Photo by Marcy Stamper Methow Valley schools opened on Tuesday (Aug. 30) with “welcome back” messages greeting students and staff.

Photo by Marcy Stamper

Methow Valley schools opened on Tuesday (Aug. 30) with “welcome back” messages greeting students and staff.

By Marcy Stamper

New faces — and some familiar ones in new places — will greet students as they settle into the new school year.

Liberty Bell High School has two new instructors, history teacher Scott Barber and physical science teacher Katie Leuthauser. Barber replaces Rocky Kulsrud, who retired last year, and Leuthauser is taking over subjects taught by Tyler Slostad, who has transferred to Methow Valley Elementary to teach sixth grade. Slostad is replacing Joni Stevie, who also retired last year.

Scott Barber

Scott Barber

Barber will teach history and social sciences for junior and senior high school students. He brings experience teaching English and humanities around the world for the past 16 years, including in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Dubai and, most recently, Poland.

Scott Barber is married to Methow elementary fifth-grade teacher Catie Barber, who also taught in international schools before coming to the Methow Valley last year.

Scott Barber is also involved in the performing arts, directing and acting in school productions and performing music with students and colleagues. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and climbing mountains.

Leuthauser has training in adolescence education and specialized in earth science and biology. She most recently taught seventh- through 12th-grade physics, chemistry and earth sciences in Bickleton, Washington, a small town near Goldendale.

Katie Leuthauser

Katie Leuthauser

At Liberty Bell, Leuthauser will teach physical science, chemistry and physics. She is also teaching two electives — environmental science and an introductory course in computer science — in a new partnership with Microsoft. The grant-funded program pairs a volunteer computer professional, who teaches the class via Skype, with an on-site classroom teacher.

As Leuthauser completes her graduate degree in environmental education, there will be a familiar face in the classroom for some students — retired elementary-school teacher Steve Dixon will fill in for her once or twice a week through the end of October.

In addition to teaching, Leuthauser has coached volleyball, basketball, and track and field. She enjoys hiking, running, swimming, skiing and climbing.

Kindergarten enrollment up

Libby Foley

Libby Foley

With kindergarten enrollment higher than anticipated, the district has added a third kindergarten class for the coming year to create three classes of 16 students each, according to Tom Venable, the school district superintendent. Compared with the past few years, as of last week, kindergarten enrollment was up by half a dozen students, he said.

For the third kindergarten class, the district has hired Libby Foley, a former first-grade teacher at the school, and Joan Stluka. Foley and Stluka join Meridith Dufresne and Hana Baker, who is transferring from her job as REACH program coordinator.

Foley and Stluka are doing a job-share arrangement for the new kindergarten class, with Foley teaching the morning session and Stluka taking the afternoon. They’ll focus on different subjects but will plan together.

Foley took two years off after the birth of her son. In her leisure moments, Foley enjoys spending time with her family, gardening and hiking.

Joan Stluka

Joan Stluka

Stluka taught kindergarten through third grade in the Puyallup School District for 17 years. She enjoys kayaking, hiking and skiing in her spare time.

Families with kindergarteners had the option of sending their kids to a special camp last week to be introduced to school and the Classroom in Bloom garden, and to do art and other creative projects.

Then they got a break while kindergarten teachers held conferences with parents to help the district learn about the students and to tell families about school programs and opportunities for involvement. Kindergarteners will officially start school on Sept. 6, a week later than the older grades.

With higher enrollment in all the early grades this year, the elementary school has two first-grade classes, two second-grade classes and a multi-age class for first and second graders.

Support staff

Students will get support from two new staffers in planning and transitioning to life after graduation. The district has hired Erika Spellman as the new college adviser. Spellman will acquaint students with post-secondary opportunities including educational, vocational and career-related options. She has more than 15 years of college counseling and advising experience in school districts in Western Washington.

For the past several years, the Public School Funding Alliance (PSFA) has funded the college adviser position. With an increase in the PSFA contribution and matching funds from the school district this year, the hours for college advising have been tripled.

Kelleigh McMillan joins the district as its new mentorship coordinator. McMillan will work with high school students — initially, focusing on those enrolled at the Independent Learning Center — to recruit and train community-based mentors to provide academic, personal and logistical support for students both before and after they graduate. The position is supported by the Be the Change grant, obtained by the Winthrop Kiwanis from the Community Foundation of North Central Washington.

McMillan is a farmer and coordinates Red Shed Produce, which provides fresh produce to local people living in poverty. She also works with youths and families through Room One. Her husband, Paul Gitchos, teaches math at Liberty Bell.

More changes

After a significant push by the crew at TwispWorks, the 22 students at the Independent Learning Center and their teachers have been able to start the school year at their new classrooms in the Bunkhouse, a few weeks earlier than expected. They are still awaiting new furniture and technology equipment, which should be delivered in the next few weeks, said Venable.

The basement of the Bunkhouse has not been renovated yet. It will be a project for students in the school district’s Careers in Construction Academy, also based on the TwispWorks campus.

The district has been interviewing candidates to supervise its new after-school child care program. The district plans to offer child care on a sliding scale five days a week. Fall after-school enrichment clubs for elementary students include art, garden, theater, chess and fly-fishing.

Other changes for the coming year include expanding hours for the school nurse from two to three days and offering both Spanish and Chinese from seventh through 12th grades.