Over the summer of 1986, our family moved to eastern Washington. We settled in Cheney where my sister Linda lived. I got a job with Spokane Public Schools teaching a new preschool program located at Woodridge Elementary; the very northern most school in the district. This would prove to be the second longest commute in my teaching career; fifty-two miles round trip per day!
The school year started as a half-time position because there were only three little boys in the program. I had one assistant, Ann, and pretty much no equipment. Any money set aside to start this program went to furniture; kidney tables, chairs, etc. There were no toys, puzzles, blocks, baby dolls or anything for the boys to play with and/or build learning objectives with. So I raided my own boys' toys. Toys they had outgrown or I knew they could do without, at least for a short time. The Parent Teacher Organization at Woodridge also came through. They donated $500 to help me get what I needed to really set the program up. I have never forgotten this act of kindness!
The three little boys that I started the year with all came from the Guild School; a birth to three program for children with developmental disabilities. Two of the boys and their mothers were good friends. I actually have permission to show pictures of one of the little boys. His name is Jon. He is now 31 years old! I have stayed in touch from time to time with his mother. (In fact, in 1996, I was doing my master's degree program through Leslie University and met Jon's teachers from after he left preschool to ending middle school, which was at that time. Jon became the focus of our final thesis. We had a beautiful slide show with pictures of him from preschool through the current day and at the end, Jon came in and met the class in person! His mother Lynne graciously answered questions. It was fantastic!)
It was quite the learning year for all of us! But by November, I was full time with an afternoon class of older students. The kindergarten teacher and I began to do some activities together in the afternoons, so that my students could have some time with typically developing peers. I had excellent support staff. The occupational and speech therapists worked with children right in my classroom and collaborated with me in my theme teaching approach.
My principal though was not really sure about me. She had been a preschool teacher for children with hearing impairments years earlier. She liked to tell me that she did that job in "hose and heels". She may have, but I'm willing to bet she didn't do much while sitting on the floor or finger
painting! She gave me quite a bad time about wearing jeans all the time. But on picture day, I surprised her by dressing up. At the end of the year, she liked to give out "awards". This is the one she gave me. She really did have a great sense of humor!