Tonasket Schools: More Than Just Sports

Tonasket Schools: More Than Just Sports
Being a teacher is not an easy job, but it is a very rewarding job. This is my 11th year of teaching, and my 4th year in the Tonasket School District. Our district has been put in the spotlight by an unfortunate incident between a coach and teacher and a decision made by our school board; and as a result, there have been very negative comments directed towards teachers and our district as a whole. In light of all this negative press, I would like to share with you why Tonasket is a great place to be.
Let’s start in our wrestling room – OUR STATE CHAMPION wrestling room, coached by Dave Mitchell (39 years). This year our wrestlers won 5 tournaments and are the first team, in the last few decades, to bring home a STATE CHAMPIONSHIP to our school. 18 boys wrestled at state – 10 placing, 4 taking first! The wrestling program is unbelievable, with a lot of dedicated coaches, parents, and athletes. They deserve some recognition for their amazing accomplishment!
Across from the wrestling room is our FFA. Our FFA is a nationally known program, led by Matt Deebach. The program has won numerous awards on all levels (I could fill up this whole page with their awards), but some of the other cool things they do is bring popcorn to our staff, make gifts for the staff from materials in the shop, and with these gifts are notes of appreciation. You can buy plants/flowers from their greenhouse or wreaths during the holidays. These kids are something else, and their program is very special.
Speaking of special, our Tonasket High School Knowledge Bowl Team has qualified for state seven years running, and have placed five out of the past six years! These kids aren’t just bright; they are well-rounded and honorable young men and women.
Tyler Sant, our first year art teacher, is bringing fine arts back to Tonasket. If you walk by his classroom you are instantly amazed at the cool and innovative things the kids are doing: sculptures from outdated books, pottery, using the CNC machine & its computer program … the list goes on.
Janine McCormick, our business teacher, chose to give up her prep in order to bring FBLA back to Tonasket. This year she has the largest qualifying group, in Tonasket history, to compete at state!
Our Gear-Up & Upward Bound programs are helping kids dreams come true. Last week we had 6 students receive an on-the-spot acceptance to Central Washington University! Some of these kids being the first in their families to go to college! These programs also give kids opportunities to visit colleges, get tutoring after school, and provide help to our students towards their post high school dreams.
Students at Tonasket Choice High School swept the Veteran’s Day poetry and art contest this year! They do a lot of community service work, in addition to their academics, with their help of their much-loved teachers, Chelsea Freeman and Annie Wilkison.
The Tonasket Tiger Marching Band has marched in the Spokane Lilac Parade for the past 4 years, under the direction of Mariliz Romano, and earned the Gold Standard Medal every year they participated.  This is a big honor for our Marching Band, which is comprised of 7th - 12th grade students because only 1/3 of the bands participating in the Parade from all over Washington State earn this award. 
The Tonasket Middle School has a lot going on too! We have one of the top ranking Vex teams in the WORLD! This team is ranked #1 in the state, and the #2 ranked team in the state is from Tonasket Middle School too! Our students have had the top individual scores at every competition, and have won the excellence award all but one time. This award includes doing well in all parts of the event, including having a good attitude. Taught by STEM teacher Nathan White and supported by Gear-Up, our Vex kids are soaring! These kids are going to be making a difference in the world!
When it comes to making a difference, our middle school was just recently recognized by the governor for it’s commitment to the College Bound Scholarship program, and has been selected as one of the top-performing districts in the state by achieving a sign-up rate greater than the state’s average! This is hugely in part to the commitment of our counselor, Josh Thayer, and his passion to help our kids not just today, but for the rest of their lives. He is a champion for our kids.
Champions? Our TMS wrestlers, part of that STATE CHAMPION program in the high school, won the end of the season culminating tournament by a landslide! Plus 8 student athletes won 1st place!
Did you know that Tonasket has an outdoor classroom? We do! Our hard-working & dedicated 7th grade Science teacher, Cari Haug, on behalf of the School Garden Board, wrote a grant to have it built. The classroom falls within the newly relocated school garden, and it includes benches for seating up to 40 students, a teaching podium, whiteboard, clipboards and other classroom supplies all housed under shade sails. The intention of the classroom is to provide an outdoor space to inspire students and teachers to learn more about the environment around them as well as enjoy our amazing fall and spring weather. Cari also wrote the grant to get our school weather station! It provides up to date weather information, which is available on the WeatherUnderground website and app. The students use the information to study weather and trends in weather as part of their science studies!
The 7th graders gave back this fall to the community by honoring our Veterans. They collected loose change and raised over $800.00 for our United States Armed Forces Legacy Park. Plus, they spent time cleaning the plaques at the park and learned about our local veterans.
The Tonasket Middle School La Chispa Club was formed a year and a half ago by a group of middle school students that had attended a La Chispa conference. The focus of the conference was to encourage bilingual students to find their voice and use it to make a positive change in their schools. La Chispa, translated as "the spark", has performed traditional Mexican folkloric dances in the community and have been invited to dance around the state!
The Tonasket's migrant program is currently a model program for the state of Washington and presented at the National Migrant Conference last year! Tyler Graves, Martha Wisdom, Jeremy Clark, and Norma Gutierrez spend a lot of time and effort putting together our migrant/bilingual family nights. They have recently been the best-attended events in the history of the program. So far this year they have served over 50 families each month by presenting information about health resources in our community, graduation requirements, the 7 Habits, Worksource, GED program, school bond, reading, Lexia program and family access.
School wide we have knowledge bowl kids working hard after school, Math Olympiad teams studying and preparing for competition, Kara (7th grade) and Carol (6th grade) practicing up for the regional spelling bee in East Wenatchee, Science Olympiad kids preparing for competition, and our drama class preparing for their spring performance. There are so many things, beyond sports, happening in our school it is crazy! If you want to come see some of this awesomeness, you can come to our Leadership Day on March 23rd at 9:30 am. Everyone is welcome!
My son has just begun his educational journey; he is a kindergartner at Tonasket Elementary. Every morning he is greeted by the welcoming smiles of the amazing staff, as well as music out of Mr. Matthew’s classroom (he is a musician in a favorite local band as well as a great 1st grade teacher).
The 2nd grade team uses the school garden to study plant germination and compositing. In regards to the school garden, there are plans to move the compositing system to a new location and reinstate food composting from the school lunchroom to reduce waste and costs to the district!
Every year, Mr. Scott Olson has his 4th graders put on a Shakespeare play! This winter, Mrs. Baker’s kindergarten class put on a Christmas tea for family and friends where the kids sang songs and served cookies and tea. From ice-skating trips, reading challenges, Math is Cool, Lego Robotics, PTO Trunk or Treat & carnivals, Grandparent’s Day, to fun monthly assemblies celebrating the kids’ successes; the Tonasket Elementary is a great place to have your child. Tonasket Elementary has an unbelievable staff and a very supportive and caring principal, in Mr. Jeremy Clark.
So, in this time of craziness with Tonasket making state news, please take a moment before you judge or comment on our district as a whole. There are a lot of amazing things going on in our schools, more than I have listed above! Making it happen are the dedicated and caring personnel that are focused on helping our students find success and the amazing students that make teaching worth it.

Article by: Michele Fancher, TMS 7th Grade ELA/History Teacher
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