Nancy Hudson, library media specialist at Geneva Elementary School
“This is the start of my sixth year here. I taught middle school for 24 years in Ferndale. That was fun, middle school. Loved those kids, but they need a lot of energy and I’m getting old!
I had just finished my library endorsement and Ferndale had no positions. I really believed this was what I wanted to do. Bellingham hired me to teach elementary school, which I have never done before. I was afraid and intimidated by kindergartners. Which is so funny, to look back now. I didn’t understand how a schedule worked at an elementary school, so it was this incredible learning curve, but I love it. When there were a few openings at other schools, I was like nope – I am going to stay here. I’m where I belong.
Look at where I work, I mean, I’m surrounded by books, kids, people I love to be with. I cannot believe that I can’t walk down this hall and not get a running hug. It’s amazing, how can you not love that? At middle school they would pretend that they didn’t see you and here, they just want you to see them. It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it’s so worth it.
Kids can come by anytime. The library needs to be a place where people come and want to be, and that was always my goal. To make a place where kids are comfortable and loved, we talk about The Bellingham Promise – they’ve got to want to be here.”
Rodolfo Riviere, physical education teacher at Birchwood Elementary School
“My martial arts instructor one day told me, ‘I am going to leave for the United States. I am going to leave you in charge.’ I was 17 years old and I was getting ready to go to college, but I started working with the kids. The way the kids make you feel, the opportunity you have to change their lives, that’s what made me stay with martial arts. I love sports, so I got my bachelor’s in education. I taught for 14 years, then I turned my focus only on my martial arts school.
Then one day my wife told me she applied for a job with customs. When she was accepted, they told her they don’t have any jobs available in Puerto Rico so she needed to choose the south or the north border. We decided to go north to Blaine. We didn’t know anything about Blaine, we watched a video about Blaine and we were depressed because the video had soft music, and nobody was on the streets and it was so cloudy. And we thought, where are we going to? She told me it’s just for a few months then we will make a swap and we will go back to Puerto Rico. Time passed by, my wife couldn’t make a transfer back to Puerto Rico, my daughter started school and I had to close my martial arts school. It was really hard for me because I had students who started with me when they were five and now they are 25.
I started getting involved with my kids at school. I felt incentive to help others, and somebody told me about the PTA. So I asked, what is a PTA? We didn’t know, but I said, yes, this works! I became the president of the PTA. At first, I was the only male, dark-skinned Latino at the meetings. Later on, we had meetings in English and Spanish. English speakers were speaking Spanish and Spanish speakers were speaking English. I felt like ok, I’m back on track again. I applied for a job to coach basketball at Shuksan Middle School. It was a great experience for me. Working with my language and getting involved with the community. Then this year I got the job working half-day as a PE teacher here at Birchwood.
I love the kids. To be able to maybe change their lives a little bit. Sometimes as a teacher, just one word or phrase, or some advice can change someone’s life and you don’t realize it. You remember when you were a kid and you remember that teacher that told you that one thing, or that teacher gave you advice and you keep that for the rest of your life.
Teachers have great power and great opportunity to shape kids’ lives. You end up loving them and they love you back. You always come to school and maybe you are a little bit tired but they give you energy. Little by little I try to get connected with the kids and the community.
PE is fun, but it is also a way for kids to interact with each other. Sometimes kids tend to be competitive and they may forget about being kind and being respectful. PE can help you to work as a team and see that everyone can help the team in a way. When they get older they are more competitive, but right now they are about having fun.
Birchwood is a great school. Especially as a Latino, you always feel a little bit scared of not being accepted for being different. This school is so welcoming. They have been like our family here. Our whole family is back in Puerto Rico, so Birchwood is our family. The first year here, they invited us to a barbecue. Mrs. Morgan she came up to us and she tried to speak Spanish to us and for me, even if she is not a Spanish speaker, I was like, wow. She is trying. She is coming out of her comfort zone to make us feel welcome. For me, I thought, yes, we are in the right place.”
Patricia Curtis, accounts receivable at District Office
“I have lived in four different countries: I was born and grew up in Chile. Then I lived in Canada and Germany, and now I live here in the states. I love to travel. I have always traveled since I was very young with my family, then married and now on my own. You get the travel bug: you want to see different cultures and how people live, I love it. I like to try different food and I love learning different languages. I’ve been to 27 different countries so far.
When my kids were in school I was very involved with the PTA. My first job in the district was in food service. Then I subbed for secretarial positions. I subbed for almost 10 years. My first regular job was as an office assistant at Alderwood. I was there for three years. From there I moved to Squalicum where I did attendance for 3 years and later I became the ASB bookkeeper, for a short time. When this job opened for accounts receivable, I applied and I got it. I’ve been here for seven years; it’s gone by very quickly. I really enjoy what I do and the people I work with. I’ve also been a Spanish interpreter for the district for almost 20 years. I like that you feel like you’re really helping the parents and the community.
I have always done volunteer work in the district and the community. I miss the kids, so I volunteer in the schools whenever I have a chance. At the beginning of every school year, I volunteer with the kindergartners on their first day. I’ve volunteered at Cordata Elementary in the preschool room and at Options in the GRADS baby room. I will try to go back this year again.
What I miss about working in the schools is the kids. At Alderwood, the students were little; they would fall down and then come to the office and you’d just hug them. At Squalicum, attendance was also in charge of the sick room. They are like babies even though they are high schoolers. They would come and say, ‘I don’t feel well Mrs. Curtis.’ I would tell them to lie down. I would cover them like little kids; they loved it. I really enjoyed that age too. In the business office, we do a lot of support for the schools. We are there for whatever they need, so indirectly, we are still doing it for the kids.
I feel so blessed that I have worked in so many different jobs in the district. Working as staff, as a volunteer, as a parent and as an interpreter–it has been a really great experience.”