Dessie F. Evans team prepares for September
Dessie F. Evans Elementary team prepares for September
Posted on 04/26/2019

Dessie F. Evans Elementary Principal Kevin Hampton and the lead team are well on their way towards opening the new Puyallup school this fall. Hampton, Assistant Principal Kris Diamond, and teachers representing different grade levels have been working together for months in anticipation of welcoming students, staff, parents, and community members.



Dessie F Evans teamsAs they prepare for the first day, the focus is on building an inclusive culture with programs and systems to support each child. Community and parent involvement and outreach is a very important component and has already begun with the Parent Teacher Association in works, and a Transportation Management Plan under review, which will be communicated to the public.

An opportunity to learn from others
The staff had an opportunity to visit Tehaleh Heights Elementary School in Bonney Lake recently, where they learned some tips for opening a brand new school. Tehaleh is in the Sumner School District and opened in September 2018.

Tehaleh Principal Sandy Miller, and the teaching staff, were welcoming and collaborative in sharing their journey, challenges, and philosophy on the importance of setting the school culture from day one. The tone of the school could be seen even before entering the classrooms. The hallways provided a learning environment with interactive project boards, a live plant terrarium hung on the wall, and a sensory wall where students could use their imagination and contribute as they walk down the hall. 
Dessie F Evans team
The Puyallup team had the opportunity to collaborate with Tehaleh teachers. They sat in Professional Learning Communities with peers from the same grades where they listened and asked questions. Karshner Elementary sixth-grade teacher Nancy Ellis asked about leadership opportunities for older students. At Tehaleh it began before school even started with a Spirit Team meeting regularly during the summer. Students were prepared to help the younger students from the first day of school. They are welcoming, and interact with younger students regularly.

One thing was clear: Building a positive culture in the school was the first priority. “Our principal has made a huge impact in building that positive culture. That was first,” says Tehaleh  teacher Carli Nelson.

As the team toured the school and met with staff, specific examples of building a positive culture were shared:

  ·     Design systems that help students solve problems, and not just academically;
 
·     Provide engaging opportunities for all students, while realizing they have a variety of interests;
  ·     Identify character traits for success and promote those traits;
  ·     As students learn, provide opportunities for them to become leaders as they teach others;
  ·     Engage the older students as leaders and role models;
  ·     Recognize that older students may feel less connected with the school since they will soon transition to secondary,       and many of the teachers and staff they have known for years may not be at the new school.

The school library was a shining example of a learning environment where students can explore, learn, help one another, find new interests and connect with peers who share those interests. Then, they have opportunities to use the skills they learn to lead others in the classroom. The library is open during recess with a variety of learning circuits where students can choose activities. For example, there is gardening, chess, 3-D printing, science, and weaving. A sign describes the library as a place of curiosity and connection.

Another discussion shared by teachers is the impact of coming together as a brand-new staff, previously from different schools. This provides more opportunities to share, understand common practices, and listen to differences while working together for common goals and systems in their new school.

The staff had an opportunity to observe kindergarten–second grade recess. They were interested in learning about Playworks. It has a focus on providing opportunity and choice for all students during recess, where they can build valuable life skills through play. 

“Strong systems that serve our students in both social emotional learning and academics is going to provide a strong foundation for our incoming students. It is our mission to serve the whole child.” 
Dessie F. Evans Assistant Principal Kris Diamond

The Dessie F. Evans team continues to grow as they interview and hire staff. Hampton and Diamond visited Firgrove and Zeiger elementary schools in April where they talked with students who will attend Dessie F. Evans in the fall. There will also be outreach to parents and to the Dessie F. Evans community in the coming months.

Nancy French
frenchnl@puyallup.k12.wa.us