New teachers in Tonasket School District feel welcome

New Tonasket teachers (L-R) Amy Cheeseman and Lisa Spear

New Tonasket teachers (L-R) Amy Cheeseman and Lisa Spear

TONASKET – The new teachers in the Tonasket School District say they feel welcomed by the community since school started.

“The Tonasket School District has been wonderful,” Amy Cheeseman, part-time third grade teacher, part-time reading intervention instructor at Tonasket Elementary School, said. “From day one I have felt welcomed, supported and encouraged. It is comforting to be working in such a close knit community.”

Jennifer Weddle, science teacher at Tonasket Middle School, said she thinks the school district is fantastic.

“The kids are fun and spunky, the staff is supportive of each other and the kids, it’s been a great place to start my first teaching experience,” Weddle said.

Chelsea Freeman, a lead teacher at the Tonasket Alternative School, said she thinks the Tonasket School District is a surprisingly progressive district for this area and she said she loves the feeling of being in a district that is leading the pack in Washington State.

Lisa Spear, a kindergarten teacher at TES, said she feels the district has a lot to offer students and parents in a safe and caring learning environment.

“The staff are all dedicated and provide an excellent education to students,” Spear said. “I love the community support of our school district and how everyone works together to provide the best possible opportunities for our kids.”

Spear has been a teacher since 1990, while this is the second year of teaching for Freeman and the first year for Weddle and Cheeseman. Freeman lived in Tonasket when she was a teenager and is a graduate of the alternative school.

“As a former Tonasket Alternative High School student, I came into the program hating school and was generally a negative and unhappy person,” Freeman said. “What got me through this tough time in my life was having such great teachers, John Jones and Andy Jones. They really cared about me as a student and as I grew older I decided that I wanted to become a teacher so that hopefully I could help out young people in the way that John and Andy helped me.”

Freeman got her Bachelor’s degree and Master in Teaching from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

Weddle, who got her Bachelor’s from Whitman College, her Masters of Science from the University of Rhode Island and her Teaching Certificate from Western Washington University said has tried different things in her life. She has worked on the crew of a snorkeling boat, conducted research in biology and oceanography, has done abalone farming and guide tours in Hawaii. However, she said that ever since she was a camp counselor, she has known she wanted to eventually work with kids and that she thinks science is the most fun to do with kids.

Spear has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Colorado, a Masters in Education from Heritage College and she is currently taking classes from Central Washington University to add a library media endorsement onto her teaching certificate.

“Both of my parents were teachers,” Spear said. “My mom was a high school business teacher and my dad was the dean of students at Colorado Mountain College. He also was an industrial arts teacher, as well as a hunter education teacher. When I was little, I used to line up my stuff animals and teach them using a chalk board I had in my room. I guess teaching is in my genes. It is what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember.”

Cheeseman, who has a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Eastern Washington University and a Masters in Education and certification to teach K-12 through the University of Phoenix said she opened a daycare/preschool in her home after her son, Max, was born.

“I knew I loved children, helping them learn and watching them grow and I quickly knew I was in for a complete career change,” Cheeseman said. “Once Max was in full-time school I began subbing at the schools, worked with students in kindergarten through seniors in high school and was eventually hired as a para-educator working in the sixth grade at Okanogan Middle School. I enrolled in classes and the rest is history.”

All four said they would love to spend the rest of their teaching careers in Tonasket.