New faces at the primary school

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By Meg Olson

There are new faces at Point Roberts Primary School, adding their skills and enthusiasm to local students’ school day.

Jesse Hettinga started in August as a new kindergarten teacher, working half-time. Beginning next week, she will also work with the first graders, teaching language arts and math skills in the mornings.

Hettinga has taught in a variety of different programs, making her a good fit for the mixed-grade atmosphere of the local primary school. “I have always home-schooled my own children and I’ve always found one size does not fit all,” she said.

In previous positions she has taught in “bricks and mortar schools” but also in alternative learning programs that were a collaboration between school districts and home-schooling families.

“I found these types of programs add more individual solutions but I also like the structure the public school system brings,” she said. Her goal is to provide quality education with strong parent participation.

Hettinga and her family have relocated to Point Roberts, where they are building a home. Her youngest child is attending the primary school in third grade and her other children are home schooled.

With the school offering a full-day kindergarten program starting this year, specialized associate Tracy Kelly, in her third year at the school, takes over the kindergarten program in the afternoon.

Kelly has been trained in a purposeful play program recommended by the state for full-day kindergarten, allowing the students free choice in a variety of activities including art, building, reading and science/technology/engineering/math (STEM) program components.

At the front desk, Tammy McDonald began filling in for Deb Wilkowski as the school secretary last year, taking over the position of school secretary and specialized associate permanently this fall.

A Point Roberts resident since 2000, McDonald, a certified teacher and science specialist, left her job with the Nooksack Valley School District to be closer to home, and the position at the local primary school was a perfect fit.

“I love working with kids and getting to know their personalities,” she said. McDonald is using her experience as a science educator to enrich the curriculum for primary school students.

This year the Point Roberts school has 15 students from kindergarten through third grade. With additional teaching staff, Mary Edgley can focus her instructional time on the second and third grade students, she said.

“Having a teacher there dedicated specifically to the needs of the younger children also makes it a really fabulous educational experience,” she said. Volunteers also bring instructional resources to the school by coming in to teach in their particular field, such as art and music.

“The more adult interactions the kids have, the more opportunities they have to learn,” she added.

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