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Cloverdale Comments - August 2015


Cloverdale Comments - August 2015

by Carol Russell

“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out. Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, a little support. . .and the greatest things can happen.” —Pete Carroll

The Cloverdale community is providing support to our students in many ways, among which we have the traditional support to parents and, ultimately, students found through our Parents Teachers (Students) Association. One fine PTA volunteer is school board trustee Dianna MacDonald who has been active in varying capacities, including President, and who is now President Elect of the 840,000 member California Parent Teachers Association.

Another parent engagement group is ELAC (English Learners Advisory Committee), creating the opportunity for parental input for those children whose first language was not English. But support is not limited to academic learning. For example, our very active Eagles Pride Booster Club raises money to support 25 athletic programs for Cloverdale’s middle and high schools.

Then, too, we are particularly intrigued with a rather non-traditional support network which originates in the classroom. Or should we say classrooms? Beginning with an assignment in high school junior year English entitled “This I believe...”, the concept evolved into an innovative program encompassing not just essay writing but also creating photographic and dramatized expressions of fellow students’ abstract ideas. 

Here’s how it works. Drama students were given a fellow student’s essay to develop into a one-act play, while photography students created a visual image of the belief statement. Cloverdale High School (CHS) teachers Joe Dobbins (English/Drama), Christi Calson (Photography), Kristi Witt (English) and Wendy Conner (Social Sciences) demonstrated successful teamwork as they gave more than “...a little nudge, a little direction, a little support...” to students, moving them beyond the classroom and into the community. The teamwork of the teachers was reflected in the teamwork found in the beautiful communication between the authors, the dramatists and the photographers. The end of May saw the fruition of their efforts in an all-encompassing Fine Arts Performance piece. 

Joe lead the return of drama to Cloverdale High School five years ago, developing a program that is now accepted as a Fine Arts elective for admission to the University of California system while Christi’s career at CHS began in 2007 with Spanish, Drama and English. In 2012, she was rehired to establish a Photography class at which time there were only 6 functioning cameras available. What began with just 11 students now has 50 with a waiting list of 25. Just recently, this class has also been recognized as a Fine Arts elective for admission into the UC system.

And no wonder! Here’s a program that appeals to the artistic and creative as well as the technological interests of students who venture into their surrounding environment with field trips to photograph vineyards, the Marin headlands, Bodega Bay, Safari West and even take pictures of local businesses, Chinatown, The San Francisco Museum, and street photos in Cloverdale. One very special project was portraits of our Jefferson School kindergarteners taken as Mother’s Day gifts. 

This combination of technology and creativity has lead to workshops and internships. Four students from Christi’s media class have internships with a professional web developer. In partnership with the Alexander Valley Film Society (see our June 2015 column), workshops with a Pixar animator and internships with a film company producing a feature length film have been made available to CHS students.

We agree with Christi when she says: “Creative programs like these keep students in school.” Most of us can recall one special teacher who touched us in some way, speaking to us as an individual, encouraging us...nudging us. Many times it was through a creative class such as drama, photography, art or music and talented teachers, engaged parents and donations are what make programs such as these possible. (“This I believe...” materials cost about $300.) Each of these elements provides the little nudges, direction and support so necessary to make sure the “greatest things can happen.”

And about town. . . 

“From Farm to Palate: The story of Sonoma County Agriculture – Past, Present, and Future” is a panel discussion with Farm Bureau officials and other agriculture related leaders. Cloverdale Historical Soc., 215 Cloverdale Blvd.; Aug. 25th, 7 p.m.; $10 (under 12 free);; 894-2067.