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THE CHALKBOARD: Valley Vista staff leads by running


Leading by example. While students at Valley Vista are working to complete iDo26.2, a fitness program sponsored by St. Joseph Health, school staff members are training for a 10K race of their own. Teacher Jen Ortlinghaus hosted weekly workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school for any staff member interested in prepping for the race. Principal Catina Haugen shares all fitness levels came out to train and participate in staff sessions and cheered each other on at a 10K at The Barlow in Sebastopol last Saturday. Eleven Valley Vista staff members, from principal to speech therapist, from teachers to custodian, set this goal, trained and accomplished it as a Viking team. Next stop for these runners is the Clo the Cow 5K & 10K in September. Go, Vikings, go!

La Tercera Elementary students and their families arrived on campus April 7 for the fourth annual Salute to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) event. There were more than 200 people in attendance. Clubs from Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State University, Petaluma High School, Casa Grande High School as well as other community organizations shared their expertise in STEM learning with those in attendance. The Bot Bash Robotics demonstration had students entranced as they watched the robots battle, reports Kristy Corbett, Teacher On Special Assignment at La Tercera Elementary. “The robots are the best!” according to first-grader Timmy. “Enormous whalebones from Petaluma High School and Arduinos and balancing stick toys from Casa Grande High School captured our participants’ attention,” says Corbett. Students also learned the importance of bees in our community from Lew Spengler, Sonoma County Beekeepers volunteer, who participated in the evening’s program. STEM learning was even incorporated in athletics from the ATA STEM curriculum. “I love watching students and parents excited about STEM. The smiles on their faces are all I need to assess the success of the event,” reported Corbett.

Spring has brought new life to McDowell Elementary, according to principal Lauri Anderson. First grade has an incubator set up in the classroom and is awaiting the arrival of ducklings. Second- and third graders are documenting their observations on Steelhead Trout in the classroom as part of their ongoing science curriculum. Also taking place in second grade are demonstrations of digital art. Teacher Renee Nealon’s classroom has been displaying and celebrating the young prolific digital artists. These young creative minds have spent the past month writing, directing and producing a film that was recently selected among the top 15 in Petaluma City Schools’ upcoming short film festival. McDowell students also started their own podcast using an application called Podbean where students shared their stories. Look up C3monarchs to hear their incredible stories.

Take me out to the ballgame and I will root, root, root for the home team! That is exactly what happened last Friday night at AT&T Park in San Francisco. More than 200 student musicians boarded buses and headed to the San Francisco Giants game. This was not any regular season game, it was the annual PEF Giants Night event! These amazing junior high band students from Kenilworth and Petaluma high schools took to center field to perform the National Anthem to start the game. Parents, teachers, friends and Giants fans from all over cheered them on as they took the national Major League Baseball stage, and demonstrated their Petaluma pride. Way to go, PJHS and KJHS!

Congratulations to sixth-grade students at St. Vincent de Paul Elementary on their recent graduation from the 10-week DARE program put on by the Petaluma Police Department. DARE stands for: Define, Assess, Respond, and Evaluate. Officer Matt Frick visited Mrs. Roach’s class weekly over the course of the program, and taught students about the risks of drugs and alcohol, as well as strategies they can use to deal with peer pressure and difficult situations. Sixth-grader Hollie Pardini said, “It was one of my favorite classes. I really liked when he brought in their K-9 police dog, Basko. Officer Frick showed us how Basko can sniff around and find drugs that someone is hiding. It was amazing.”

Petaluma’s Spring Hill Montessori and Academy is now “The Spring Hill School,” according to Don Lewis, communications, media and camps coordinator for Spring Hill School. He says the name seeks to tie all of the campuses together under one name as the school continues to move forward and grow. The Spring Hill School is enrolling now for its new campus located at 705 N. Webster St. (the large vacant church complex behind Petaluma Junior High), which will serve students in grades 5-8. For more information about the new campus and junior high program or to schedule a tour, contact Alia Long, director of enrollment at admissions@springhillmontessori.org or 763-9222.

(Maureen Highland is a Petaluma mother and executive director for the Petaluma Educational Foundation. She can be reached at schools@arguscourier.com)