For La Conner students, back to school time was last fall.
Adults got their chance last week.
La Conner campuses played host Wednesday to a first-ever Principal for a Day, designed to give business leaders and community members a first-hand look at the daily goings-on at local schools.
Participants toured classrooms, spoke to students and teachers and conferred with administrators.
They even received homework assignments.
“I’d like to hear what you’ve observed,” La Conner Superintendent of Schools Dr. Whitney Meissner said as the group prepared to make its rounds.
An early stop for some was La Conner High’s Lushootseed class, where the original Coast Salish “language of Puget Sound” was being taught.
Students sang and then translated for their visitors a song of welcome.
Shortly thereafter, it was a stop in Hope Star’s classroom to take in an American Sign Language lesson. Star noted that her students have proved quick studies, some even approaching hearing impaired adults off-campus to strike up conversations in ASL.
“Every time I come in here,” said La Conner Middle-High School Principal Todd Torgeson, “these students are very engaged and having fun.”
When the adults asked students their impressions of the ASL class, sophomore Andre Knudson didn’t hesitate to respond.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s very interactive. I never feel left out.”
Mayor Ramon Hayes didn’t feel left out, either. La Conner Elementary students eagerly greeted him. Sometimes Skagit County Commissioner Ron Wesen was mistaken for Hayes.
“I just told them that Ron is the county’s mayor,” Hayes said.
Wesen, Hayes, Dr. Brandon Atkinson, and Skagit County Historical Museum Director Jo Wolfe spent most of the morning at La Conner Elementary, observing everything from classroom instruction at various grade levels to recess and even an early lunch period.
“I was really impressed with all the hands-on activities and the level of technology,” Wesen later told Meissner as part of his homework task.
Former Mayor Bud Moore, whose daughter, Lisa Hedlund, is a La Conner Elementary teacher, noted the level of upkeep on school grounds.
“I think we have the most beautiful campus in the county,” he said afterward. “I appreciate being here to see all these facilities.”
Members of the tour group remarked at the high level of confidence displayed by students of all ages, attributing that in great measure to positive reinforcement and an emphasis on creativity they saw provided by classroom teachers and aides.
“We try to meet them where they are and then move them forward,” Torgeson explained.
The idea, he and La Conner Elementary Principal Bev Bowen said, is to ready those students for the adult world.
“We’ve had our fifth graders tour Skagit Valley College,” Bowen said. “We’re already planting seeds for what life looks like beyond high school.”
The almost 20 “principals” for the day helped provide that, too.
Skagit County Undersheriff Chad Clark was a case in point. “The kids,” he said, “need to know that people in law enforcement, who wear these uniforms, are real people, too.”
La Conner Chamber of Commerce Director Heather Carter sees great potential in further collaboration between the community and its schools.
“From my perspective,” she said, “I’d like to see us develop a relationship with the high school for internships.”
Meissner deemed the day a learning experience for all involved. The main lesson, she said, was one of simple math. Student-centered learning plus community support equals success across the board.
“Every student,” she said, “needs a champion. Sometimes it’s about finding the right adult and matching them with the student.
“Here at La Conner,” added Meissner, “we’re able to know all the students. It helps make this a place where kids want to be.”
Last Wednesday that was the case for adult guests as well.