Opinion

An inspirational South Whidbey Academy moment | GUEST VIEWPOINT

By Kristie Arnold

I have been a teacher within the South Whidbey School District for 35 plus years. The majority of my wonderful career has been spent working within traditional classrooms teaching a variety of terrific kids.

Three years ago, I found myself in totally unfamiliar territory. I was placed at Whidbey Island Academy, a K-8 parent-teacher partnership offered by our district. This fall, even more changes were on the horizon — Whidbey Island Academy joined forces with Bayview Alternative School, becoming South Whidbey Academy.

Like most in our community, I had grave concerns and many questions. How was this blending of schools going to affect our primary population? How would we keep our little ones safe and secure from older high school students? Was our district crazy to expect alternative high school students to inhabit the same learning environment as young, parent partnership kids? How in the world was I supposed to fit into this menagerie?

Since September, things have been going great.  However, Dec. 20, I witnessed the most incredible, unimaginable bonding and sense of community I’ve ever experienced during my teaching career.

As I passed SWA’s high school building on my way in to work with my elementary kids, I wondered why a Christmas tree was being lighted and lights and decorations were being put up in the high school classrooms — just one day prior to our two week vacation. I knew there was a holiday celebration that afternoon. I knew the high school students were in charge, and they would be providing lunch for our younger students and invited guests. I’ve attended so many holiday school parties over the years, I’d planned to just skip this one, or step in for just a quick moment.

When I entered those rooms (yes, the walls had been opened up for the first time in years) my eyes immediately filled with tears. I could not get rid of the goosebumps, my heart and soul were filled with unexpected hope, joy and thanksgiving. The lights were low, all tables decorated in red, lights and decorations everywhere. Christmas music was playing in the background, a yule log burning full screen. Four generations were gathered together; students of all ages, sizes and backgrounds. Four generations singing, laughing, eating and playing together. Four generations remembering and collectively celebrating what this season is really all about.

Talk about a sense of community and genuine family. For me, nothing could equate except my family Christmas’ past, spent at my grandma’s home. Our high schoolers created a day full of closeness and happiness for all. The high school population put together an afternoon full of fun and celebration, an incredible experience many of our kids, as well as myself, will ever forget.

For the first time, I realized the extraordinary gift SWA has to offer our kids and our community. I’ve come to understand we don’t all fit into the same traditional school model. We have different learning styles and different educational needs. Many of us require a unique, nontraditional learning environment. That’s OK, we just need to accept and respect the fact that we don’t all have to fit into a singular learning mold. This district and our students are extremely fortunate to be on the cutting edge of the ever changing classroom. I sincerely believe SWA is creating a true parent, student, teacher and community partnership, one which any charter school would be proud to emulate!

Thanks, SWA high schoolers! Please continue your role as innovative role models. You make me proud and thankful to say I am a part of South Whidbey Academy!

 

Kristie Arnold has taught

grades K-12 in the South Whidbey School District.

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