Students, parents rally behind Quilcene teacher

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 4/25/17

When parents with children in the Quilcene School District attended the school board’s April 19 meeting to preemptively warn against any reduction-in-force (RIF) actions among district staff, they …

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Students, parents rally behind Quilcene teacher

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When parents with children in the Quilcene School District attended the school board’s April 19 meeting to preemptively warn against any reduction-in-force (RIF) actions among district staff, they and several students soon found themselves speaking out on behalf of one teacher in particular.

Jolene Elkins opened the public’s remarks by speaking on behalf of a number of fellow concerned parents, voiced their shared concerns not only about potential RIF notices, but also about the possibility of splitting up the current fourth-grade class, before she lauded the garden club and the performing arts program as two of the school’s successful measures.

After a number of people voiced concerns about losing teacher Ginger Moore, the board voted unanimously that there was no need to issue RIF notices to any certified teachers in this coming school year.

Superintendent Wally Lis later told The Leader that Moore was never considered for a RIF.

“She is the only World Language teacher the district has employed, and World Language is a high school graduation requirement,” Lis said of Moore.

STUDENTS SPEAK OUT

It wasn’t only parents who spoke out about Moore.

Hannah Williams was the first student at the meeting to join in praising both the performing arts program and the teacher, Moore, who started it.

“It’s touched a lot of kids and gotten them out of their shells,” Williams said.

“In my 15 years, Ms. Moore has added a lot of firsts to this school,” said Jarod Smith, one of Williams’ classmates, who is enrolled in Moore’s Advanced Placement (AP) history class. “She’s made history interesting and fun, even for those who admitted they didn’t like it at first.”

Smith advocated expanding the performing arts program to include every student who wishes to take part. He also noted the other subjects Moore covers, from foreign languages to geography, not only meet students’ most basic curriculum needs, but also facilitate them moving on to a four-year college or university.

“There’s a whole new light at the school,” sophomore Garon Terry said. “I never knew I had any musical talent, but now I’m singing and dancing with everyone else.”

“My behavior wasn’t so great before, but it’s so much better now,” freshman Isaac Dugdale said of his own time in the performing arts program, before drawing laughter by adding, “I don’t know how or why it works, but it does.”

“I’m never seen these kids excited like this,” said father Jeff Oen, who noted that neither he nor his father had any equivalent to the performing arts program when they attended school in Quilcene. When the school board asked attendees if they had heard any rumors about Moore receiving a RIF notice, Oen spoke up again, saying, “We know how it goes. She’s the low man on the totem pole.”

HUMBLED BY SUPPORT

Moore laughed and covered her face in embarrassment at several points during the remarks of the students and parents who credited her with bringing positive change to the district.

After reporting to the school board that enough funds had been raised to make their planned class field trip to Washington, D.C., Moore herself requested that performing arts be expanded into a full-length class.

“There’s been so much interest,” Moore told the board. “We have kids showing up before and after school, and even on the weekends. They’re willing to sing and dance any time I could ask.”

After the board meeting, Moore explained to The Leader that the dance lessons began last spring, when she and her husband began teaching swing dancing after school and on weekends, “just for fun.” Shortly afterward, she and Darrell Dahlman, Quilcene’s K-12 music teacher, asked students if they would like to put on a song, dance and band performance of 20th-century pop songs. “The kids had a lot of fun with that, which inspired this year’s performing arts class,” Moore said.

Moore elaborated that the district created two 25-minute “mini electives,” to give students a variety of choices for “a brain break” in the middle of the school day.

When teachers were asked what they’d like to teach, “We all chose something that was a passion for us, and that we wanted to share with the kids,” Moore said. “There’s everything from performing arts to film clubs to debate to outdoor survival.”

Moore estimated that she and Dahlman have between 15 and 20 students for each 25-minute session of performing arts classes.

“Because these classes are so short, students – around 35 of them total – come in as club members to work on solos, duets, dance, and overall choir and band rehearsals at various times,” Moore said. “I work with students on singing and dancing during my prep, at lunch, right after school, and after sports in the evening, as well as on the weekends. The kids really show up for these opportunities, which is so inspiring.”

SENSE OF COMMUNITY

A transplant from Alaska who began teaching in Washington state in 2015, Moore treasures the sense of community that she’s seen, and that her students have told her they’ve felt in getting to know peers they hadn’t interacted with before, as well as working with them to stage musical productions.

“I’ve witnessed students really being brave,” Moore said. “You have to be both vulnerable and strong to sing and dance in front of a crowd. It takes perseverance, too. These are not necessarily easy skills to learn, and students are pushing through frustration and seeing great success. Students are opening their minds to new kinds of music and movement, everything from swing dance and fox trot to ballet and jazz, and a whole range of music, including doo-wop, pop, rock, Broadway and classical.”

While her students and their parents deemed her exceptional, Moore asserted instead that the performing arts program has been sustained by the entire community rallying behind it.

“The program is gaining momentum, which is awesome,” Moore said. “It’s been supported by Quilcene residents, school administration, my colleagues, and especially the students and their parents.”

Indeed, not only has Moore not received a RIF notice, she’s unaware of any school staff at Quilcene who has, even as the district has considered such reductions.

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