Letter - Reflections of a Wa-Hi science teacher

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This story has been modified since its original publication.

I spent 30 years teaching in Walla Walla schools, including in Wa-Hi's science building. I bring a science teacher’s perspective when dissecting Wa-Hi’s building problems.

Let’s consider people who have occupied the science building in the past, in the present, and will occupy it in the future. Let’s also consider the problems of teaching physics in a building that is physically inadequate.

I was the only girl in my high school physics class. I had fun though because our physics teacher wore roller skates, had us crashing cars down ramps and had us shooting marbles to demonstrate Newton’s Laws of Motion. I had the opportunity to do hands-on experiments in high school and in college.

I took two years of physics classes at the University of Washington from Professor Arnold Aarons. We experimented daily. Learning science by doing science became a hallmark of my goals as a science teacher.

When I began teaching at Wa-Hi I was privileged to teach science with Johnnie Dennis, who had won a National Science Teacher of the Year award. Mr. Dennis was the department chairman. Mr. Dennis taught physics in classroom S-1. Unfortunately his classroom was not the same room as his physics lab. The physics lab space was blocked by a wall that is still a hindrance today.

Rob Ahrens is the current Wa-Hi physics teacher, who has won a Distinguished Teaching Award from our Walla Walla School District. Mr. Ahrens’ grandfather, Pete Hanson, was the first principal at the new high school. It is hard to believe but it’s true; the 1964 physics classroom he teaches in is virtually the same as when Mr. Ahrens’ grandfather was principal, and is the same as when Mr. Ahrens took physics from Johnnie Dennis. Virtually nothing has changed.

Fifty years later the teaching classroom is still separated from the small lab space by a wall. The tiny physics lab has no sinks and the lab is not plumbed with water. No ventilation exists either.

The current science building has too many unhealthy problems. The future success of our Walla Walla science students depends on their being able to learn science by doing experiments. I plead with you to vote yes on the bond to build a new state-of-the-art science building.

Pamela McBride

Walla Walla


This story was updated April 7, 2014, to reflect the following correction:

Due to an editing error, the length of Pamela McBride’s teaching career was misrepresented in a letter she wrote published on Thursday.

McBride taught science for 36 years, which includes years spent outside of Walla Walla. She spent 30 years teaching in Walla Walla, starting at Pioneer Junior High and then moving to Walla Walla High School in 1990 when Pioneer was destroyed by fire.

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