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News Releases
Illustrations of the characters from
Illustrations of the characters from "A Special Education in Anxiety"
Special education teacher pens book about his struggles with anxiety, and the students who help him overcome it   (Photo) - 10/18/18

When he was a high school student in Beaverton, Ore., Chief Umtuch Middle School special education teacher Brad Smith signed up to be a peer tutor for students with special needs. He figured that it would be a good experience to connect with and help his peers. What he wasn’t expecting was that this seemingly inconsequential decision would entirely change his life’s trajectory.

“I still remember my first day walking into the classroom, and there was just this feeling of acceptance from the kids,” Smith said. “The classroom was the definition of a ‘judgement-free zone’, and within just a couple of weeks, I knew that becoming a special education teacher was exactly what I wanted to do.”

Smith soon graduated from high school and moved on to college at Seattle Pacific University. All along the way, he chose classes, internships and eventually a graduate program to prepare him to be a special education teacher so that he could help teach students and adults with autism, Down syndrome, ADHD, and intellectual and other disabilities.

It’s been 11 years since Smith finished his master’s program and was hired first as an instructional assistant, and then as a special education teacher. However, about eight years ago, Smith’s trajectory was unexpectedly altered yet again. This time, he was simply sitting on a flight when he made what he describes as “awkward eye contact” with a flight attendant. While such a thing wouldn’t normally have stood out for the typically outgoing Smith, for whatever reason, the incident triggered the onset of something entirely new to him: debilitating bouts of social anxiety.

“For most people, making awkward eye contact wouldn’t be a big deal,” Smith said. “They might think about it for a minute, but then a person could just move on with their day. For whatever reason, that incident and that moment stuck in my mind and the more I thought about it, the more I would ruminate and become anxious about the next social encounter I would have. Suddenly, worrying about things like meeting people, having conversations, and making eye contact snowballed until it became hard for me to talk to people without having panic attacks that would leave me dripping with sweat.”

Statistically speaking, it’s very likely that someone you know is affected by an anxiety disorder. The National Institute of Health estimates that 19 percent of adults in the U.S. had any anxiety disorder in the past year, and 31 percent will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

After a few years of trying to cope with his social anxiety through therapy and medications, Smith also turned to writing as a way to process the thoughts and feelings he was experiencing. Before long, he decided that he would turn his writings into a book. Now, four years after he started writing it, Smith has published his book “A Special Education in Anxiety.”

In the book, anxiety consumes the life of a young special education teacher named Michael Smith, causing him to feel hopeless and defeated. He constantly worries about when the next cycle of anxiety will strike and is desperately trying to keep it from derailing what he is truly passionate about: teaching his class of middle school special education students.

Readers of “A Special Education in Anxiety” will go through a year in teacher Michael Smith's unique and engaging class. Together, the students and teacher experience a series of positive breakthroughs and heartbreaking loss. His special needs students, as well as some unexpected adults, are key in Michael's pursuit of overcoming his anxiety.

“When people ask me if this book is fiction or nonfiction, I have to say it’s a little of both,” Smith said. “While events, plot points and the students in the book are all made up, they are all heavily inspired by the amazing kids I’ve had the blessing of working with each year. And the anxiety described in this book was–and in some cases is–still very real to me.”

While Smith’s book started out as a therapeutic way to help him work through his anxiety, he soon realized that was only a portion of the story. After all, the first words of the title aren’t about anxiety, but are about special education. That is because the six students you get to know over the course of the story become part of the solution in helping the main character come to grips and find peace with his mental health issues, mirroring Smith’s real-life experiences.

“Anxiety manifests in different ways for those experiencing it,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, the topic is a very relatable story to many people. Ever since I wrote this book, I’ve had so many amazing conversations with friends and co-workers about how it has impacted them or someone that they love.”

Smith’s story, both the book and his own life story, are powerful illustrations that everyone can benefit from interacting with their peers who have special needs. Such interactions are beneficial to everyone involved, and you never know: they just might change the course of someone’s life.

“A Special Education in Anxiety” is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or directly from radley@battlegroundps.org">Brad Smith by sending him an email.

Poster for Prairie High School's production of 'Chicago'
Poster for Prairie High School's production of 'Chicago'
Prairie Drama Club presents Chicago (Photo) - 10/16/18

Prairie High School Drama presents “Chicago” beginning Oct. 26. Set in the “Windy City” during the Roaring Twenties, chorus girl Roxie Hart murders a faithless lover and convinces her hapless husband, Amos, to take the rap. That is, until Amos finds out he's been duped and turns on Roxie. Convicted and sent to death row, Roxie and another "Merry Murderess," Velma Kelly, vie for the spotlight and the headlines, ultimately joining forces in search of the American Dream: fame, fortune, and acquittal.

Based on the award-winning musical written by Fred Ebb, Bob Fosse, John Kander and Maurine Dallas Watkins, PHS Drama’s show runs Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 2-3. The play has been adapted to be content-appropriate and flexible for high school students.

Performances will be at Prairie High School, 11311 NE 119th St., Vancouver. Tickets can be purchased online at www.prairiedramaclub.com and cost $6 for students, $10 for senior citizens, and $12 for adults.

The performance dates and times are:

Friday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 27 at 1:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m.
Friday, November 2 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 3 at 1:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 3 at 7:00 p.m.

Chief Umtuch Middle School History Teacher Beth Doughty (vertical option)
Chief Umtuch Middle School History Teacher Beth Doughty (vertical option)
BGPS teacher receives National History Day scholarship (Photo) - 10/04/18

Chief Umtuch Middle School history teacher Beth Doughty is one of 114 teachers selected for a National History Day scholarship program titled Legacies of World War I. The program is a partnership between the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and National History Day.

Doughty will participate in four live webinars with World War I historians from around the world while developing a classroom activity to use with her students in the spring. Following the conclusion of the course, she will also share her knowledge with other teachers at two local presentations.

“We admire Beth's dedication and passion for teaching history,” said Chief Umtuch Principal Tamarah Grigg. “She provides incredible experiences for our students and we are fortunate to have her as part of the Chief Umtuch Middle School family.”  

Each of the 57 National History Day affiliates could choose two teachers for this honor, and the National History Day program in Washington selected Doughty. As one of the selected teachers, Doughty receives free tuition, graduate credits, and materials for the online program.

“As part of the commemoration of the centennial of The Great War, National History Day is proud to partner with the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to help teachers delve into the history of this global event,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “Doughty will learn about specific aspects of the war she can take back to the classroom to ensure this piece of global history is not forgotten.”

This program is part of an educational partnership with the WWI Commission, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, National History Day, and the National World War I Museum and Memorial. This new educational partnership will educate both teachers and school students about World War I through a series of more than 100 teaching events nationwide. More Information about the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission can be found here: www.ww1cc.org.

About National History Day (NHD): NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park that seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, and Southwest Airlines. For more information, visit nhd.org.

Battle Ground schools committee meets to examine overcrowding - 09/28/18

Battle Ground Public Schools' Overcrowding Advisory Committee started its work this week to look at overcrowding in the district's schools. The Board of Directors has tasked the committee with bringing to it recommendations on how to address overcrowding and continued growth. 

At its first meeting on Tuesday, the committee assessed its task and reviewed enrollment data and the results of a community survey conducted last spring on considerations around overcrowding. Results of last spring's community survey on overcrowding are available online at http://battlegroundps.thoughtexchange.com/card-welcome/welcome-3/. 

Over the next several weeks, the committee will work toward developing recommendations for how to address overcrowding. Each meeting is being held at a different school in the district with an opportunity for committee members to tour the school. 

The committee comprises 30 members representing 10 parents, 4 community members, 6 school staff, 6 principals and 4 district staff. Members were selected from a pool of applicants by lottery and are from several schools, with representation skewed toward the southern schools that are most impacted by overcrowding. 

The district's four southern schools--Glenwood Heights, Laurin, and Pleasant Valley Primary and Middle--are feeling the effects of growth. Over the last few years, the board has implemented interim solutions to address the growing number of students, including the installation of portable classrooms and closing overcrowded schools to boundary exceptions. The Board of Directors also considered adjusting boundaries in 2016, but didn’t at the request of families who asked that other solutions be implemented first. The board also asked voters to fund new schools with a construction bond, which failed to pass with the required supermajority in February and April.