RSD is celebrating Certificated Staff Appreciation May 1-5! We have more than 900 certificated staff, which includes teachers, school counselors, specialists, school psychologists, school nurses and so many more, work hard each day to support, engage and inspire students. If you see them around our schools, be sure to thank them for all they do!
To celebrate, we are shining the spotlight on several of our certificated staff members. Read about them and their deep connections to our schools.
Instructional Specialist is a role many may not be familiar with in the school system. But for the students who need them, they are a lifeline to learning.
Sacajawea Elementary’s Rae Fournier is one of several instructional specialists in the district. She works with students who are part of the Learning Assistance Program (LAP) and require a little extra help outside of the general classroom setting.
On a daily basis about 90 students come and go from her classroom. Ms. Fournier, along with five paraeducators, work in small groups with students who need additional help in varying subjects. The flow is dynamic. Students move from table to table as their skills and knowledge in the subject grow.
“It’s a collaborative process,” she says. “I work with the teachers and administrators to monitor progress. We rely on each other to get the child where they need to be academically.”
Ms. Fournier also works with students in the English Language Learners (ELL) program. She started an after-school club for ELL students after seeing a need for more opportunities that would allow students to work on their language skills. Around 20 students in grades 2-5 meet weekly to participate in fun activities centered around language.
“I want my classroom to be a fun place kids like to go to learn,” she says. “I love seeing their confidence grow as they grasp new concepts.”
When asked why she chose a career in education, Ms. Fournier replied, “you don’t pick teaching as much as it picks you.”
Amy Meredith’s love of music is infectious. Under her musical leadership, Three Rivers HomeLink’s music program has grown from one band with about eight students to 160 students in multiple bands, choirs and guitar classes.
“My hope was to always grow the program,” she says. “I was worried when the pandemic hit, but once things opened back up the classes kept filling up.”
Ms. Meredith works hard to help her students find an instrument that they will be confident playing, knowing that once they are successful playing a few notes, their passion for music will grow.
She also knows the importance of teaching the students a song they will recognize.
“I start them off with Ghostbusters,” Ms. Meredith says. “They get really excited when they start to recognize the notes. Once they play a song they know, they are a lot more willing to learn the songs they don’t know.”
Being able to teach students music isn’t the only goal. Ms. Meredith also wants her room to be a welcoming space for everyone. She says her students really encourage one another, they are respectful and celebrate each other’s abilities.
“I want students to walk into my classroom and feel included and know they belong,” she says. “I develop their musical talent, but also create a space they can be themselves.”
Nancy Galliher fully recognizes the unique teaching position she has within the district. While most teachers went back to in-person teaching once schools opened back up, Ms. Galliher embraced online learning at Pacific Crest Online Academy (PCOA). She teaches all levels of high school English, including Advance Placement Literature and Language Arts.
“Often we see students enroll who are disenfranchised in some way,” she says. “It’s the job of teachers at PCOA to draw students back into their learning and make it relevant for them.”
For Ms. Galliher, her school fills an important role in the district. It can bridge the gap for students who can’t always make it to class in person.
“We’ve seen students log into class from hospital beds or hotel rooms while traveling for sports,” she says. “We see students who are credit deficient, students who are accelerated, students on IEPs. The important thing is they are all there for the right reason: to learn.”
The biggest challenge many teachers at PCOA can have is keeping the engagement of students through a computer screen. The teachers have to work hard to build relationships with students. One-on-one and small group Zoom sessions are essential for doing that.
“Everybody is designed to do something great,” Ms. Galliher says. “It is our job as teachers to identify their gifts and help students find them.”
Being a consistent part of students’ lives is one of the many goals for school social workers, Tiffany Moss included.
Ms. Moss is in her second year at Lewis & Clark Elementary School, but her career in social work began in 2003. She started in residential treatment centers for children. However, she soon began to realize that the best way for her to make a difference was to intervene before kids needed to go to treatment. Though it took time, that realization eventually led her to working in schools.
“I am constantly evaluating the needs of the students I meet with,” she says. “I not only work to support the students, but also their families.”
It’s her job to understand how to get students and families help. She collaborates with teachers, outside organizations and others to set students up for success. She participates in IEP & Instructional Support Meetings, provides individual and group social-emotional services and is a member of the school and district crisis intervention teams.
Ms. Moss works to give students a break from what they are dealing with. That could mean meeting to talk in her office or shooting hoops on the basketball court.
“I love seeing kids come in with renewed hope and confidence,” she says. “I love to see them start to thrive.”
As an educator, one of Kristi Meyer's many goals is to reduce the challenges her students face with reading, in hopes of them becoming lifelong readers.
“I have students of all skill levels,” says Ms. Meyer, an 8th grade Language Arts teacher at Leona Libby Middle School. “I want my students to utilize the abilities that already exist within them when reading.”
Ms. Meyer has been an educator for 27 years, the past six with the Richland School District. Besides teaching, she is the advisor for Libby’s National Junior Honor Society and Yearbook Club.
She not only works hard to make learning a positive experience for her students, but for first year teachers as well. Ms. Meyer is a mentor in the district’s first-year teaching program. As a veteran educator she knows from experience how hard those first years can be.
“I want to give new teachers someone to reach out to and bounce ideas off of,” she says. “Teaching can be stressful at times. I want them to know they can rely on me to help them through the difficult days. I want them to love teaching as much as I do and stick with it.”
It’s a student’s love of music and passion for singing that lead them to James Jones' classroom at Hanford High School.
Mr. Jones is in his ninth year as the choir director at Hanford. When he started, the program had only one choir, but under his watch that number has grown to six.
“Everybody can sing,” he says. “There is a choir at Hanford for everyone, no matter the skill level.”
Mr. Jones works hard to keep pushing his students to grow vocally and learn more about different composers and genres of music. He spends time finding songs composed by women and people of color, music that his students can connect to in different ways.
“Every year of teaching choir is different,” he says. “Finding the right music, understanding the skill levels and student’s individual needs can be challenging. But watching them grow as a person and seeing what they can accomplish is amazing.”
Besides leading the school’s choirs, Mr. Jones also directs Hanford’s annual winter musical. This year, the school performed SpongeBob The Musical. Mr. Jones said there were trepidations about the show at first, but it was a hit and every performance sold out.
“These shows could not be done without the support of community members, parents, staff and administration at the school and the students,” he says. “There are so many areas to coordinate, from props and set design to costumes, choreography and music. It’s all about finding the right people.”
Students who visit Badger Mountain Elementary’s Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) Amy Clements often get so excited they skip down the halls to her room.
Ms. Clements has been a SLP with the district for six years. She sees about 50 students twice a week. Most students start school already having a diagnosed speech sound disorder. But some students are referred to her by their teacher.
“We do a lot of play-based therapy,” Ms. Clements says. “I try to make it a fun, and engaging experience for them. The more fun they have, the more eager they can be to learn.”
The improvements she sees in students can be life changing for them.
“Students can come to me feeling pretty defeated because of their speech,” she says. “However, once they start to improve their confidence can skyrocket.”
Rebecca Atwood has always known she wanted to be a teacher. For a class assignment in high school, she wrote a letter to herself which detailed her life as a teacher. Years later, the dream became a reality.
Ms. Atwood teaches third grade at Tapteal Elementary. For her, third grade is the perfect age, with students starting to take on more responsibility. She and her fellow third grade teachers at Tapteal work hard to learn all the students’ names in their grade. They work as a team to not only support each other, but all the third grade students.
“Building relationships and connections with the students is so important,” Ms. Atwood says. “I want them to feel they can come back and visit me when they are in high school and beyond. I am here for them always.”
Before Ms. Atwood was a teacher, she spent four years in the Marines. In the fall she was honored at Tapteal’s Veteran’s Day assembly and gave a special presentation about her time in the military.
“The students were all so respectful learning about what I did before teaching,” she says. “But it is a little hard for them to imagine me out of the school setting. Many think I live [at Tapteal]!”
Nedda Dayley has been a nurse for the Richland School District since 2010. When she started there were only five nurses to cover all of the district’s schools.
“I've worked at every grade level and have always covered multiple buildings at once,” says Ms. Dayley.
This year, she splits her time between Lewis & Clark Elementary and River’s Edge High School. Her work takes place mostly behind the scenes and she can go all year without ever meeting some students if they are healthy. But for parents who have children with complex medical needs, Ms. Dayley helps bridge the gap between the care they receive at home and the care they need at school.
“It can be scary for parents to send their student with medical concerns to school,” she says. “Families can worry if their student will receive the care they need at the time they need it. It is my job to make sure that happens.”
Ms. Dayley assists in all kinds of situations, from helping students with Type 1 Diabetes on their journey to independent care to troubleshooting medical equipment malfunctions. She helps educate students on the importance of handwashing, collaborates and trains staff members on student care plans, participates in IEP & 504 plan meetings, helps catch and prevent serious medical issues and more.
“I'm grateful that my job makes a difference in the lives of our students and their families,” she says. “Keeping kids safe and healthy allows them to stay in school and continue to learn.”