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Longview School District

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Longview, WA, USA

Teacher spotlight – Mrs. Feller, Broadway Learning Center

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Spotlight – Andrea Feller

Where were you born? Sioux City Iowa.

Did you grow up in Sioux City? Yes, until I was four and our house burned down.

Your house burned to the ground? Yes, an electrical fire burned the house down.

Did your family lose everything? Oh yeah, we lost everything so. My grandparents had move to Longview, so after the fire, my parents packed us up and we moved across country too.

Why did your grandparents move here? There are 14 kids in my mom’s family. One of the older sons moved out here and went to work for Weyerhaeuser. So my grandparents and parents moved here. Then slowly other relatives started to move out here too.

Who did your dad start working for? He started working at Fibre.

Where did you start school in Longview? I did my kindergarten roundup (or whatever they call it now) at St. Helens. Then my family moved up on the hill and I went to kindergarten at Columbia Heights.

Did you go to Columbia Heights and Cascade? Yes, Columbia Heights, Cascade and Mark Morris.

What graduating class of Mark Morris were you? Mark Morris class of 1982.

Did you like high school? I loved high school.

What did you love about it? I was highly involved. I did drill team and ASB, and DECA and anything I could get involved in, I was involved. I loved my instructors. I just loved the whole environment. High school was fun top to bottom – a blast.

What did you think you wanted to do when you grew up? I wanted to go either into counseling or into teaching.

Was there an influence or something that led you to teaching? Mostly good instructors.  I struggled in kindergarten and can remember my teacher did not think I would ever read. (I still have the report card)

Did the comments on your report card motivate you? Tell me something I can’t do and that’s the first thing I’m going to do. I came home every day and tried to read.

Can you tell us about one of your teachers? My second grade teacher was fabulous. She changed my life, so by the time I was in 4th grade I was helping other kids learn. The support from people that only had me in a classroom for so many hours a day was impactful.

Did high school bring a new or different perspective? When I got to high school, I had Mr. Wiitala for DECA and he opened my eyes to different opportunities and experiences that were out there.

Would it be fair to say teachers changed your life? Oh dramatically. I would not be doing what I do. To go from someone saying ‘she’s probably not going to be able to read’ to someone who is teaching other people to read too. Isn’t that amazing!

Do good teachers make a big difference? Yeah, the difference that one person can make in someone’s life is huge. I look at teaching as not a job but as a privilege.  If I can impact any of my student’s lives the way I was impacted, then I made a difference.

What happened after high school graduation? My parents decided to move to South Dakota. I was going to go to college, but didn’t because I was mad at my dad – stubbornness.

What did you do instead of going to college? I went to work, got married and had a family.

What sort of work did you do? I did a little bit of everything.  I ran restaurants, I did massage. I worked at the University of South Dakota in the registrar’s office for a while.

Did you think about going back to school? I got the bug to go back to school and went back in 1997 with three small kids. Then my husband passed away in November 1997.

Did you continue with college after your husband died? No, I quit school. I had three small kids at home.

When did you go back to school the second time? Ten years later, I went back to finish classes, because I don’t like leaving things undone. Five years later, I graduated with my special education, early childhood and elementary education degree.

Where did you earn your college degree? University of South Dakota – 2012.

When did you move back to area? I remarried and my oldest daughter moved out here to go to school. My son joined the service and when he got out of the service, he moved here too. I put in an application for the Longview School District thinking it would take me a few years to get on. I interviewed shortly thereafter and they offered me the job.

Do you have grandchildren? Yes, all my grandbabies and my children live around here.

How many grandkids do you have? Four.

What does it feel like to become a grandparent? Amazing. My oldest granddaughter Makayla is ten and she has got me wrapped around her finger.

Why is being a grandparent amazing? To see the world through their eyes again and not be responsible for the daily stuff they get to do – but all the fun stuff. To watch her grow and to watch my children become empowered parents and watch them to raise their own children in a way that they are raising adults that will contribute to society instead.

Is being a grandparent like cherry picking the best parts of being a parent? Yeah. Definitely, offering them chocolate ice cream for breakfast when they are over at the house. When you are a mom, you cannot do that. So, I take full advantage.

What year did you move back? We moved back to Washington in July 2017 and I started work in August.

What do you teach? I teach preschool special education, so my morning classes are 3-4 year olds with special needs. My afternoon classes are 4-5 year olds with special needs.

What brought you to teach preschool special education? My intent was special education when I went back to school, just because I think that every student deserves to be seen. I could have been that kid.

Did your experience in school shape your career choice? Yes, if someone hadn’t seen and expected me to do more, then I may not have.

What makes for a great special ed teacher? What I tell my parents is when they allow their children to come here, my first goal is to make sure the child feels loved and safe for who they are, not for their good days, not for their bad days, just for who they are.

What other characteristics does a great special ed teacher have? It’s a lot about patience, guidance and being able to look at things a hundred different ways if the first attempt doesn’t work.  You have to keep trying until you find the thing that clicks with the student.

Do your students build on their successes? Yeah, if I can find the thing that clicks it helps the next teacher and the child will build on their success. I’m always looking ahead to figure out the impact of what we are doing now.

Do small positive steps in learning at Broadway mean potentially larger successes later? Yes, if I can give them the skills and foundation now then their kindergarten teacher can build on that. This is about teaching what helps them to be successful.

What is the best part about your job? The kids and watching the parents shift from what my child “can’t do” to what my child “can do”. To see that light up in a parent and for them to start to change the expectations for their own child is the best part of my day. There’s nothing that can outshine that.

In some ways, are you teaching the parents too? Oh Yeah, by opening their eyes to the possibilities of what their child can do. We have children that don’t speak and when they leave and are talking in full sentences. Their mom and dad are saying, “They never stop talking”. The students are starting to read and do all these things; when they arrived the parent was frightened.

What’s the worst part about your job? The paperwork. To do an IEP from start to finish is about 10 hours of work. Between the evaluation, writing the report, scoring their report, writing the IEP, holding the meetings, writing their goals. That doesn’t include tracking their goals through the next year.

I have a theory that most people who drive by Broadway have no idea what’s going on here. What would you tell them? I agree with that. I would tell them that this is the foundation for kids starting out in their community to create a successful educational experience that will help them be productive adults and it changes our community if we quit doing it. For everyday a child spends in preschool, in a quality preschool, when I went to college which was 6 or 7 years ago now, the savings was $7 a day for their lifetime on the government of needs they wouldn’t need going forward, supports.

Do you believe the key time to impact a child’s learning is from age zero to five? I do. I’ve only been here two years, but I have a student who couldn’t make eye contact, she would literally hide. She did not speak and would not do any of the work. Now she knows all of her letters, she knows all of her sounds, she is talking, engaging, voicing her concerns, speaking in full sentences, she’s sings with us, she’s beginning to identify sight words.

Where does your husband work? He works in law enforcement in Clark County.

You want to say anything about supporting the blue? When my husband puts on his uniform every day, I know there is a chance he may not come home. There’s no other job that you do that for unless you’re military. We all live in this society; we should all step up.

What do you like to do outside of school? I love to read, I love to be with my grandchildren. My husband is a car buff, so we spend lots of time looking at car and going to car shows. I love to garden and get my hands dirty.

What do you like to read? A little of everything. I have a shirt that says I still read children’s books cuz I still do that too. Usually mysteries. Something that keeps me looking ahead to try to figure out the puzzle.

Are you going to have a garden this year? I hope to.

Have you thought about what to plant this year? I always plant tomatoes, usually salad stuff; lettuce, radishes, things I can just pick and eat.

Do you have a favorite type of tomato? I love Heirloom tomatoes. I love fresh tomatoes. I eat them like an apple.

What is your favorite food? What isn’t my favorite food? I love seafood.

What would you do if you won the lottery? I would put it back into education.

Has teaching 3-4 year old special ed students gotten harder or easier? Harder. The kids have much more intense needs.

To someone reading this, what would you want them to know or take away about Mrs. Feller? That I love what I do, but it’s all about the kids. Every day when I walk in here, it’s about how can I be better to meet their needs, to help them grow and that’s why I do what do. And if there’s anybody else out there that feels that way about kids, they should get involved.