Photo by Marcy Stamper Students and teachers at the Independent Learning Center will have room for group and independent projects when they move to the bunkhouse on the TwispWorks campus next year.

Photo by Marcy Stamper
Students and teachers at the Independent Learning Center will have room for group and independent projects when they move to the bunkhouse on the TwispWorks campus next year.

ILC will move to TwispWorks campus; new teachers added

By Marcy Stamper

The coming Methow Valley School District year will provide more generous classroom and study spaces for students at the Independent Learning Center (ILC), new teachers at the elementary and high schools, and a new program in computer coding.

Other changes come in foreign-language instruction, expanded support positions and new afterschool programs.

Starting this fall, the ILC will be moving to the 2,700-square-foot bunkhouse (with two stories and a basement) on the TwispWorks campus, giving students and staff more room for classroom activities as well as private space for individual or small-group study. For its 24-year existence, the school has been squeezed into two small rooms of just 500 square feet, formerly the lounge for school bus drivers, according to Tom Venable, the Methow Valley School District superintendent.

The Valley Teen Center, which has been using the bunkhouse the past few years, will continue to rent the space for use in the evenings. The district will be leasing the bunkhouse; funds already approved by voters for capital projects will go toward technology upgrades and new furnishings for the ILC.

Freeing up the bus lounge will provide office space for the district’s director of operations and capital projects and the activities secretary, and bus drivers will once again have a warm, indoor space to meet, said Venable.

Being on the TwispWorks campus is expected to provide more internship opportunities for ILC students with campus partners, including textile and metal artists, media companies, and a museum of local and natural history. Internships are a central part of the ILC approach to education.

Over time, the district’s Careers in Construction Academy and welding programs, also based on the TwispWorks campus, will help renovate the 1930s-era building — originally used as accommodations by U.S. Forest Service staff, said TwispWorks Executive Director Don Linnertz.

On the main school campus, students will have new teachers and will find some current teachers in new spots. Two long-term teachers — high school history teacher Rocky Kulsrud and elementary school teacher Joni Stevie — are retiring after 20 and 31 years in the district, respectively. (See related story on page A1.)

The district has hired Scott Barber to teach history at Liberty Bell High School. Barber has taught at schools around the world — including in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Dubai and Poland — for the past 16 years. Much of his career has been as an English and humanities teacher; he is also active in the performing arts. Scott is married to Catie Barber, who teaches fifth grade at Methow Valley Elementary.

High school science teacher Tyler Slostad is moving to the elementary school, where he will teach sixth grade. Katie Leuthauser, who taught physical sciences and chemistry for four years in the small school district in Bickleton, Washington, has been hired to teach science at Liberty Bell.

In addition to teaching physical science and chemistry, Leuthauser will be partnering with a technology-industry professional through Microsoft’s TEALS program (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) to teach computer science and coding through gaming development, according to Venable. The grant-funded program pairs a volunteer computer professional, who teaches the class via Skype, with an on-site classroom teacher.

After district staff observed the TEALS program in Manson, they were impressed and applied for the grant, and were accepted this spring, said Venable.

Teachers are also swapping spots in the early grades. Kindergarten teacher Cara Christensen will be moving up to teach a new combined first- and second-grade class. Hana Baker will transfer from her post as coordinator for the district’s REACH home school program to teach kindergarten. Tirzah Quigley will become REACH coordinator in addition to her current role as reading specialist.

Hours for the high school’s college adviser have been tripled, with an increased grant from the Public School Funding Alliance and matching support from the school district. The district is advertising for the post, since adviser Mary Ann Bailey resigned earlier this year, said Venable.

Through the Be the Change grant, obtained by the Winthrop Kiwanis from the Community Foundation of North Central Washington, the district will hire a part-time mentor coordinator. The coordinator will focus on finding mentors to support students at the ILC in high school and after graduation. The mentor coordinator will also work with students at Liberty Bell who need additional support, said Venable.

The mentor coordinator will provide a range of resources for students, including academic, personal and logistical support for students after they graduate. Many students face barriers as they adjust to post-secondary education, and for students who may be the first in their family to attend college, having a mentor can help them weather the initial adjustment, said Venable.

The Be the Change grant will also support a Key Club at the ILC to help students develop leadership skills. Kiwanis members will be involved with the students as mentors and through internships. The grant is intended to alleviate generational poverty, according to the Community Foundation. The majority of students at the ILC qualify for free or reduced lunch, according to Venable.

This mentorship program is separate from the mentors who work with elementary school students.

Other changes for next year:

  • The district is hiring two supervisors for its new after-school day-care program.
  • Hours for the school nurse are being expanded from two to three days.
  • The district is adding classes in Spanish and Chinese so that students can choose either language starting in seventh grade and continue through their senior year.
  • Pay-to-play fees for athletics are being reduced by 20 percent.