Orcas Island School District welcomes new teachers

  • Thu Aug 2nd, 2018 1:30am
  • News

Bill Alsdurf, Jr.

3rd/4th-grade teacher

How would your elementary school or high school classmates remember you?

When I was a kid growing up, we moved around a lot. I went to 12 different schools from kindergarten until the time I graduated. It was always hard to get to know other kids each year because of all the moving around but I think my classmates would say I was funny, helpful, and a hard worker.

Did you have a favorite teacher?

A teacher I remember who had a profound effect on me was my third-grade teacher. It was the first time I had ever had a male teacher and that year, he hd an entire class filled with boys. He took us all on an overnight camping trip and took time to show me how to fish while we were there. I remember how interested he was in really getting to know me and build a relationship with me. It is something I have tried to emulate as a teacher for all my 32 years in the field.

When and why did you decide to become a teacher?

Because of all the moving around that we did, I was always the new kid and school was never really all that much fun for me. I finished my work really fast, did well, and never really felt connected to my teachers. When I was in second grade I remember deciding I was going to be a teacher and make it my goal to really know each of my students well, make learning fun, and create the type of classroom that I had hoped and dreamed of as a kid, I’d one day have the opportunity to learn in.

What was your first impression of Orcas Island?

The first two times I visited Orcas Island was as a teacher. I was taking my students to Canoe Island and so a boat picked us up at the dock to take us there. I had never driven up and around the island until my interview, and I remember how peaceful it felt. As I spent time downtown talking to locals in coffee shops, grocery stores, and just about anyone else I could find, it was obvious what a special place this was, not just for the beautiful surroundings but for the hearts and spirits of the people I had met.

Do you have any favorite pets, hobbies, interests unrelated to school?

I enjoy filling my away-from-school-time with the theater. I am an actor, set designer, costumer, and director in both community theater here in Bend, Oregon and with children. I am also an avid quilter and enjoy running.

Tell me about your first day as a teacher.

I remember being really nervous and wanting to make sure I made a good impression on my students. I couldn’t wait to meet them and spent weeks getting the classroom just right, and then I changed it around and changed it around again. I probably rearranged the desks and the environment eight times that year, trying to get it right. I have been in contact with a student or two from that first group of kids some 32 years ago, and they remember a wonderful year of learning and fun.

What has surprised you most about being a teacher? Or what is your favorite “aha moment”?

The biggest aha moment for me was my first year teaching a multiage classroom. I had no idea what I was doing – luckily my partner did. I was shocked and surprised all year at the learning, growth and development that went on that year outside of our teaching circles. When you allow students to become independent in their learning and construct their own level of understanding, the magic really happens. They learned so much from each other and from themselves, it was a magical year for me and has transformed the way I look at learning.

Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself in your first year of teaching?

Don’t take yourself too seriously Mr. A. Every day is a new day and every day we get a “do over.” Kids aren’t the only ones who make mistakes and it’s from those mistakes that we learn and grow the most. Take time to laugh, go outside, listen to each and every child, and know them … know them well.

Jennifer Johnston

3rd/4th grade teacher

How would your elementary school or high school classmates remember you?

My elementary school classmates would describe me as quiet and shy, but fun to play with. My high school classmates would say I was athletic, out-doorsy, and always ready to find fun.

Did you have a favorite teacher?

My favorite teacher would be Mrs. O., my 6th grade teacher. She helped me to recognize my talents and feel confident. Besides teaching the necessary academic skills, Mrs. O. provided us many opportunities to play with art. I discovered I was quite successful in school when given an avenue to express what I knew in a creative way.

When and why did you decide to become a teacher?

I decided to become a teacher when my dad told me I would starve if I tried to succeed as an artist. He suggested I find a field in which I could use my talents as an artist, as well as provide for myself. Though becoming a teacher was a happy accident, it has proved to be my calling and I feel lucky to have stumbled into it.

What was your first impression of Orcas Island?

I first saw Orcas Island on a nautical chart, as my husband and I were sailing with our two small children one summer. I longed to go there and explore, but for some reason it eluded us. In November of 2017, I took my husband to Orcas Island (by car) for his birthday. We spent three days getting to know the island and repeatedly asked ourselves, “Why did we wait so long to come here? We belong here.” We both grew up on an island in Michigan, but adore the PNW. Orcas Island is the perfect blend of both.

Do you have any favorite pets, hobbies, interests unrelated to school?

My husband, also an educator, and I are sailors. We have spent many a summer sailing the Puget Sound with our children, and now as empty nesters. Besides our two grown children, Taylor and Abbigale, we have a small, neurotic rescue dog, Gracie. Our leisure time is usually spent outdoors in some way (hiking, exploring, camping). We enjoy seeing the natural beauty of different places around the world.

Tell me about your first day as a teacher.

My first day of teaching was full day Kindergarten in inner-city Houston, Texas. My supplies consisted of a box of white paper. I remember reading the book “Fish Out of Water” to the students and thinking to myself as their eyes and minds were glued to the story, “These are MY students!” I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility and butterflies of excitement. I still keep a picture of those students at my desk.

What is the funniest moment you’ve experience as teacher?

I’d say my funniest moments in education have happened during Show and Tell. I have often said that these stories would make a great coffee table book. Over my career as an educator I have had the following items/stories presented by students: severed pigs ears, an alien, a dead duck, a baby bird, a wallet complete with a condom, the story of how a little brother was made – the list goes on.

Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself in your first year of teaching?

Give the standards and the testing their due diligence and time, but never forget to nurture relationships and have fun.