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School Spotlight: South Bay Elementary Compassion at its finest (6/20/19)

Students reading a book on the floor together By Community Relations Intern: Tristan Johanson (℅ 2020)

South Bay Elementary has been through a lot of changes since the doors opened in 1949, making it older than North Thurston Public Schools itself. In 1976, an addition was added to the original building, allowing room for more classes. In 1981, the original building was demolished. In 2008, the school was modernized with a facelift and an 8-classroom modular was added -- this is the South Bay you see today from Sleater Kinney Road.

This year, South Bay is not under construction, but under new management. With two years prior experience as an assistant principal, Amy Richardson became principal this 2018-2019 school year. The school was recently honored as a Washington State-Recognized School for high achievement in math. Richardson and her staff of 71+ have  put in the time and effort necessary to make South Bay an enriching and efficient environment for each one of their 670 students.

“Our schedule is created in order to maximize instructional time and give teachers common planning periods,” says Richardson. “It is important for teachers to have the opportunity to work together as a team when planning instruction. All students are engaged in core academic lessons for each subject as well as small group instruction in which the teacher tailors the instruction to individual student needs.”

Outside of the core classroom, generations of South Bay children have long been encouraged by the dedicated staff to reach their full potential but the current staff is raising the bar.

“Our art teacher showcases student art in the hallways and in venues across the community highlighting the methods students are learning. Our music students perform at assemblies, special celebrations, the Lacey Ethnic Festival and each grade level does an evening performance during the year. In P.E. the spirit of teamwork and a lifelong love of physical activity is the emphasis! Library is the place we find meaningful books, learn to research and use technology for learning,” says Richardson.

Students sitting at a desk working on a laptop together. Students at South Bay receive a well-rounded education that allows them to express themselves in every way imaginable. They have a supportive PTA who work tirelessly to support students and staff through funding, volunteers and events, including the Back to School Ice Cream Social, Movie Nights, Sock Hop, Book Fair and the South Bay Fun Fair. “The community, staff and families are very supportive of our school,” said Shawn McDonald, the new assistant principal. “South Bay is a great place to be!”

Former South Bay student, and now South Bay mom and PTA president, Amber De Villers has fond memories of her alma mater. “South Bay is grounded in tradition. Some of my fondest memories are attending the Family Fun Fair, and reading in the halls during Bear Reading. My two children are excited each year to be able to participate in those very same activities,” says De Villers fondly. “Teachers at South Bay have found a place where they are allowed to teach to their full potential. I am lucky to have two children that are sad to leave school during holiday and seasonal breaks; they would rather be working on math, creating art and music, playing in the gym during PE, or checking out books from the library! It is the enriching experiences offered by our teachers and staff that keep our students engaged, active, and learning that make South Bay special. Our students feel safe, supported, and engaged.”

But it is not all about what students gain at South Bay, it is about what they give back.

Moved by the district’s initiative for 100,000 Acts of Compassion, South Bay hosted a series of Compassionate Act Nights to give back to their community. Students and families have been involved in making valentines for seniors, veterans and first responders, attending a read-in while collecting coats and socks for the homeless, and finally hosting a Pamper-a-Pooch night in which they made toys for animals in shelters. As a result, the school achieved a tremendous 6,000 compassionate acts which were posted on their wall and Compassion board in the hall for all to see. South Bay is a truly kind and compassionate community!

Rick Mortlock has been at South Bay for over 30 years, both as a classroom teacher and as a PE instructor. Some of our teachers had him for a teacher when they went to South Bay! He does an amazing job of making everyone feel welcome, valued and respected in his classroom. He tailors his lessons so that everyone can participate to their fullest potential and feel like they have been successful. This is one of the reasons why PE is a favorite class of many South Bay students.

Zophia Zieseniss is a 5th grade student who wrote a letter requesting to create a garden project. She loved the gardens and wanted to help preserve them at South Bay. She scheduled several meetings with Principal Richardson to get permission and develop a plan. She then used her powers of persuasion to convince her dad to build new flower boxes, her friends to help weed and plant, her uncles to deliver garden soil and her mother and grandmother to donate beautiful plants. It is Zophia’s hope that the gardens will keep going and that other classrooms and student organizations will keep the plants alive and the planters weeded. Way to go Zophia!