 5 to 18 may submit art work for the Anacortes Community and Youth Art 2014 Art Exhibit. Take art to the Anacortes Port warehouse on Sunday July 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. or Monday July 21 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Magic show

About 300 people attended a magic show performed by AHS sophomore Elliott Hofferth on May 2. The show raised $1,700 for Class of 2016 Grad Night. The Grad Night committee reports that between his benefit show last year and this year, Hofferth has raised $3,600 for the Class of 2016.

Tech update

The district plans to have fully wireless schools in the fall, with work on a wireless system to be completed this summer, according to technology manager Tyler Starkovich. In addition, the district will launch the first wave of classroom technology by implementing laptops across four classrooms at Anacortes High School. A much larger deployment of classroom technology will take place in 2015-2016. “We’re right in line with what we said we’d do with proceeds from the first year of the technology levy,” said Starkovich. “Going wireless is a huge first step. We’ll also be offering technology training to teachers this summer. Next year will be a solid step forward for us.”

Community leadership award

School board president Jeannette Papadakis recently earned the Community Leadership Award from the Washington Association of School Administrators for her outreach efforts related to the district’s technology initiative and her ongoing leadership on the board. “Jeannette does an incredible amount of work behind the scenes to support greater learning opportunities for all students,” said superintendent Mark Wenzel. “She consistently brings the focus back to the strategic plan and the best interest of our kids.”


3 graduates share life experiences

As Anacortes prepares to celebrate high school graduates this month, it’s a time for school staff and families to reflect on the journey and celebrate successes. Each graduate has a story to tell – experiences that shaped them, friends they made, and dreams for the future. Here are three stories of students who remain determined and hopeful, despite challenges they’ve encountered in life.

Vicky Rains: ‘I want to give back’

Born in Mexico, Vicky Rains came to the United States at age 5 to get better medical care for a congenital bone and joint disorder called arthrogryposis. The disease causes immobility in the joints; often the muscles around these joints are thin, weak, stiff or missing. In the U.S., Vicky’s biological parents faced trouble with the law. By the time she was 8 years old, Vicky was removed and placed in foster care. Her early years were a constant battle with pain: a knee dislocation in third grade and a total of 10 surgeries over the years. “Growing up, it always hurt to walk,” she said. Vicky eventually ended up in Anacortes, living with John and Terri Rains – a foster family who became her adopted family. Facing continued pain and “feet that wouldn’t work properly,” Vicky made the decision herself in sixth grade to have her feet amputated. She now uses prosthetic feet and enjoys improved mobility. “I think it showed inner strength to make the decision,” said Vicky. “Sometimes I resented it, but now I’m glad I made the decision. It’s made me stronger and more confident.” Middle school was the first and only time she experienced bullying. In eighth grade, a small group of seventh grade boys teased her about her disability – her hands looked funny and she walked with a limp.

Anacortes High School seniors Selena Hernandez, Jesse Bass and Vicky Rains all received scholarships and plan to attend college this fall. The three students have demonstrated resilience in overcoming life challenges, according to school staff.

her own positive experiences with social workers growing up. She likes the idea of helping someone, without expecting anything in return. “I want to give back,” she said.

Jesse Bass: ‘Start my own legacy’

“Sometimes it’s hard to feel like I fit in,” says Jesse Bass, a graduating senior who has overcome years of family struggle to land a spot in Western Washington University’s Class of 2018. Growing up as the youngest of three siblings in a single-parent household, Bass moved frequently as a child, going from “apartment to apartment” in Anacortes. Drugs became an issue among siblings. Meanwhile the family struggled to make ends meet. “We were very challenged from

with the goal of helping to grow the renewable energy industry and protect the environment. In reflecting on his journey, the football player and Green Club member appreciates the role that AVID has played in his life. AVID is a college and career preparation program that provides study skills, tutoring, academic counseling, college tours and inspiration to students to help them achieve their post-secondary goals. Jesse calls AVID a “second family.” He credits the program with helping him land in college. Moving forward, Jesse wants to help others – just like he’s been helped. “Through all of it, I understand that just because I’m in a bad situation, I don’t have to stay in it. Others’ help has taught me that you can be caring and selfless.” As he heads to Bellingham,

I want to give back what Anacortes has given to me. I want to help children like myself understand that it gets better.

“I talked to Mr. Harrington, the principal. He talked to the guys and it stopped,” she said. “Since then, I’ve never had problems. I’ve always surrounded myself with friends who are understanding of who I am.” School counselor Jean Lundgren sees Vicky’s resilience as a great strength. “What sets her apart is her commitment to not be a victim at any time,” Lundgren said. “She simply does what needs to be done, even if it takes longer or results in physical pain.” When asked what she is most proud of, Vicky answers without hesitation: Going to college. She visited Whitworth University in Spokane on a school field trip, and the atmosphere immediately spoke to her. She will start this fall. “If I had stayed with my biological parents, I probably wouldn’t have considered college,” she said. “It would have been a very different path.” The honor role student sees social work in her future. She wants to draw on her passion for kids and

– Selena Hernandez, Anacortes High School senior a socio-economic perspective so I never really felt at home anywhere other than at school,” he said. Things came to a boiling point just after Christmas when the family was evicted from their Anacortes apartment. While his mother and siblings moved near Sedro Woolley, Jesse decided to stay in Anacortes and rely on friends’ hospitality for lodging. He wanted to graduate with his classmates. While not having a home at times makes him feel uneasy, he appreciates the “good friends, counselors, teachers, and great network of support” that has helped him achieve his goal of graduating and going to college. “I anticipate great success during his college career,” said teacher Kay Bacetich, who notes Jesse’s fortitude and determination, as well as his intellectual skills in math, science and writing. “He will go far in life.” A breakthrough moment happened recently when the Dell Scholars program granted Jesse a $20,000 scholarship. He will study renewable energy and marketing,

Jesse sees the opportunity for a fresh start. “I want to be the one in my family that turned it around for everyone,” he said. “I want to start my own legacy.”

Selena Hernandez: ‘Anything you set your mind to’

Selena Hernandez sat in the audience at Brodniak Auditorium last month for the Anacortes Schools Foundation awards ceremony. When her name was called as the recipient of the Connor Wollam Memorial Scholarship – named for a local boy who died of complications from leukemia at age 7 in 1999 – she climbed the stairs to the stage, tears streaking down her cheeks. It was her first community scholarship. Connor’s parents described him as passionate – a boy living life to his fullest. They saw similar traits in Selena, they said. Selena moved to Anacortes from Las Vegas just three years ago.

But in short order, the gregarious Broadcast club member became well known at school for her hard work, interpersonal skills and positive attitude. In Las Vegas, she left behind a troubled life. Involved in drug dealing, her father was killed when she was 11. She found out when he did not come home one night – and her aunt met her at school the next day, crying. Selena bounced around foster homes for three years before returning to live with her mother. Tension and strife at home led her to run away in ninth grade. She moved in with a close friend and continued school – but found herself losing motivation and hope as she failed her classes. “I had no idea what college was nor how to get there,” she said. She heard about a family member who lived on a “little island” in a city called Anacortes. “Scared and alone, I took the opportunity,” she said. Once here, she bonded with counselor Julie Strain, who helped her register for credit retrieval in a summer school program. She joined AVID, developed a college plan, and recently earned acceptance and a scholarship to Central Washington University. She plans to study film and sociology, with the goal of becoming a social worker. “I can honestly say that Selena is one of the most resilient students I have worked with in the past 10 years,” said Strain. “Based on what she’s overcome, and where she is now, I know she is capable of amazing things.” Selena says she is happy and hopeful. She wants to achieve success at Central, while continuing to mentor her younger sister, Linda, a freshman at AHS. “I want to give back what Anacortes has given to me,” she said. “I want to help children like myself understand that it gets better – and you don’t have to repeat it. I know a lot of kids who feel like they have a crappy life and turn to drugs and alcohol. They try to find an escape.” Selena sees herself in a good place as she approaches the next chapter of her life. “I’m happy because I’m not addicted to drugs, I have friends, I’m a mentor to my sister, and I’m going to college,” she said. “I want my sister to see that it can happen. You can do anything you set your mind to.”


JUNE 2014 ANACORTES pride •


Anacortes Schools Foundation boosts student success Dozens of students ascended the stage at Brodniak auditorium on May 21 to receive nearly $100,000 in college scholarships. The awards, presented annually, recognized high levels of student achievement, community service and character. For 30 years, the Anacortes Schools Foundation has provided opportunities for Anacortes students, educators and alumni to better themselves through education. The foundation funds more than just scholarships, however. It supports programs such as AVID (college and career readiness for middle and high school students) early learning, pre-school scholarships and STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) programs. Here’s how the scholarships work: donors give to ASF which then invests the funds to secure them over time. People may give to honor a loved one or because they had a terrific educational experience and want to give something back. “Our foundation, which is a non-profit 501(c)(3), offers donors

an amazing way to leave a legacy here in Anacortes,” said ASF board president Art Shotwell. “It’s local money supporting local kids.” ASF helps set up both individual endowments as well as corporate scholarships. Most often, donors have specific criteria they want put in place for a scholarship such as financial need, a specific field of study or leadership traits. Board member Maggie Thompson is co-chair of the scholarship committee. “People trust their money with us and know it will be handled appropriately,” she said. In last month’s ceremony, 55 applicants received a scholarship. Donors get to review the applications and make recommendations, but the board makes the final decision. Currently, 18 members serve on the board. “These scholarships are not giveaways. They are an investment – one of the best we can make,” said Jeff Gabert, Shell Puget Sound Refinery’s communication and social performance manager. Anacortes High School senior

Jean Andrich (left) and and Denise Crow (right) represented Friends of the Forest in presenting scholarships to graduating seniors Mary Ellen Reyna, Stella Tsitsiragos and Carly Christianson.

Liam Darrow received the Nathan Estvold Memorial Scholarship. He will study in Victoria, BC next year. “This is truly an honor,” Darrow said. “Nathan’s family has honored his bond with the community. To be a part of the immense love his family and this community have for him feels very good. I am

grateful.” Both Shotwell and Thompson say the essay portion of the application helps the scholarship committee become better acquainted with the applicants. “You want to be able to give to everyone, and it’s hard to choose,” Thompson said. “The stories of

His father adds that sometimes he feels like a kid living out his dream. “I love doing what I do. I take great pride in serving my country,” he said. Michelle Bisbee says having her husband gone is difficult and lonely. “If I had it to do all over again, though, I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. “But I will miss Anacortes, the small town feel and the friendliness of all the people who live here.”

Military families from Page 1

The Bisbees

The Bisbee family is all too familiar with the challenges of deployment and transitions. They will move to Japan in July. “Just getting ready before the actual deployment is a worry. I want everything to be in good shape when I’m gone,” said commanding officer Michael Bisbee, Naval flight officer and navigator of the EI8G. Bisbee’s primary concern is his family’s safety while he’s so far away. “The hardest part is missing out on the everyday things. Those are years and moments you don’t get back,” he said. Bisbee’s daughter, AHS ninth grader Kaitlin, is extremely proud of her dad. “You have to be a big person to give up so many years of your life for your country,” she said. “My dad is my hero. When we say the pledge of allegiance in class, I stand proudly.” She adds that it can be scary when he’s gone. “Saying goodbye is the hardest. There’s no guarantee you’ll see him again. And watching the news can be terrifying.” Her brother, Mt. Erie fifth grader Zachary, has similar fears. “I worry that his plane might have a malfunction in enemy territory,” he said.

dedication, perseverance and care that come through these applications are just amazing. We have tremendous students in our district, and this is an important way to support them.” The foundation is looking to do more fundraising to cover additional school activities and programs apart from scholarships, said Shotwell. Superintendent Mark Wenzel says he sees great promise in the foundation providing critical support for scholarships and school programs moving forward. “A community member approached me after the awards ceremony and said, ‘What an amazing organization! I’m going to contribute, and I’m going to tell all my friends about Anacortes Schools Foundation,’ said Wenzel. “We’re excited to see the foundation grow as a major supporter of children and young people in our community.” For more information on how to donate, go to www.

Coming home

Island View Elementary students Reese and Brock Illston run to meet their dad, Eric, as he returns from a deployment last month.

Kovach said it’s helpful when teachers, classmates and staff are sensitive to these fears and struggles, fears that often get bigger as the children grow older. Kaitlin appreciated April as Month of the Military Child. “If people can understand that we don’t live a similar life to civil-

ians, it helps,” she said. Her mother, Michelle, adds that the district’s support has been helpful. “Brenda [Kovach] is super awesome and has been available to us if we needed anything,” she said. She would like to see even more support for military

children. For example, a weekly club advised by a veteran who can empathize with the kids’ challenges. Zachary Bisbee confesses that there are some positives to being a military child. “I got to spend a week on a carrier,” he proudly said.

On April 17, anotherAnacortes resident, Eric Ilston, returned home from a nine-month stint aboard the USS Truman in the Persian Gulf. As his plane landed, son Brock and daughter Reese, ran across the tarmac to embrace their father. “It was wonderful,” said their mother, Shannon. While the long separation was tough, she appreciates how teachers and others show support. Teachers Sharon Dale and Andy Fountain both acknowledged the deployment and checked to see how the family was doing. And Island View principal Brian Hanrahan went to Eric when he saw him at school the next week to offer him a personal “Welcome home!” “We were really touched,” said Shannon. “The small things mean a lot.”

military family perspectives Name: Jillyann Frederick School: AMS, 8th grade Family: Daughter of Joseph Frederick, Lt. Commander with VP46, currently deployed in Japan, November 2013 to July 2014. This is my dad’s eighth deployment; it’s all I know. I’ve moved Jillyann almost every two years of my Frederick life, but I like it because I get to meet new friends, see new places, and try new foods. Moving in the middle of the school year is actually easier for me because the students are excited about the new kid. On my first day at Anacortes Middle School, I already had a friend who showed me around. The counselors were really helpful in making sure I had someone to sit with at lunch and to help me find everything. Being recognized as a military child is okay, but I really want to celebrate my dad and all military workers. It means a lot to me to honor them. I know my dad can’t be there for all my events, like Aladdin and track meets. But those are the little things. Mostly I just miss having a dad around.

Jeanette Jackson

Name: Jeannette Jackson Position: Lieutenant Commander Status: Recently returned from a five month detachment in Bahrain as Watch Officer in an operational command center. Family: Mother of first grade twin boys at Fidalgo Elementary and a pre-school daughter; wife of Matt Jackson (Commander at National Reserve Professional Development School in New Orleans).

At first, I thought I’d be going to Afghanistan for a year. It was sheer panic in our house for about a week. Then we found out it would be for five months. I was used to Matt being gone, but this was the first time I’d even been away from the kids. We didn’t sit down and make an announcement to the kids. We just kept talking about it, keeping it conversational, like it was no big deal. I knew Matt would be great with the kids. I was worried about myself. A consistent schedule was key. We had everything planned before I left: Christmas, the boys’ birthdays, play dates. Nothing in their lives changed. We counted out 150 jelly beans for each of them; they ate one a day every day I was gone. The boys’ teachers, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Summers, were incredibly helpful, checking in with Matt to see if he needed anything. Mrs. Johnson emailed pictures frequently. The hardest part was just not being here. I still get emotional when I think about it.

Name: Lieutenant Commander Trever Plagemen Family: Father of three daughters at Island View: sixth grader Madison, third grader Campbell and second grader Abigail. This life is most certainly a sacrifice. It’s worth it, of course, because someone has to do it – to defend our freedoms and democracy. When I’m deployed, I miss my family, but being extremely busy sometimes helps me to not think about them in a somber way. And that’s true for the girls as well. Their busy schedules help distract them from missing me too much. It’s hard when I come home, too. On all of us. My wife has a rigid schedule that works when I’m gone, and I am used to a specific routine at work. There’s a whole lot of adjusting that happens upon my return. Their resilience is incredible. They lose friends about every two years, and they still keep it together. Everything they do makes me proud.

Trevor Plagemen



JUNE 2014 ANACORTES pride •

AHS softball: 4th in State


The girls’ softball team took fourth place with 4 wins 2 losses in the state tournament in Selah on May 30-31. Team members include: Front row: Aubrey Costanza, Shelby Starkovich, Hayley Stout, Kayla Matthews, April Masters. Back row: Brooke Riordan, Amber Writer, Rachael Stout, Lizzy Paszkowski, Brooke Writer, Kortney Nelson, Becca Bateman, Emily Allen, Millicent Sweitzer. Tom Swapp is head coach.

Enrichment Grants

The district recognized a dozen service groups in a ceremony last month to celebrate local support for school enrichment grants which totaled $25,000 this year. The enrichment grant program took shape in 2003 when a service club member approached then Superintendent Chris Borgen about the various requests coming in throughout the year. Service organizations wanted to see a big picture of all the needs. Now, teachers and other school staff submit proposals each fall which, after being read by building administrators, are sent to the organizations. Service clubs choose the proposals they want to fund. “It’s a true act of love for the service clubs to read through all the requests,” said district volunteer coordinator Jayne Branch. This year, 47 applicants received funding. The projects span a wide gamut, including a bead kiln, Skagit River Poetry Festival, Rachel’s Closet, therapy ball chairs and more. “It’s so wonderful because staff have an opportunity to enrich student learning,” said Branch. One project that would not have happened without a grant is Fidalgo Elementary science teacher Mira Lutz’s Salmon in the Classroom. With her enrichment grant, she was able to transport 10 classes of students twice to Meadow Creek to first observe and measure the creek and its surroundings and then to release salmon. “The richness comes from getting the students to the place,” Lutz said. Students were excited to go outside and do real science, to make a difference in the neighborhood and community. “Without them going to the site, the depth of the project is gone,” said Lutz. Reports written by Lutz’s students will be sent to and analyzed by the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. Noon Kiwanis President Monica Oppel is grateful for the enrichment grants. She said one benefit is knowing all the funding is going through the district. “Prior to these grants, requests would trickle in all year long and we had no way to organize or prioritize,” she said.” I have been very impressed with Jayne Branch and the principals. The system now is really great.” Local organizations contributing to grants and scholarships include: American Association of University Women (AAUW), Anacortes Community Health Council, Anacortes Elks Club, Anacortes Rotary Club, Anacortes Schools Foundation, Eagles Lodge, Fidalgo Rotary Club, Kiwanis Sunrisers Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis Noon Club, Soroptimist International of Anacortes and Soroptimist International of Fidalgo Island. To learn more about enrichment grants and the application process, contact Jayne Branch at jbranch@

Boys baseball: 4th in State

in the spotlight

The AHS baseball team took fourth place at state, qualifying with a stellar 1-0 victory over No. 1 state-ranked Sumner in the Class 2A regional championship game. Pictured are AHS players Jake Richards, Jordan Neville, Joe D’Amelio and Matt Irving. Kevin Matthews is head coach.

State champ

AHS senior Marla Melling won the state championship in the high jump at the State 2A Track & Field state tournament in Tacoma. Melling achieved a personal best high jump mark of 5 feet, 3 inches. This was her first year on the team. Case deVries is head coach.

Student mentors Camp Orkila

District sixth graders spent three days at Camp Orkila on Orcas Island last month, participating in teambuilding activities, enjoying recreation and engaging in science experiments.

Island View sixth grader Grace Hill works with first grader Tucker Gugel on a watercolor painting recently in class. The activity was part of a mentorship program between fifth/sixth graders and the school’s special education program.

Middle school garden boasts new gate The Anacortes Middle School garden got a facelift this spring. Thanks to an Anchor Art Space grant funded by the Anacortes Arts Festival, a new gate now greets middle school gardening students and visiting community members alike. Located behind the middle school gym, the garden is shared with classes from Island View Elementary. Grant recipient Thor Myhre has been a professional artist for 20 years; but in reality, he’s been one all his life. “I was raised in a shop my dad built, and I made my own toys,” he said. “All along I was making art; I just didn’t see it.” Myhre uses “found objects” in his art to inspire people to think about re-using. He included students from high school teacher Val Boyce’s metals class and from middle school teacher Anne Chase-Stapleton’s food and garden class in the design process. “I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help. Anne worked so hard, and Val went above and beyond,” Myhre says.

He is also grateful to the AHS welding club, particularly Che Adams, Malin Lunsford and Keith Webster for all their time and work. Myhre and the students collected and arranged objects from around the community to best tell a story. “It was different to re-use found materials. I learned how to work in a more artistic way,” junior Che Adams says. Myhre wants people to have their own interpretations of the gate. “I hope to inspire a work ethic,” he said. “The gears represent hard work on the land. We could have made all the pieces, but the gate, or any sculpture, wouldn’t be as interesting.” Chase-Stapleton thinks that the gate’s symbolism ties in perfectly with her curriculum. “We’re committed to teaching sustainability. Thor’s gate is a metaphor for the unity and renewal of earth and energy,” she said. Adams says he will remember his involvement for a long time. “We got to put some personal-

ity into [the gate], and I’m really proud of it,” he said. Myhre’s next project is working with Anacortes Arts Festival, Parks and Recreation, and Lovric’s Sea-Craft to build a 15-18 foot bicycle from donated scrap metal

and propellers. To donate, contact Myhre at For more information on Myhre’s artwork, go to www. or look for “yard sculpture yard art” on Youtube. com.

Artist Thor Myhre worked with middle and high school students to create a new gate for the AMS garden.


JUNE 2014 ANACORTES pride •

District celebrates 10 retirees Ten staff members retired from the district this year. Each dedicated his or her life to enriching and changing children’s lives for the better. Here’s a snapshot of each. janet brynteson

mt. erie elementary

“I’ve worked my whole career with people who aren’t motivated by money,” says retiring fifth grade teacher Janet Brynteson, who has taught for 39 years, 17 in Anacortes schools. It’s a different breed of people. We’ve chosen to make a difference in kids’ lives.” Brynteson was hired for her first teaching job a month before she graduated from the University of Montana. In 1997, she landed her job in Anacortes earlier than expected as well. Hired as a maternity leave replacement for Missy Walsh-Smith who was due in December, Brynteson got a call on Labor Day telling her the baby was early. “I hung up the phone and thought, ‘Oh my. School starts in 36 hours,” she recalls. Seventeen years later, she still has enthusiasm for teaching. “She brings the energy of some-

Mt. Erie fifth grade teacher Janet Brynteson and music teacher Ginger Orsini get ready to hit retirement in style with books, sunglasses, ukulele, sunscreen, biking helmet and an appreciation for their many years with district students. ‘They lift you up,’ said Orsini, in reference to her students. ‘They trust you and make every day enjoyable.’

one just starting her teaching career,” said Mt. Erie principal Peter Donaldson. She’s still learning. Some of her best learning has happened in the last three years.” Brynteson wants her students to remember the personal connections she made with them. “I did my best to make it a balance of hard work sprinkled with fun,” she says. She will miss those relation-

ruth backlund

ahs/37 years french, art, english

ships, along with the hand-made Christmas cards and special notes. She will also miss leaving the staff room after lunch with a belly-ache from laughing with colleagues. Brynteson looks forward to doing more hiking and reading, to hanging out with retired friends and to spending time in Portland with her two grown children. “I’m going to be wearing bright colors. That’s an inside joke. My

becky motherwell

middle school/16 years 8th grade english and history

When I first started teaching, there were only two years of French offered. It took years to build up to the four years that are offered now. I really taught during a golden era. There was a period of 1520 years where I had so much support for Ruth Backlund everything I wanted to try. I am so proud that the very first AP class offered at the high school was AP French. I hope that the kids remember me as somebody who respected all my students, who pushed them to do something hard and who helped them associate learning with pleasure. I will miss the students more than anything, but I am looking so forward to getting more into my music and art.

I always tell my students I hope I live up to my name. I plan on being more involved in a group called Teenage Mothers and possibly doing some writing. The most heartwarming thing about teaching in a community like Anacortes is that sense of belonging. Becky I love seeing former Motherwell students around town. And that’s what teaching is all about: forming relationships with these kids. I am also going to deeply miss my colleagues. There is such a sense of camaraderie at the middle school. That’s so important given the changes that I have seen in education throughout my career. The staff really give their hearts and minds to the students every day.

cyndi walters

ahs/10 years; career/40 years history

ahs/23 years administrative assistant

I have worked in every building in our district. The elementary kids are just cute, cute, cute. And the middle school kids are at a great age – so goofy. But the high school is really where I fit in. It’s more me. Over these 23 years, I haven’t seen a lot Cyndi Walters of changes in the students. Kids are kids. There will always be exceptional students, and there will always be those who struggle. What I love about my job is watching the students mature. They grow, literally, from these ninth grade kids into young adults on their way into the world. Now I am ready to spend time with my own children and grandchildren. My husband is retiring in June as well, so it was the right time.

lynette setmire

Every Friday for 40 years, as my students left for the weekend, I would remind them to wear their seatbelts, to not drink and drive and to make good choices. More recently, I had to add, “Don’t text and drive.” I want students to remember Lynette Setmire that I loved teaching, that watching them learn made me happy every day and that I cared about them far beyond the content of my subject. One favorite memory is when three of my students walked into my room wearing purple t-shirts with the phrase “We love Ms. Setmire” on it. Another highlight was taking my AP Government class to an off-site trial of the Washington State Supreme Court. I will miss making a connection with my students and watching that “light bulb” go on.

students will understand,” she says.

ginger orsini

mt. erie elementary

Upon graduating from Lewis and Clark College, Ginger Orsini joined the Peace Corps, landing in Honduras. It was teaching English there that inspired her to pursue her graduate degree and

mike perkins

ahs/16 years; career/19 years math

The PerkDawg Farewell concert – where I performed 1960s music recently with students – was one of the highlights of my career. I really wanted to do something to connect with my students that wasn’t related to math. I’ve been teaching math all these years, but reMike Perkins ally it’s just a vehicle for teaching about life. Coaching baseball is another favorite memory. I hope that students remember me as someone who cared about them as people, who connected to them. I always tried to help them learn and just be there for them. That’s what I’ll miss most – the interaction with the kids.

bill matson

district/34 years maintenance, bus driver, food services, custodian, first aid instructor

I liked all of my jobs, but I really enjoyed my first aid/CPR classes because I’m a safety nut. Whenever I see a red fannypack on the playground, I smile. I was also Mr. Funny. I drove a bus for over 20 years and loved joking with the kids. But my favorite memory of all Bill Matson was my stint as Dr. Demento. I played a part in Fidalgo’s Haunted House for more than 20 years, and the money they raised went to important things like field trips. I’m also very proud for helping to start the SEIU scholarship fund. I’ll tell you what I won’t miss: moving the choral risers and changing the sprinklers at the high school twice daily in the summer. But I do miss the old guard. We were a thread in the story of this district, and now it’s time for the new guard to do its part.


go into education. Orsini says her first job at Cedar Hills Elementary in Portland was very trying. “Gender roles were very different back then,” she says. Fast forward to 1989. Orsini started her career in Anacortes School District teaching music at Whitney Elementary. Looking back, she says her most memorable moments include singing in the district staff band The Bad Apples and having fun with fellow teachers. Mt.Erie Principal Peter Donaldson says it will be hard to replace the institutional memory – what Orsini knows about music and about Anacortes. “Ginger’s philosophy is ‘Everyone participates.’ Kids don’t get to opt out. It’s very exciting,” said Donaldson. Orsini says she will miss how inspiring her students are. “They lift you up even when you’re in a bad mood. They trust you and make every day enjoyable,” she said. As far as changes in education go, Orsini says the level of professionalism has definitely increased. Teachers, for the most part, remain unchanged, though. “They’ve always been in it for the welfare of the student,” she said. Orsini plans to continue working in the music field after retirement, either with the very young or the very old. “I feel so privileged to be a music teacher. Music stays with you all your life,” she said.

bob woods

ahs /11 years; career/40 years history

It’s going to take some time to get used to retirement. Then I want to travel. I have seen all kinds of changes in my career. In my early years, we used purple dittos. Now we have COWs: computers on wheels. It’s amazing to think of the technological Bob Woods changes. I will miss being with the kids, the teaching part. But I will not miss the grading. The students kept me much younger than I am. I love that you just never know what the day is going to bring. I’m quite proud that I was the first person to start the AP US History class. My favorite part of teaching is when a student who has graduated calls or writes to thank me and tell me I made a difference in his/her life. I never forget those calls and letters.

mary jo ellis

fidalgo elementary/23 years custodian

I am going to miss the kids so much. They are such good people and always write the nicest letters, especially the sixth graders. During my surgery, they wrote wonderful notes to me. I was like a mother to those kids, all 450 of them, every year. Mary Jo Ellis When I worked as a breakfast cook, I really got to know the morning kids. They’d tell me everything. Over the years, I worked both night shift and day shift. I prefer the day shift because you get the day started early. I’m a person that likes to get up and do work, so I will be volunteering after I’m retired. I want to do more quilting and volunteer at the hospital, hopefully in the cancer area.



JUNE 2014 ANACORTES pride •

EVENTS CALENDAR Summer enrichment

The Anacortes community offers countless summer enrichment programs and events for students and families. With offerings that include art programs, sport camps, cooking classes, wilderness camps, STEM enrichment, and much more, there is certain to be something for students of all ages and interests. To see the many opportunities available, go to “family resources” and “community bulletin board” at www.

Summer art classes

The district offers a variety of summer art classes for students K-12. Classes run July 7 to 11 at Anacortes Middle School. Offerings include arts exploration, drama, cooking classes, garden art, fine arts, basket weaving, storytime yoga and more. See the district website for registration information or contact Tina Franulovich-Martin at tmartin@ or 293-1211.


Sign-ups for a new STEM camp for students going into 6th, 7th or 8th grades is now open. The camp is August 11 to 15, from 8 am to 5 pm at Anacortes Middle School. Four tracks are available: CSI, Astronomy, Lego Robotics, and Intro to Computer Programming. Each day will include a half day on the subject matter plus a half day of “outrageous fun,” including games, hikes, geocaching, pool and more. Class size is 10 students per track. Price is $165. Some scholarships available. For information, get flyers from science specialists or contact Vicki Stowe at 293-3743 or asfstem@ This is a program of Anacortes Schools Foundation.

Public library

Sign-ups for the 2014 Summer Reading Program run June 2 through July 11. This year’s focus is on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and the library is cooking up lots of fun activities. Students may sign up to track their time reading. When they reach their reading goal they get to choose a paperback book of their choice. In addition to the summer reading program, the library offers free programs throughout the summer including weekly family storytime, lunchtime movies, lego and marbleworks play and a weekly special children’s event. Please call the library for details: 360-293-191, ext. 28 or visit

Anacortes∙Pride Anacortes School District 2200 M Avenue Anacortes, WA 98221 (360) 293-1200 Editor: Dr. Mark Wenzel, Superintendent Content: Treva King Design: Sue Misao School Board: Jeannette Papadakis, president Karl Yost, vice-president Dr. Lynne Lang, Erin Rieger Bobbilyn Hogge The Anacortes School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its program or activities. ASD complies with all federal and Washington State rules and regulations and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, families with children, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, age, Vietnam-era status, or disabled Veteran status, or the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a disabled person. Applications from all groups are encouraged. ASD is a drug, alcohol, and tobacco-free workplace. ASD is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Contact the district office at (360) 293-1210 with inquiries regarding compliance and/or grievance procedures.

High School teacher Kim Stamper works with junior Talma Settera on a reading assignment at school. ‘Her store of positivity is bottomless, and her optimism is contagious,’ writes AHS assistant principal Jodee Anderson. ‘She is a treasure to the Anacortes School District.’

teacher tribute:

Kim Stamper

By Jodee Anderson, assistant principal

Kim Stamper has a challenging teaching assignment, splitting her time between Anacortes High School credit retrieval classes and Cap Sante High School remote/ distance learning students. Every student is on an individualized learning plan working on a different subject. This would test a superhero’s faculties; Kim handles it all with precision and grace. Her store of positivity is bottomless, and her optimism is contagious. Through her AHS credit retrieval classes, Kim has assisted a record number of high school students to complete missing credits. The majority of these students are now back on track for on-time graduation. Kim’s remote program at Cap Sante High School has provided a multitude of students the opportunity to complete their education while working fulltime, taking care of family members, dealing with health issues, or bouncing

around between family members due to divorce/dysfunction. More importantly, Kim builds in each of her students a sense of pride and academic confidence that fosters a renewed desire for success. She was recently invited by a senior student to a Rotary luncheon; the student was being honored for Student of the Month. He recognized Kim as the most influential teacher in his high school career. I can think of three other senior students who dropped out earlier this year. Kim encouraged each of the students to return to school and provided individualized instruction to meet graduation requirements. Those three students will graduate in June. Kim is a treasure to the Anacortes School District, Anacortes High School and Cap Sante High School. But mostly, Kim is a gift to students needing a second chance, renewed direction, and a helping hand.

Anacortes High School art teacher Candice Vitale celebrates student art award winners Nicole McInerney and Trevor Johnson. Vitale teaches ceramics and glass design.

brodniak award winner:

Candice Vitale

AHS art teacher Candice Vitale recently earned the 2014 Brodniak Award for contribution to the arts in Anacortes. Here’s what students say:

Allison Eaton, junior

The best thing about Mrs. Vitale is that she’s so patient and helps every single person – even if you fall way behind. She will assist you. She spreads her time equally and can balance between those who are further ahead and those who need to catch up. She also helps everyone do what they want to do, what their vision is. She takes into consideration what the students want and helps them accomplish it. Or if they really don’t want to do a particular thing, she helps them figure out how to go around that and still have a good end result.

Aiden Garcia, senior

She’s everything you can ask for in a teacher as far as inspiring

creativity. Mrs. Vitale is very supportive and excited about doing interesting projects. She really encourages her students to do things they are curious about. I have been doing stained glass since I was twelve, and her bead design class was an extension of what I’ve been doing. I got to do independent projects, and she was very flexible with my schedule which truly helped me.

Bradley Murray, senior

Mrs. Vitale is more than just an art teacher. She is an artist. She is passionate about art and enjoys sharing her stories with us. She also brings in outside artists which just shows how much she values art and the community. She challenges us to use what we’ve learned in the past and to use advanced techniques.

Alumni Interview

Gurkeert Bagri, AHS Class of 2009

What did you do after graduating from AHS? I attended Gonzaga University and received my B.A. in psychology and a minor in history. In university, I was involved with international and cultural clubs. I also enjoyed a wonderful 18-month internship in U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s Spokane office, in addition to a part-time job at a child care center. How did you decide to apply to the Peace Corps? The idea of doing service always held great appeal for me, especially since it was a life philosophy for my great-grandmother. No matter what education, background or place you come from, everyone, everywhere, has the ability to affect change – and the world desperately needs it. Luckily, Gonzaga is a very service-oriented school and there were many service fairs and panels. The Peace Corps definitely stood out. One thing led to another, and here I am now! How did you end up in Tonga? The Peace Corps matches applicants with programs that best suit their talents and abilities. I had experience tutoring international students in English so I was placed in an English literacy program. It was just luck, I suppose, that I was placed in Tonga! There are only 14 other volunteers with me here in my group so it’s not a very large program

Peace Corps volunteer in Tonga

at all, some countries have more than 70 volunteers in one group.

How long will you serve? I have now been here in the Kingdom of Tonga for nine months. The commitment of service is 27 months so I’ll be here for another year and a half and I’m looking forward to each and every day of it! What did you know about the country before you arrived? Honestly, I knew nothing! I had to Google it! It was very eyeopening and refreshing for me to

realize that there are whole countries and cultures out there that I know nothing about – even with a university degree and keeping up with current world affairs. You learn something new every day! Stay thirsty for knowledge! What’s the school like? There are about 50 students at the Free Wesleyan Church School, though I teach only 35 students from Classes 3 to 6. There is quite a diverse set of families even within my small school with members from the Mormon

Church, the Free Church of Tonga, the Catholic Church, as well as the Free Wesleyan Church. These families have quite an income range, with some families able to afford computers and Internet at home and other families that don’t even have electricity. The school provides scholarships to families who can’t afford tuition. What’s been the biggest surprise, challenge or reward? The simplicity of life. Tonga is a very well connected country. I have no problem at all keeping contact with friends and family back in the States with my Uflash (internet flash drive) or buying Oreo cookies or Nike shoes at the market. In spite of having all that available, Tongans will continue to live life the way they have for years: growing their own food, dancing traditional dances, weaving traditional mats – and insisting that above all, family always comes first. What was the best part of AHS for you? Clubs and sports such as International Club and swim team.

AHS alumna Gurkeert Bagri teaches children in Tonga as a Peace Corps volunteer. She says the idea of doing service work has always held great appeal for her.

What have you learned about yourself through this experience? I’ve learned that no matter how old I get, I will never let myself stop learning or helping people. Also, keeping an open mind and having a smile on your face can earn you great friends and a terrific experience wherever you end up!

Anacortes Pride - June 2014  

Anacortes School District newsletter designed by Sue Misao

Anacortes Pride - June 2014  

Anacortes School District newsletter designed by Sue Misao