Keizer teachers Michele Husseman, Ryan Somerville and Wally Wing were honored with Crystal Apples at a ceremony last week.
The awards, sponsored by the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, recognize excellence in education by honoring those making a significant impact in the lives of children.
First star to the right
Middle school years represent rough waters for many students. Michele Husseman is an integral part in making sure Whiteaker Middle School students navigate its highs and lows with an even keel.
Officially, she’s the alternative education instructional assistant, which means she coordinates the annual Camp Wolverine for incoming sixth graders, manages the school store, serves as testing coordinator, is an assistant in the Read 180 program and coordinates the Enrichment Academy of after school activities. Prior to all that she was a bookkeeper.
“I come from a family of educators, but it wasn’t until my children started school did I realize I wanted to be involved in education also,” Husseman said. She started out following her sons in grade school as an assistant at Clear Lake Elementary then moved to Gubser five years later.
While helping them navigate the challenges of middle school, an important part of her job is preparing students for transition to high school.
“More than that, it’s getting students to see the need for education, helping them to develop the love of learning, and instilling in students that they need to attend school every day,” she said.
In all her duties, the job requires connecting with students in ways that go beyond questions and answers.
“It’s finding that way to connect to a person that makes them feel important and that people care about them. Some of the most difficult students are kids that are living with the stress and challenges. Those are the kids that when you see them years later tell you that you made a difference in their lives because you cared,” she said.
A guiding hand
Working for several years for fast food chains was actually what set Ryan Somerville on the path to becoming an educator.
“I sort of saw where lack of education gets you. Having only a diploma or being a drop-out is kind of a dead end. The restaurant business takes advantage of that,” he said.
At the same time, he discovered he enjoyed most working with new employees and helping them become people invested in themselves with new abilities and responsibilities. He returned to school himself at the age of 27 to get a bachelor’s degree in English and then his teaching credentials. He’s been at McNary for six years.
Somerville teaches English 110 to students needing to meet state standards, a newspaper class that produces The Piper, an English language development course trying to keep students on the fringe of the school culture engaged and motivated, and he works with the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) students looking for ways to continue their education in college.
Regardless of what class his students are enrolled in, Somerville has three rules: try, be good and dream.
“I want them to try and I will show them how to try. Every kid has his own vision of what being good is and that’s okay. As far as dreaming, it doesn’t mean they have to be the next Bill Gates, but I want them to reach,” Somerville said.
When he was honored with the Crystal Apple, he posted about it on Facebook and many of his former students chimed in to congratulate him. He’s found the social networking site to be the source of many prideful moments.
“We cannot prejudge any kid until they live their life,” Somerville said. “It’s just really cool to see them as 30-year-olds continuing to achieve. Some of them you didn’t think would make it and they surprise you. I don’t think I did anything special, I just paid a little attention to them and was nice to them. I hope I taught them something.”
For more about Wally Wing, check next week’s issue of the Keizertimes.