By Greg Rediske, Lakewood Rotary
On Friday, May 17, Kim Prentice introduced Lakewood Rotary’s May Educators of the Month, Nikki Wheaton from Steilacoom Historical School District and Pat Soderberg from Clover Park School District.
There for support of the honorees were Susanne Beauchaine, director of student services at Steilacoom School District and Charlotte Clouse, principal of Southgate Elementary School.
Nikki Wheaton teaches special education students. Her co-workers and supervisors say she is highly capable, adept, knowledgeable, experienced, selfless, ambitious, dedicated and fun-loving. Nikki is in her second year with the Steilacoom School District and making a big difference in the lives of students with disabilities. Nikki is a “go –getter,” and can be counted on for her positive outlook and “outside of the box thinking” to make sure all students learn. Nikki always has a smile on her face and is great with helping students make connections with the community and helping them feel empowered as young adults. She was hired to run the Steilacoom School District’s Transitions Program, which is a program for students ages 18-21. She works with special needs students, who are developing work and independent living skills. Nikki has established multiple internships for her students including but not limited to Toy Rescue Mission, cleaning district vehicles, fulfilling custodial and mail room duties, serving as school kitchen assistants and many others. This year, she is also teaching during part of her day at the high school, working with students who will move into the Futures Program. These students have jobs throughout the school and develop skills to ride public transportation, manage money, interact professionally while on the job, and recognize safe and unsafe situations. She came to Steilacoom from Colorado, where she has served as a resource room teacher, inclusion teacher, center program teacher, behavior consultant, English Language Learner teacher, and she had published a second article from research she did at the Univ. of Nebraska.
Pat Soderberg is a second grade teacher at Southgate Elementary School and loves all children. She embraces each child with her kindness and care. Pat has worked with students who had severe to moderate disabilities, were English Language Learners, and students who live in poverty. She started her career in Clover Park School District in 1976 and, in addition to her years at Southgate, she has worked at Custer Elementary, American Lake South (which is now closed) and at Lakes High School. When she talks about her students, it is always with fondness and, many times, humor. As she tells her stories, you often find yourself laughing or crying because her words touch your heart. Pat loves to learn and explore her world. She shares that sense of wonder with her students as they go through their day. Pat exemplifies the belief that all students can learn. Her confidence in their ability to learn motivates students to reach beyond their goals. Her students are successful because of her belief in them. Each year, Pat requests the lowest group of reading and math students. Her ability to teach is a gift to these students and they make excellent progress. Pat believes in “second and more” chances for children. After the first of the year, a parent requested a waiver for her son to attend second grade at Southgate. There were doubts about accepting the waiver because of the student’s behavior. Pat said she would like to have him in her class. The student bonded quickly with her. In the end, the boy’s mother moved him to eastern Washington. He was a happy child whose behavior changed dramatically. It was hard for him to leave a teacher who gave him unconditional love.
Congratulations to both honorees. More information about Lakewood Rotary can be found at www.lakewoodrotary.com