“You laugh, you cry and you work harder than you ever thought you could.
Some days, you’re trying to change the world and some days you’re just trying to make it through the day.
Your wallet is empty, your heart is full, and your mind is packed with memories of kids who have changed your life.
Just another day in the classroom.”
For many retiring teachers and administrators in Camas and Washougal, this poem by Krissy Venosdale rings true in a number of ways. Some chose the field of education years ago and have spent a career immersed in it. For others, it was a second calling later in life.
The chances of finding a job that is also a true passion can be slim to none. Most would say having that opportunity is a true gift, even if it is challenging and heart-wrenching at times.
In the May 28 and June 4 editions of the Post-Record, readers will find profiles of several notable retirees in the Camas and Washougal school districts who turned their love of teaching and learning into a career. Now, they are looking forward to the next stage.
Up first are the Washougal educators, look for those from Camas next week.
Ron Carlson, Jemtegaard Middle School principal
Carlson, 63, began this career as a kindergarten teacher in 1973. Since then, he has taught every grade through college-level.
“I just love working with kids,” the retiring Jemtegaard principal said. “Each grade level was a different experience. I loved them all. I just really enjoy the challenges of working with kids and helping staff work with the kids and be successful.”
Carlson was hired in 2000 as principal of Washougal High School. In 2006 he was named the director of operations and technology. In 2009, he became principal of Jemtegaard. Prior to his years in Washougal, Carlson worked for the Beaverton, Ore., and Battle Ground school districts.
During his years in Beaverton, he taught kindergarten though ninth grade and worked as a peer coach, staff development specialist, and technology specialist, writing the district’s first instructional technology plan.
After earning his education doctorate degree from Oregon State University, where he also taught classes, Carlson was hired as director of instructional technology and information services in the Battle Ground School District. He held several administrative positions in the district, including human resources director, vocational education director and associate principal before coming to Washougal in 2000.
“If you look at my resume, you wouldn’t think I could stick with anything because I’ve done it all,” he joked.
When he came to Jemtegaard, the school was well-known for its disciplinary and academic issues.
“I had an idea that if I could change the way the faculty thought about things, that we could change the school,” Carlson said. “And we did. We have successful kids and great teachers who work hard. We have set up a different world here.”
As an example, more than half the students made the principal’s honor roll, quite an accomplishment for a school that had recently failed to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” on state exams.
Carlson is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Kym Tyelyn-Carlson, who is principal of Skyview High School in Vancouver. He’ll also spend time with his six grandchildren and catch up on various hobbies. But he isn’t sitting still for long. He’ll begin a second career as an adjunct professor for several different universities.
When asked what advice he’d give younger administrators, Carlson said, “Don’t give up on the workload. They are asking more and more of us in the ways of student and teacher success, but it’s a good change. You can do it.”
Washougal Superintendent Dawn Tarzian said Carlson’s impact on staff and students has been significant.
“The work that he and the Jemtegaard staff have done to support the learning goals of the students has been incredible. Together, they have changed the culture of the middle school in ways that have lead to student success and social growth. Ron’s leadership will be deeply missed by the community.”
Sheila Good, Washougal High School English teacher
Sheila Good was an American Field Service exchange student from India who attended and graduated from Washougal High School.
Little did she know that most of her career would be spent at the same school.
After returning to India, Good completed her bachelor of arts degree in English literature. She then married William Good, who she’d met while at WHS, and returned to Washougal. The couple has two grown sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons.
Good completed a master’s degree in education from Portland State University and began teaching English at WHS in 1992. Before that, she taught for four years in India.
“I love interacting with my students, and watching their growing awareness and understanding of their world as each day unfolds,” she said.
For Good, the most challenging part of being a teacher is to be able to coordinate the demands of the classroom and family.
“As teachers, we are deeply dedicated to both, but the hours in the day are just not enough to do justice to all of our responsibilities,” she said. “Many people do not realize that the teacher’s workday does not end with the school bell, but continues well into the night.”
Good said she spends three to four hours beyond the school day preparing for lessons and grading papers.
“If it were not for a supportive and helpful husband, and very patient children of my own, I could not have done it.”
Good, who also served as president of the Washougal Education Association, has this advice for younger teachers:
“My only suggestion is to be fully aware of how the political process adversely impacts the teaching profession,” she said. “Teachers must voice their concerns loudly and clearly and change the focus back to a sane approach to meeting the needs of our future generations in the classroom. For that to happen, teachers need the support of the community and legislators. “
Tarzian referred to Good as “irreplaceable.”
“I have experienced first-hand how she uses her warm and engaging style to capture her students’ deep involvement in the content being studied,” she said. “She has committed her professional work to teaching students to think beyond the printed word and to apply their learning to the world around them.”
Rosann Lassman, Business services manager
When she retires this summer, Washougal School District Business Manager Rosann Lassman will leave the district with an outstanding audit from the state, a 6 percent reserve in the bank, and three much-needed facilities projects underway.
“The best measure of a leader’s success is what their work has done to support the effectiveness of others,” said Tarzian. “Rosann’s tenure in Washougal has had a tremendously positive impact on the stability and effectiveness of the district.”
She added that district operations have been stabilized and that long-term goals have been accomplished, such as smaller class sizes, the replacement of the high school turf field and gym floor, and a start to addressing the drainage issues on the fields between Gause Elementary School and WHS.
“Rosann also worked to save our local taxpayers nearly a million dollars by refinancing the bond debt and helped to secure a Jobs Act Energy Grant that will allow for increased energy savings for years to come,” added Tarzian.
Lassman joined the district in 2007, from Surprise, Ariz., where she was an internal auditor for Dysart Unified School District. She brought with her husband Joel, who worked for the district as a special education teacher until he retired last June.
A certified public accountant, Lassman has worked in education since 1994, where she began at Educational Service District 101 in Spokane. She also worked with Riverside School District, which was placed under binding conditions with the state after its fund balance dipped into the red. Lassman guided the district through this financial crisis and helped it present a balanced budget.
Lassman said the most challenging aspect of her job has been working with reduced budgets but increasing needs.
“(It’s challenging) accepting the fact that we can only do just so much more with just so much less for just so long and why can’t we get that fact communicated,” she said. “We need safe, clean, well maintained buildings for our students. Staff and vendors want to be paid. We need to hire staff, manage staff, implement ever changing and ever increasing mandates. Yet, we are apparently expected to do all of that at no cost because schools are criticized for having administrative costs.”
Now that Lassman is retiring, she and her husband plan to move back to their home in Arizona to be near her mother. She is looking forward to road trips and free time.
“I want to travel around this beautiful country for a start with time to stop at the view points, camp by a river, see family and friends without stressing over when I can best leave my office or when I need to get back,” she said.
Her advice to younger administrators? “To have passion for what you do and know why you want to be doing what you are doing. Always refer to your own compass. That is how you can come back to face the challenge of whatever the next day brings your way.”