Hermiston’s youngest group of students start school today, joining schools that are bigger and busier than ever.
Two days after the rest of the district’s students began, Hermiston’s kindergarteners arrive Wednesday.
Hermiston superintendent Tricia Mooney said they welcomed about 5,000 students on Monday, and anticipate about 450 more from the kindergarten class.
At the elementary and middle levels, students streamed through the doors on Monday and hugged their teachers and friends, eager to start school — a feeling mixed with apprehension for their parents.
“I said hello to a mom and a child, and asked how they slept last night,” said board chair Karen Sherman when greeting students at Sunset Elementary on Monday. “The kid said he slept great. The mom said she got one hour of sleep.”
Students at the high school are getting ready to jump into classes, and in some case, real-world experience.
Hermiston High School welcomed several new teachers this year, including some in three career-focused subjects: family and consumer sciences, welding and woods, and health services.
Brent Parks, the new welding and woods teacher, is stepping into a quickly growing field at the high school.
“We’ve totally revamped the program,” said Parks, a 2007 Hermiston graduate. “We’ve switched over from a traditional woodshop to a construction program.”
It’s a new approach for Parks as well. After graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in animal science, Parks has had about two years of experience as a substitute teacher.
“I’ve done different construction jobs, but as far as teaching (construction), absolutely not,” he said.
The program, which this year had 220 students vying for 150 spots, will allow students to learn about 20 different trade skills before honing in on the ones that interest them.
“It’s not your typical class, sitting and reading a book the whole time,” he said. “We’re getting to put our hands on it, figuring out where kids’ interest really lies.”
Parks will teach an “intro to woods and construction” course, which will cover subjects including framing, roofing, green energy, electrical work, plumbing and sheet rock, before students move on to other programs — such as the Columbia Basin Student-Built Homes program.
Parks said the course will teach students skills that will help them land jobs post-high school.
“There’s a huge labor shortage in the United States,” he said. “The class will teach skills every students should have, but it’ll absolutely get you a job.”
Janci Spoo, another Hermiston High School alumna, will start teaching Health Services this year. The course will allow students to explore different careers in the health field, touching on laws and ethics, and specific areas of study like sports medicine. In addition to some anatomy and physiology concepts like blood pressure and heart rate, students will have the chance to get certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
For Spoo, the job at Hermiston High School feels like home. The daughter of HHS principal Tom Spoo and a 2012 graduate of the school, she has been a long-term substitute in the Hermiston and Umatilla school districts, and has been the assistant coach of Hermiston’s girls golf team for two years.
“The school culture and atmosphere are awesome,” she said.
Spoo said she plans to give an understanding of lifelong fitness — activities and skills to stay healthy in their own lives — as well as careers helping others.
The students will log volunteer and internship hours throughout the term, and tour different local medical facilities.
Theresa Stangel will help equip students with another type of skill. The new family and consumer sciences teacher will teach several courses — hospitality and tourism, Bulldog catering, and principles of food and nutrition.
Originally from Enterprise, Stangel studied at Oregon State University, and then taught for three years at small schools in Texas. She taught basic sewing, cooking, food science and child development, but had more ground to cover at those schools.
“It wasn’t quite as specific as here,” she said.
She said she’s happy to be back at a bigger school, especially one that’s supportive of career and technical education.
“It helps them get experiences in the industry prior to being in the real world,” she said of the catering program. “It’s an actual situation where they show up, and make a product they get paid for or not based on the outcome.”
Stangel said she feels fortunate to come into a program that’s already established, but she hopes to impart a few new concepts upon her students.
“I have some experience with game meats — my family has a bison ranch,” she said. “I’m hopefully going to use that to let the kids experience some different foods.”