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News Releases
Woodland High School students used APEX software to recover credits lost during the regular school year
Woodland High School students used APEX software to recover credits lost during the regular school year
Free summer school provided Woodland Public Schools' students the opportunity to strengthen fundamentals and recover credits lost during the pandemic (Photo) - 07/19/21

Monday, July 19, 2021-Woodland, WA-Woodland Public Schools provided three weeks of summer school for struggling students in all grades (1-12) to work on fundamental skills and recover credits potentially lost due to challenges presented to families by remote learning due to the pandemic. The district used COVID funds with some assistance from title funds in the district’s existing balance to provide summer school free-of-charge. A total of 144 students chose to take part in summer school: 61 from elementary (grades 1-4), 39 from middle school (grades 5-8), and 44 at the high school (grades K-12).

At the elementary level, students focused on developing foundational reading skills. “We invited all of our incoming first graders along with some students from the higher grades,” explained Denise Pearl, North Fork Elementary School’s principal who volunteered to serve as principal of the district’s K-12 summer school program. “Developing strong reading skills is integral for our younger students, and we knew from assessing last year’s kindergartners that they could use additional support before this fall.”

For parents and families of elementary-level students, the libraries at all three elementary school are open from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. every weekday throughout the summer break to provide students with a place to study and to check out books.

At the middle school, students focused on both literacy and mathematics skills. “Across the board, our teachers are focusing on providing extra support for the fundamentals,” said Pearl. “Many of our students have fallen behind during the pandemic, but we have seen them make great progress over our summer session.” A special focus was taken on English Language Learners (ELL) at the middle school as language barriers within families as well as limited technology experience presented some students with more struggles than others.

As a way of engaging and encouraging students across grades K-8 during the summer session, teachers and staff tried to make summer school also feel like a summer camp. “Students who participated in their lessons competed to win prizes,” said Pearl. “Students received points for attendance, participation in class, and, at the middle school, students received points for turning in assignments.”

At the high school, students used an online learning platform called APEX to recover credits they lost during the regular school year. “Students used APEX to recover credits from a wide variety of subjects,” said Pearl. “Additionally, since they worked at their own pace, students were able to try to recover even more credits if they had the time to do so.”

A total of 14 staff members – both paraeducators and teachers – signed on to teach summer school, receiving training in a new program before the regular school year ended. At the elementary level, the staff utilized a new reading curriculum called “Phonics Booster” which focuses on teaching students how to sound out words as they read. To further help younger students, teachers made other accommodations, too. “Our staff used face shields instead of face masks so students could see their faces when they spoke,” said Pearl. “When a young student is learning to read, a lot of that learning takes place by modeling the behavior of others; not seeing a teacher’s mouth can present a real challenge to learning how to speak and read.”

Depending on need, the district plans to continue offering summer school in the coming years, too. “We will continue to provide summer school until we close the gap created by the pandemic,” said Pearl. “Additionally, the elementary level will continue using this new ‘Phonics Booster’ program in the fall as our summer staff has seen excellent results with it.”

Throughout Woodland Public Schools, staff in every building will provide extra intervention to help struggling students throughout the new school year which begins Tuesday, August 31. “Both the students and staff remarked how we were just getting into the rhythm of in-person learning just as we came up on the end of the school year,” said Pearl. “A lot of the teachers were sad the year ended because our students were just starting to ‘get it;’ we want to make sure we accelerate to that level of learning as quickly as possible when we return this fall.”

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, by visiting our dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

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Patty Morgan uses a floor-to-ceiling paper mâché tree which changes with each season along with a huge variety of stuffed animal puppets to help teach lesson
Patty Morgan uses a floor-to-ceiling paper mâché tree which changes with each season along with a huge variety of stuffed animal puppets to help teach lesson
Woodland Public Schools' special needs preschool students thrived in a remote-learning environment thanks to the dedicated efforts of teachers and families (Photo) - 07/12/21

Monday, July 12, 2021-Woodland, WA-Preschool students in Woodland Public Schools’ special education program celebrated a full year of successful remote learning and their graduation into kindergarten with a special outside ceremony where students received activity bags, posed for photos with their teachers, and enjoyed refreshments. 

For the graduation celebration, students each received an appointment time to arrive to ensure social distancing and other pandemic procedures could be properly followed. Each graduate received a bag filled with activity books, stickers, and snacks, all donated by parents of the students. “I just asked parents if they could help donate, and everyone stepped up in a huge way,” said Patricia “Patty” Morgan, a special education teacher at Columbia Elementary School who manages Woodland Public Schools’ preschool program for special needs students. “Throughout the year, the parents were a huge and wonderful support jumping in to see what we do in class from their own homes with our teachers modeling lessons and guiding families through becoming hands-on teaching partners.”

After a rough start in the spring of 2020, Patty refined the system over the 2020-2021 school year by adding live classes and one-on-one support. “My instructional assistants create packets of activities and lessons we deliver to our students every other week which include projects for the classes as well as activities, instructional activities, books, and games to engage our students,” she said. “Our families are dedicated teaching partners, working diligently with their children to ensure student learning and development.”

In the spring of 2020, families received weekly activity packets to work with their students, however, this year saw the return of live classes, albeit remotely. “Our preschool typically meets three days a week so that is when we held our classes throughout this school year,” said Patty. “We created and taught curriculum for collaborative language, sensory activities, science, academic art, and also included materials for parents to closely work with their students on fine motor activities.” Additionally, Patty and her staff recorded every live class so students who are unable to attend in person can watch the classes later. 

Curriculum for the preschool crosses subjects so the activities students worked on with their families directly connected to the lessons taught in class. “In science, we made slime and rockets with students receiving instructions on how to do it at home as we demonstrated the activities in class,” said Patty.

In her classroom, Patty uses a giant Learning Tree she created from paper mâché and other materials which “grows” from the floor to the ceiling with a wide variety of stuffed animal puppets who “live” in the tree and help students with lessons. Without interaction with other kids, Patty and her team developed lessons to teach social concepts typically learned through student interaction, “We used our characters to teach conflict resolution concepts since we normally do that in-person,” she explained. “A stuffed mouse tried to take a squirrel’s acorn, so the class had to use problem-solving and social skills to learn about sharing and manners.” 

Since special needs students need in-person assessment before enrollment, testing incoming students throughout the year presented a challenge with in-person meetings made impossible due to COVID. “We used Google Meets to try and assess students remotely,” said Patty. “However, with restrictions loosening, we are now able to perform one-on-one meetings with new students to ensure they get the exact kind of support they need.”

As a result of the efforts put forth by Patty and her teaching staff, each of the preschool program’s students made huge progress over the course of the year. “The success of this year’s class is a testament to the amazing job our parents did with their kids,” said Patty. “It was an amazing year, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my excellent staff and these amazing parents.”

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, by visiting our dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

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The North Fork teaching staff incorporated history, science, math, and reading comprehension into the rocketry project
The North Fork teaching staff incorporated history, science, math, and reading comprehension into the rocketry project
Woodland Public Schools' third graders learn rocket science by building and launching model rockets (Photo) - 07/05/21

Monday, July 5, 2021-Woodland, WA-The entire third grade class at Woodland Public Schools’ North Fork Elementary learned the fundamentals of rocket science by researching, building, and launching model rockets. Brian Peterson, a third-grade teacher at North Fork, continued the tradition of teaching rocketry started by Leif Erickson, a teacher who first introduced rocketry classes at Woodland Middle School.

On the day of the launch, students were supervised by Peterson; Scott Landrigan, the Facilities and Safety Director for the district; and by Erickson who retired in 2016 but returns to help ensure students stay safe and all rockets launch properly. “We started the rocket club last year, however, with no field trips this school year due to the pandemic, the staff decided this would be a great alternative for our entire third grade class,” said Peterson. “Since the staff often collaborates on projects that can involve multiple subjects, we incorporated a variety of curriculum for our rocketry project including history, science, math, and reading comprehension.”

While Erickson initially started rocketry at the middle school, Peterson worked with him to introduce the club at the elementary level. “Kids really enjoy building and launching model rockets,” said Peterson. “Learning about rockets generates a lot of excitement and interest both in science and in space travel.”

For Erickson, his interest in rocketry started when he was attending college, and it had been a passion he wanted to bring to his students, too. “While I was in college, if you took a certain number of science classes, you would receive actual moon rocks,” he remembered. “When our Highly Capable (Hi-Cap) program was looking for a new subject, I suggested teaching rocketry.”

After using rockets in the Hi-Cap program, Erickson went on to add the course as a summer-school opportunity. “There’s so much to learn from how rocket engine sizes influence rocket performance; how to calculate the dimensions of a rocket; how to use physics to ensure proper rocket balance; and then students get to experiment with their creativity, painting their rockets with amazing designs.”

While this year’s launch took place in North Fork’s field in June, past launches started in Woodland Middle School’s football field. “Some students worked as ‘spotters’ as we had rockets with parachutes that floated to a much larger launch area,” said Erickson. “The farthest we had a rocket float was out to Horseshoe Lake – more than a mile away from the launch point!”

In addition to building the rockets themselves, Erickson’s students learned additional laws of physics including gravity and impact dispersion by experimenting with egg drops. Students built protective containers to dissipate impact so they could drop eggs from large heights to land intact, hopefully. “No matter how poorly some students might be doing in other subjects, they would come to school knowing that school could be fun, and it can be a blast to learn,” said Erickson. “I wanted to show my students that learning can be fun – you just have to put your all into it.”

Erickson, who retired in 2016, taught for 42 years in Woodland first as a middle school teacher for five years before transitioning to the fifth grade. “That’s when I discovered I loved teaching fifth graders – there was so much less chaos than at the middle school level,” he said. “After seven years in fifth, I took on a second-grade class and discovered I had a bug for teaching even younger grades.”

For Erickson, jump-starting students’ imaginations and turning them on to school was an instrumental part of his practice, one he uses as he continues to work as a substitute teacher for the district. “Sometimes, it just takes a bit of success to show kids they can learn and it can be fun,” he said. “Teaching is one of those things that if you love it, you’re getting paid to go have fun every day – it’s hard to stay away.”

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, by visiting our dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

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Zoe Jowsma
Zoe Jowsma
Woodland High School girls golf team wins district championship for first time since 2012, inspires students (Photo) - 06/28/21

Monday, June 28, 2021-Woodland, WA-Woodland High School’s girls golf team won the district championship for the first time in nearly a decade. However, for the team, golf represents more than competition, it offers an opportunity to develop new skills, make friends, and find inspirational support from others.

Aaron Blackwelder, an English teacher at Woodland High School, coaches the district’s entire golf program. His inspiring coaching has led to students who join the team their freshman year, continue playing throughout their entire high school career, and, in many cases, playing far beyond high school, too.

The 2021 graduates on this year’s team started playing in high school right from their freshman year. “I started playing my freshman year because a bunch of my friends were playing,” said Rayleah Trice, a 2021 graduate. “Golf presents a challenge – you have to work at it to become good – and that kept me motivated to continue working toward the goal.”

Rayleah placed second in the league and second in the district and will be attending Pacific Lutheran University this fall where she will continue to play golf.

Just like Rayleah, Addison Landrigan, a 2021 graduate, started playing her freshman year with her friends and continued playing it through her entire high school career. “I appreciate the relationships I’ve made with my teammates along the way,” she said. “Although I won’t be playing golf in college, I’ll continue playing it as a hobby.” Addison will be attending the University of Hawaii this fall where she plans to major in Business Management.

Erin Madsen, a 2021 graduate, started playing golf in the seventh grade to keep her closer to the memory of her grandfather. “My grandpa passed when I was much younger and I remember playing golf with them as a kid,” she said. “My parents also supported me, and I’m glad they did because golf continues to teach me patience and how to deal with stress.”

As a sport, golf has a notorious reputation for confounding even professional athletes. “Golf has given me a thicker skin,” said Erin. “Whenever I feel I’m going to play amazing, all of a sudden, I’ll have a few bad shots in a row; golf requires me to figure out what’s wrong with my game, and I can apply those solution-finding techniques to other problems in my life.” Erin will play golf with Centralia College this fall. After earning her two-year associate degree there, she plans to transfer to the University of Washington.

Zoe Jouwsma, a junior, was introduced to the game by her older sibling. “My sister has been an amazing inspiration to me and motivated me to start playing,” she said. “However, I find golf to be a stress causer, not a stress reliever – although I’m definitely going to continue playing next year.”

One of the team’s newest members started playing golf thanks to family members as well. Kara Lynn Condit, a freshman, picked up the sport after being introduced to the game by her father. “I started playing when I was four or five years old when my dad gave me this really old set of golf clubs from my grandfather who passed away,” she said. “My dad would let me putt on every course with him.”

Golf presents a form of stress relief for Kara Lynn. “I can just go out to the driving range and hit two or three buckets of balls,” she said. “Golf helps me not linger on the past, and I plan to continue playing throughout high school.”

For the entire team, the camaraderie comes from the team’s head coach, Aaron Blackwelder, an English teacher at Woodland High School who coaches all of the district’s golf teams, and from Sam Jouwsma, the team’s volunteer assistant coach and father of Zoe.

Zoe greatly appreciated her dad, Sam Jouwsma, stepping up to help out. “When my dad volunteered to coach, and that meant a lot to me,” she said. “Both her and my sister got me into golf, and he’s been an amazing inspiration to both me and the team.”

During the 2021 season, Kara Lynn’s grandmother passed away, and Coach Blackwelder was instrumental in helping her get through the trauma, “Blackwelder called my family to make sure I was okay the entire time,” she said. “I don’t think I would have been able to keep playing without his support; it meant so much to me.”

Just like the rest of his team, Aaron Blackwelder’s inspiration for starting to play golf was his mother. “She played with her dad growing up, so she got me started when I was a kid,” he said. “My mother is the reason we have a flamingo as an unofficial mascot – one of my mom’s friends got her into collecting flamingos, so we had them everywhere in our home growing up – from flamingo statues to even a flamingo plunger.”

Blackwelder started coaching golf in Woodland when he moved to the area in 2006. “I knew I might have the opportunity to coach so I volunteered the first year for the boys team and was picked up as head coach for the boys the following year,” he said. “Starting in 2014, I coached the girls golf team and I’m incredibly proud of the program we have now.”

For Blackwelder, the time commitment of coaching presents his biggest challenge, so he makes a concerted effort to balance his time between coaching and spending time with his family. “I don’t play golf myself during the teams’ seasons so I can spend time with my family, too,” he said. “My wife and family very much support me and my coaching.”

Coaching golf offers Blackwelder not only to continue the tradition of motivating young people to pick up the sport, but also to coach sportsmanship. “I get to hang out with kids and pass on the sport to the next generation,” he said. “Plus, it’s important to teach the team how to be good losers as well as good winners – I like coaching kids on how to be good people, too.”

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, by visiting our dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

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