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News Releases
Caleb Osorio is the first student to have attended the Lewis River Academy program since Kindergarten and will be moving on to Woodland High School this fall.
Caleb Osorio is the first student to have attended the Lewis River Academy program since Kindergarten and will be moving on to Woodland High School this fall.
Woodland Public Schools celebrates graduates of all ages with special commencement ceremonies (Photo) - 06/29/20

Monday, June 29, 2020-Woodland, WA-Woodland Public Schools staff celebrates graduates of all ages throughout the district with commencement ceremonies that respect social distancing while still celebrating students’ accomplishments. From students just beginning their academic careers to those proceeding on to the final four years and this year’s graduating class, Woodland saw a lot to celebrate in spite of the limiting factors presented by the historic pandemic.

Just Starting Out – Preschool Graduation

Columbia Elementary School’s Early Intervention Special Education Preschool staff put on their annual graduation with an added twist – this year, the staff visited their graduates. For each graduate, the staff held car parades featuring their seven decorated cars and carefully-planned routes. At each home, Patricia “Patty” Morgan, the classroom teacher, along with her three assistants Kathleen Bottemiller, Mary Stumbaugh, and Shannon Tracy (all in separate cars) cheered each graduate and brought balloons and blew huge bubbles throughout yards and driveways.

Patty makes a point of acknowledging her students’ accomplishments at the end of every school year, and she wasn’t about to let the pandemic get in her way. “Our posse of seven cars had everything you can imagine dangling outside of our cars,” said Patty. “we drove all through Woodland and up to Amboy to make certain every child who was available could be celebrated as they each very much deserved.”

Headed to High School – Lewis River Academy’s first full-program graduate

Woodland Public Schools’ homeschool program, Lewis River Academy (LRA), serves students from Kindergarten through eighth grade, and this year brought a very special graduate: Caleb Osorio is the first student to attend the program since kindergarten.

Caleb greatly appreciated the flexibility of the program combined with the ability to still participate at school. “I found it really awesome as I take part in a variety of extracurricular activities,” he said. “LRA gave me the flexibility to take part in my activities while working at my own pace.”

While only at the very beginning of his high school experience, Caleb already has plans for college. “I’m really looking forward to preparing for college at Woodland High school,” he said. “Although it’s a few years off, I’m thinking about attending Walla Walla University after I graduate.”

TEAM High School Commencement – An All-Day Affair

The commencement ceremony for TEAM High School, Woodland Public Schools’ alternative high school, tends to be a very intimate affair with one of the staff members giving a speech about what makes each individual graduate special and unique to the program. Not wanting to abandon this long-held tradition, the staff came up with a new approach to still hold the ceremony but also respect social distancing – one graduate at a time with only their family would come to the high school, attend a mini-commencement with a speech from a staff member, and receive their diploma.

The commencement ceremony took place on Saturday, June 27 beginning at 10:00 a.m. With more than 30 graduates walking in the ceremony this year and only one graduate every 15 minutes, the entire commencement took hours, ending after 6 p.m. that evening. “One of the benefits of being a small school with a manageable size of graduates is that we have some flexibility with our ceremony options,” said Elizabeth “Liz” Vallaire, TEAM’s math and science teacher. “Rather than having a very limited big ceremony, we wanted to give each student a specialized experience with a dedicated mini-commencement for each grad.”

In between each graduate, a team of staff members sanitized the area to ensure proper precautions took place to prevent the potential spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. After having their graduate portrait taken and the ceremony, graduates and their families had the opportunity to take photos at the dedicated “selfie station,” a specially-decorated area just outside Woodland High School.

For the entire TEAM staff, the transition to remote learning meant not seeing their students each day. “One of my favorite things about our small school is how well we get to know our students as those personal relationships are crucial to our students’ success,” said Liz. “Email is so much less personal and not getting to watch my students work through problems in-person makes it much more difficult to gauge what kind of learner a student is.”

In addition to teaching, Liz also serves as the school’s senior advisor and graduation coach. “I feel personally responsible for making sure everyone who wants to graduate finishes on-time,” she said. “Having to rely on students checking emails, voicemails, or responding to texts rather than seeing them 4-5 days a week has caused me a lot of anxiety; I’m particularly grateful to have a dedicated work text phone since that’s the easiest way to get ahold of students these days.”

Over the course of the year, TEAM High School lost a student who passed away suddenly in February, Noah Gray. In order to honor his memory, the staff held an honorary commencement ceremony for his family with Mary Burnett, one of the school’s institutional aides, giving the speech about Noah and his impact on the school. An empty chair with a cap and gown was placed on the speech to commemorate his passing and his contributions as a student at the school.

Woodland High School – Virtual Reality Commencement

Woodland High School’s Class of 2020 will graduate on Friday, July 10, 2020. Unfortunately, given the phased requirements facing Clark and Cowlitz counties, the ceremony cannot be held in-person and will be held live online streamed via YouTube.

The commencement ceremony begins at 7 p.m. and can be watched from Woodland High School’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fFKm7p6PMs 

To learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, visit our dedicated news webpage at https://www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

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Nearly two dozen district employees helped make the plant sale happen like Stacy Gould pictured here wearing a mask while she checked in customers
Nearly two dozen district employees helped make the plant sale happen like Stacy Gould pictured here wearing a mask while she checked in customers
Woodland High School's annual plant sale saved through teamwork and planning; horticulture teacher Kendra Pearce receives Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award (Photo) - 06/22/20

Monday, June 22, 2020-Woodland, WA-Woodland High School’s annual plant sale put on by students of the school’s horticulture classes would have been canceled this year due to the pandemic had it not been for the quick thinking and teamwork to take the sale online thanks to more than 40 students and nearly two dozen current and retired district employees led by Kendra Pearce, horticulture teacher for the school, who also received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award for District 8 from FFA.

An incredibly popular and long-running tradition, the high school’s annual plant sale was nearly canceled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, something that would have devastated Kendra’s students and the community. “When I learned that students might not be able to participate in the plant sale, I was heartbroken,” said Kendra. “Since the start of the school year, the students had spent hours and hours in the greenhouse planting, propagating, and managing their more than a thousand plants.”

Kendra came up with a solution – take the plant sale online. However, she only had two weeks to figure out how to make it happen. “After conferring with agriculture teachers throughout the state and investigating options that we could put in place in our incredibly limited time-frame, we decided to use the InTouch payment platform the district uses to accept meal and Skyward Family Access payments from parents,” she said. “However, InTouch isn’t intended for e-commerce so our business manager, Stacy Brown, helped make it happen by working with me and my horticulture students to upload individual photos, descriptions, and pricing for 123 unique plant varieties.”

In addition to accepting payments online, Kendra and Stacy developed a way for customers to pick up their plants while still following the coronavirus prevention procedures in place. “We created a separate scheduling system for buyers to choose specific days and times to pick up their orders from stations set up outside at the high school,” said Kendra. “The online scheduling system then had to feed into a separate spreadsheet system so the students could prepare and set out orders in the same order that buyers would arrive to pick them up.”

For Kendra, her background as a Land Use Planner at a local firm for several years and her continuing volunteer work as a coordinator for a large volunteer program for Clark County were instrumental in providing her the skills she needed to develop the complex solution. “I’m a planner, professionally, whether it was at my past jobs or for my current role as a teacher where I have to track thousands of plants cared for by 40+ students over the course of the year,” she explained. “The students were key to make the plant sale possible – they prepared each order and ensured each one was in the right place at the right time for customers to pick them up.”

In addition to her classes of students, nearly two dozen current and retired staff members helped administer the sale from checking in customers to ensuring everything went smoothly. Following the sale, a survey of customers provided valuable feedback for future plant sales. “Nearly a third of the respondents would like to see us continue the online sale in the future, however, many of them said they prefer to shop for their plants in-person, of course,” said Kendra. “That being said, 97% of the respondents said the pick-up process was easy, and the results certainly speak for themselves as we sold nearly 85% of what we would during a normal year – a pretty remarkable feat seeing as how we’d never held a sale online prior to this.”

Kendra’s efforts making the online plant sale a reality didn’t go unnoticed, as the FFA awarded her Outstanding Teacher of the Year for District 8 which covers an expansive area including districts as far south as Vancouver and as far east as Toutle Lake. “I am honored and humbled to receive the award, this year, in particular,” said Kendra. “I truly believe this is the year every agriculture teacher deserves an ‘outstanding’ award, regardless of whether their name is on a plaque or not.”

To learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, visit our dedicated news webpage at https://www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

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TEAM High School's graduation rate has more than doubled in recent years
TEAM High School's graduation rate has more than doubled in recent years
Woodland Public Schools offers two ongoing alternative home-learning programs for families concerned about coronavirus prevention: Lewis River Academy and TEAM High School (Photo) - 06/18/20

Thursday, June 18, 2020-Woodland, WA-After hearing some families’ concerns about coronavirus prevention when students return to school in the fall, Woodland Public Schools reassures families by spotlighting two district programs designed to help students learn from home with limited or no classroom interaction: Lewis River Academy (LRA) for students in grades K-8 and TEAM High School for students in grades 9-12.

Learn more about Lewis River Academy (LRA):

Lewis River Academy (LRA) offers an alternative learning environment for K-8 students who want to participate in an innovative approach to school featuring lessons taught at home provided by two teachers dedicated exclusively to the program combined with optional in-classroom activities.

LRA invites guest speakers to Wednesday Workshops each week where students learn about science, art, math, and a variety of other curricula from experts in the material. “We like to seek out a variety of presenters to come and give lessons depending on the units we’re covering in class,” said Teri Retter, LRA’s K-5 teacher.

LRA’s alternative learning environment provides families access to a different approach to learning using a combination of in-class curriculum and home-schooling. "The mission and vision of LRA is to be an extension for students learning from home by offering online and in-person alternatives to traditional school," explained Jake Hall, the district’s Executive Director of Learning Supports and Alternatives who also serves as the program’s principal.

Although optional for LRA students, the Wednesday Workshops typically draw in a majority of the enrolled students as well as their families. “We usually have a great turnout as our students, parents, and siblings enjoy learning about different topics from our guest speakers,” said Teri. “We particularly enjoy having parents attend as they are our learning coaches; by experiencing the curriculum first-hand in the classroom, they’re better-prepared to use it out of the classroom, too.”

The LRA program requires the same amount of rigor as traditional schooling. "Students in the LRA program must dedicate six hours each day to their schooling just like any other student," explained Jake. "The program also offers home-schooled students access to electives like band and athletics while still permitting them to take their core classes through the LRA."

Students and families interested in enrolling in LRA should contact Jake Hall. Interested students and their parents will meet with Jake to discuss how LRA works and whether the program fits the family's interests and approaches to their student's learning. "We want to determine that the LRA program is a good fit for the students and families during the intake overview," he explained. "If LRA is the right fit, the student can enroll and get started right away." To learn more contact Principal Jake Hall at hallj@woodlandschools.org.

Learn more about TEAM High School:

TEAM offers Woodland’s high school students a path to earning a diploma (not a GED) with an approach to school that accommodates extenuating life circumstances facing individual students such as full-time work, challenges with traditional school schedules, or family responsibilities.

The staff of TEAM help people think of alternative high schools differently. “Many people hear ‘alternative school’ and think it’s a place for ‘troubled’ kids” said Elizabeth “Liz” Vallaire, TEAM’s Math and Science Teacher. “We want to change that perception: we don’t have ‘typical’ students – we have high-achieving students; students with life responsibilities; and students whose life circumstances make TEAM’s approach to learning a better fit.”

“TEAM can be great for students because we meet them where they are academically and offer a myriad of supports and flexibility with classes to help them succeed,” said Jill Domingo, TEAM’s Social Studies and English Teacher. “Since we have time to work with our students one-on-one, they share information about their work, hobbies, and home lives; I feel having that knowledge helps me be a better teacher by allowing me to adjust my instruction to fit their specific needs and learning styles.”

Over recent years, the graduation rate at TEAM has more than doubled, a significant accomplishment for any high school, particularly an alternative school. Jake Hall, Woodland’s Executive Director of Learning Supports and Alternatives, serves as TEAM’s principal, and commends the staff for why the school sees such great success. “Some of our students develop ‘learned helplessness’ from years of not being successful in school, however, our staff at TEAM works with students to show them that success can build upon success,” he said. “Students at TEAM develop self-confidence by having teachers who want them to be successful, especially some of our most discouraged students.”

TEAM High School’s teachers and staff are, quite literally, award-winning. In April of 2019, Liz Vallaire was selected as Teacher of the Year for the State of Washington by the Washington Association for Learning Alternatives (WALA).

Due to coronavirus prevention, Woodland Public Schools is no longer limiting enrollment, instead supporting TEAM High School with more staffing, as needed, to maintain the alternative school’s ability to serve a diverse student body. “We feel like a family since we all get to know each other really well, and through that we are able to build trusting relationships from all the one-on-one time we have with each student,” said Liz. “I believe those relationships are often part of what keeps a lot of students motivated to succeed; they know that their families, their teachers, and their peers are also invested in their success.”

To learn more about TEAM High School or how to enroll, visit the TEAM website at www.woodlandschools.org/team

To learn more about how Woodland Public Schools continues educating our students and serving the community during the statewide closure, visit our dedicated news webpage at https://www.woodlandschools.org/home-learning-stories

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Woodland High School class of 2020 graduate Elisabeth Patnode receives award for community service
Woodland High School class of 2020 graduate Elisabeth Patnode receives award for community service
Woodland High School class of 2020 graduate Elisabeth Patnode receives award for community service (Photo) - 06/15/20

Monday, June 15, 2020-Woodland, WA-Woodland High School’s Elisabeth Patnode received the Silent Servant Student Award from the Peter R. Marsh Foundation which includes a special plaque along with a $500 grant for use to Elisabeth’s future plans.

Elisabeth received the award for the countless hours of community service she performed. In addition to volunteer work with her church, she has been volunteering at the Love Street Playhouse since she was eight years old. “It’s basically my second home,” she said. “I’ve been a part of Girl Scouts since I was little, and a big part of what they teach you is the value of volunteer work, so I’ve continued giving my time whenever I can as I’ve grown older.”

Following graduation from high school this summer, Elisabeth plans to attend St. Martens University located in Lacey, Washington where she will major in elementary education. “Since I was little, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and my goal is to teach at a school in Africa,” she said. “I learned about this special school through my church’s priest who spent a great deal of time in Africa.”

During the school closure, Elisabeth has been spending time growing a large vegetable garden and focusing on her studies. In fact, while she’s not a fan of remote learning, Elisabeth said the statewide closure of schools gave her back some extra time. “I had so many extracurricular activities before that I found myself a little tired between them and my studies,” she said. “Now, I was able to focus entirely on my schoolwork which was also nice because having schoolwork gave me something to focus on during the stay-at-home order.”

For Elisabeth, the most challenging part of the statewide school closure was not seeing friends and teachers. “It has been difficult having to go without that interaction that comes from physically being at school,” she said. “I miss my friends and all the teachers – being with people is what I miss most.”

About the Peter R. Marsh Foundation

The Peter R. Marsh Foundation is dedicated to honoring those who serve others. You can learn more about the organization from their website: www.prmfoundation.org

To learn more about how Woodland Public Schools continues educating our students and serving the community during the statewide closure, visit our dedicated news webpage at https://www.woodlandschools.org/home-learning-stories

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Dan Uhlenkott (left) seen here adjusting John Shoup's (right) hood shortly before the Class of 2019 commencement ceremony, credits John with lessons and coaching that made him a better administrator
Dan Uhlenkott (left) seen here adjusting John Shoup's (right) hood shortly before the Class of 2019 commencement ceremony, credits John with lessons and coaching that made him a better administrator
Woodland High School Principal John Shoup says goodbye after 22 years; ends 20 years of WHS having the same Principal and Assistant Principal Team (Photo) - 06/12/20

Friday, June 12, 2020-Woodland, WA-Woodland High School’s Principal, John Shoup, surprised many in the community when he announced his family intends to relocate to Nevada at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. A long-time fixture at the high school serving 22 years as its principal, John’s decision to move on was one he and his family did not come to lightly.

Throughout John’s tenure as principal of Woodland High School, he helped lead the school staff through many historic events, not only in times of crisis but also in times of great joy, not the least of which being the grand opening of the new high school campus in 2015.

John moved his family to Woodland in 1998 from Everett, Washington. “My bride’s parents lived in Oregon City and they were having a difficult time coming up to see us, so moving closer to them was an important priority,” he recalled. “In addition, I was working as an assistant principal and knew I wanted to move on to the next step so when the position opened up at Woodland High School, it seemed like the perfect fit.”

At the time, both Woodland and Kalama had principal positions available, but John knew Woodland was the place for him and his family after one visit. “Just visiting and walking around Woodland made it apparent that this town would be the right fit for me,” he said. “I talked to community members at the local stores and no one had a bad thing to say about the town, plus it has that small-town, neighborly feel that we were looking for.”

In addition to the positive impressions of the community, John wanted to raise his children in a town with a single high school. “There’s a vibrancy to seeing all the local community members when you go to a Friday night basketball game,” he explained. “I love the pace, flow, and energy of Woodland.”

John and his wife decided it was time to leave after 22 years. “We did what a lot of people do when they become empty-nesters – you look around at the big house and realize you want to downsize,” he said. “My bride and I wanted to live in a place where there would be sunshine on a more regular basis, so, several years ago, he started talking about where that would be.”

They decided on South Reno, Nevada. John regularly vacationed with his family in the area ever since he and his wife celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary there. In addition, John’s sons live in Nevada, so the family has a lot of experience with the region. John admits he will always miss Woodland. “A lot of what appealed to us about Woodland in 1998 is still exactly the same now,” he said.

The Dynamic Duo – Principal John Shoup and Assistant Principal Dan Uhlenkott 20 years running

Perhaps even more rare than a principal staying with a school for more than two decades is an administrative team staying together for just as long. Dan Uhlenkott has served as John’s assistant principal for 20 years since John hired him in 2000, a length of time that may be a record for an administrative team in Washington State. “I have such a level of trust and faith in Dan and what he can do,” said John. “We’re completely different people with completely different approaches, and it’s those differences that made things work so well.”

Over 20 years of working together, there have been a variety of experiences – both challenging and rewarding – that John and Dan took on over their time together, however, John took the opportunity to share a memory of one, in particular. “Dan and I were carrying a table holding the diploma covers on-stage in the middle of a commencement ceremony when the table slipped and spilled the covers all over the place,” John recalled. “The collective gasp from the audience was audible, and while Dan was picking them up, I pointed at him for the audience as if to say ‘it was all his fault.”

The accompanying photograph was taken by one of the graduates sitting in the stands immediately after John and Dan finished picking the covers up, “You can nearly see actual daggers coming at me from Dan’s eyes,” John chuckles.

John admires the incredible professionalism and adept skill Dan brings to his work. “He’s not a ‘yes man,’ and that’s exactly what I needed – someone who challenged me and pushed me, but, in the end, would go with the plan we developed together,” said John. “Dan’s at the top of the list of the people I’m going to miss the most.”

Dan still remembers his job interview with John. “Right from the interview, I knew it was a good fit,” he said. “There was a lot of back-and-forth, but the interview was incredibly comfortable and I knew Woodland High School was where I wanted to be.”

Despite John being younger than Dan, Dan credits him with helping develop the administrative skills and experience he needed to serve as an effective school leader. “While I did have some administrative experience, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I worked with John,” said Dan. “With John, age is immaterial – he always approached teaching me both as a coach and a teacher, and he was excellent at both roles.”

Dan credits John’s dedication, work ethic, and genuine personality for why staff members rarely leave Woodland High School. “Each new hire was a conscious and intentional decision by John – he made Woodland High School what it is today and it was no accident,” said Dan. “John purposefully sought out and hired the right people, and he put together a truly excellent staff.”

When looking back at their 20 years together, Dan points to the entire high school’s staff as the reason he never desired to work anywhere else. “When you’re working with the right people, if it works well then you keep on working,” he said. “When John told me he was moving to Reno, it tugged at my heart more than a little – I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be my occupational partner.”

To learn more about how Woodland Public Schools continues educating our students and serving the community during the statewide closure, visit our dedicated news webpage at https://www.woodlandschools.org/home-learning-stories

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