Staff and Families Tell Our Highline Story
Here are first-hand stories from nurses, counselors, social workers and other staff whose positions are funded by the local Highline Education Levy. The levy is up for renewal on November 2 ballots.
Learn the value of the levy from our staff, as well as parents. Find out about the critical services for students this local funding provides.
“The role of the school nurse is definitely more important than ever. We provide medical care to students, but we also are the frontline COVID responders for schools. With our growing list of responsibilities, schools should not go without funding for an adequate number of nurses on staff."
"School funding for nurses is more critical than ever," says Michelle Jervis, BSN, RN, and assistant director of health services.
Every Friday, when Michelle checks in on students at Des Moines Elementary School, she administers daily medication to Lucy Stuller at 1:30 p.m. on the dot.
“School nurses are valuable because we help students by giving medical care through assessments, intervention, and follow-up in the school setting. We respond to the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of students, which supports their success in the learning process.”
Lucy’s mom Morgan Stuller says, “Being the parent of a child with a life-threatening allergy and a need for daily medication, it is so important to me to know that the nurse is there and available for my daughter.”
“I graduated from Tyee High School. And that is the biggest reason I decided to be a school counselor at Tyee,” says Tyee Counselor Keishanna Russell.
“I didn’t feel I received all the support I needed to be successful after high school. I felt lost and unsure what to do for too long. I think what was missing for me was truly being known by name, strength and need. I was a cheerleader and involved in school, but missing a personal connection to an adult who could help me prepare for life after high school.”
Keishanna says there has been a huge shift over the last decade to a more holistic role for high school counselors focusing on all three domains of student life: social-emotional, academic and post-secondary [college and career].
“Supporting the whole student is the key and takes a lot of time. That is why we need to fund school counselors.”
“Counselors help students navigate personal life situations, access resources and connect with community partners. The overall well-being of our students is a critical part of their academic success and ability to plan for the future,” she says.
“Students know we will be looking out for them with a high degree of confidentiality. We work side-by-side with their families to ensure needs are met and families are able to navigate the school system.”
During pandemic remote learning, she realized many students faced high levels of anxiety and felt overwhelmed on many levels with school, life, the world around them and their uncertain futures. “As a counselor, I was able to help support some of my students to literally survive that time and successfully transition to a post-secondary plan,” she says.
Strategies included helping students navigate resources for mental health, and weekly check-ins with students and with their families on mental health and wellness needs. Once those basic needs were addressed, Keishanna could help students identify what they could control today, as well as their potential and future goals. One of her students fell seriously behind and experienced depression, but after helping the student address a number of needs and identify their strengths, she connected them to credit recovery options. The student graduated and is attending college.
Music & Fine Arts
Music Director D. Camilo Aristizabal is known to Sylvester Middle School students as Mr. A.
Camilo says, "Fully funding Highline's music programs is a fundamental component to provide our students with the experiences and opportunities they deserve, to explore and reinvent the world we live in."
"We not only study music to learn how to use musical instruments or human voice, we do it to understand human nature and learn about ourselves. That is the most daring adventure one can take.
"I'm always amazed by the effect that music makes in my students. It's not only their smiles and joy, but also the sense of family and teamwork!"
Special Education & Transportation
"Shaylee has been given the opportunity to achieve and learn as much as she can. I am so glad and lucky that she has been in Highline's special education program," says Erica Wright.
Erica is the mother of Shaylee Wright, a student at Evergreen High School.
Erica says Shaylee experienced the first of severe seizures that required brain surgery at 2.5 years old, then she had to learn to eat, walk and talk again. Shaylee enrolled in a developmental preschool program at White Center Heights Elementary School, then received intensive support and therapy in the special education programs at Shorewood Elementary School, Chinook Middle School, and now, Evergreen High School.
Shaylee's school bus always includes an LPN to assist her and monitor for seizures. On the day this photo was taken, Shaylee was met by Candance McGill, LPN, and bus driver Vicci Bender, who has requested Shaylee's route since elementary school to maintain continuity. Erica says, "Bus driver Vicci goes above and beyond for Shaylee." When the bus pulled up, Shaylee just wanted to get on to greet Vicci!
Erica says, "A lot of intensive therapy was delivered through the schools: the vision specialist, physical therapist, speech therapist, and occupational therapist. Her health is monitored by an RN and LPN, and she is taught by paraeducators and teachers trained in special education. Shaylee has come so far."
Later, when Erica applied for a paraeducator job at Valley View Early Learning Center, after getting to know her background, she says that Principal Kimberly Nelson encouraged her to apply as a special education paraeducator. "I love what I do at Valley View," Erica says, "because I understand the strengths and needs of our students and the value of the special education services we are providing to them."
We asked Tyee High School Social Worker Iris Guzmán, MSW, to explain what role social workers fill in our schools and why their teamwork with our students and families is critical to student success in the classroom and beyond.
Iris says, "Social workers do a lot of behind-the-scenes work. We help students and families reduce or prevent food insecurity and loss of housing, connect to medical care and provide new shoes, warm winter coats, eye glasses and school supplies among many other resources."
"These resources help students stay focused at school when they don’t have to worry about meeting basic needs at school and at home."
"At Tyee, I helped create and oversee a food pantry and clothing closet. The food pantry is available to all students on campus. They can access it weekly, daily or monthly as needed. The food reflects cultural diets and is donated on a regular basis via our alumni group, Friends of Tyee. We also receive monetary donations that allow us to purchase food cards to Safeway and Fred Meyer so that families can buy fresh fruits, veggies, meat and dairy products. The clothing closet is also available for all students in need and can be accessed on a regular basis."
Camp Waskowitz is back! New camp leaders were trained and the first set of sixth-grade campers set off on an annual Highline adventure to learn outdoors, make friends and increase their confidence.
Waskowitz Outdoor Center and WELS are led by Dr. Roberta McFarland, who is the director of "one of the best outdoor education programs in America," as stated in the recent podcast from Getting Smart titled, "Dr. Roberta McFarland on The Magic of Outdoor Education" (bit.ly/3hPi2Um).
Roberta says, "Last week (end of September) we welcomed our first group of outdoor school students since 2019. Students and teachers from Choice Academy and Chinook, along with their leaders, were the first to return! Chinook is back this week with more of their sixth graders! We are SO excited to have students back on campus. As we transition back to in-person learning, there was a lot of work to do to bring students back safely."
"A big shout out to the Waskowitz staff who went above and beyond to make this a magical week for students!"
In the photo, ninth-grade students from Raisbeck Aviation High School spent a day building community at Waskowitz early in September.
The Highline Education Levy helps fund Waskowitz programs.
For data and information about the November 2 levy renewal: highlineschools.org/levy