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It has been a beloved school and community Thanksgiving tradition at Golden Fields Elementary. On this episode of the Supercast, we find out why the Turkey Trot and Turkey Tunes play such an important role in the school’s Thanksgiving celebration year after year.

Then, we have some fun with students who show us their home-made talking turkeys and tell us what they are thankful for this year.


Audio Transcription

Transcription coming soon.

They are members of the Utah State Legislature and Riverton High School Silverwolves through and through.

On this bonus episode of the Supercast, we take you back inside Riverton High to once again catch up with the “Silverwolf Caucus.” They are Utah State Representatives, all former Riverton High students. Find out what happens when Representatives Candice Pierucci, Ashlee Matthews, and Jordan Teuscher run into some former teachers as they tour the halls of their alma mater, sharing some laughs and lots of memories along the way.


Audio Transcription

Transcription coming soon.

They call themselves the “Silverwolf Caucus.” Three former Riverton High School students who are all now public servants, after being elected to the Utah State Legislature.

On this episode of the Supercast, State Representatives Candice Pierucci, Ashlee Matthews, and Jordan Teuscher return to Riverton High for the first time since they graduated. Find out what they learned from their time as students, what advice they have for some student body leaders and why Riverton High is still near and dear to them today.

Stay tuned for a bonus episode on the Silverwolf Caucus tomorrow.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I’m your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. They call themselves the Silverwolf Caucus. These three former Riverton High School students are all now Representatives in the Utah State Legislature. On this episode of the Supercast, State Representatives, Candice Pierucci, Ashlee Matthews and Jordan Teuscher returned to Riverton High for the first time, since they graduated, find out what they learned from their time as students, what advice they have for current student body officers and why Riverton High is still near and dear to them today.

We are here at Riverton High School with what we are calling the Silverwolf Caucus. We have three of our State Representatives here who are former students here at Riverton High. I'm going to let each of them introduce themselves. And we have a couple of members of our current student government here as well to ask you some questions, but let's start out with introductions

Candice Pierucci:
I’m Representative Candice Pierucci and I graduated class of 2010.

Ashlee Matthews:
I'm Representative Ashlee Matthews and I graduated in 2004.

Jordan Teuscher:
I’m Representative Jordan Teuscher. I graduated class of 2002. So 2002.

Anthony Godfrey:
Time flies, time flies. 

Jordan Teuscher:
I forgot how we say that. 

Anthony Godfrey:
You brought some swag with you. I see you have some memorabilia from when you were here. Representative Pierucci, show me what you have there.

Candice Pierucci:
Well, I lettered in academics and I was FBLA’s Vice-President.

Anthony Godfrey:
Let’s lay it down on the table here, let’s see that.

Candice Pierucci:
Well, it’s been at the bottom of the memory box so I can't promise that it doesn't have fuzzy things on it. I've taken off all my pins and then I was Sterling Scholar for Social Studies. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Wow, Sterling Scholar for Social Studies. Vice-President, that is very cool. Very cool. Does this look familiar?

Candice Pierucci:
These things don't ever change. They’re timeless. Taxes, death and your letterman jacket. Those are all the same.

Anthony Godfrey:
Representative Teuscher. I must mention, changed flights, missed some major events and came right from the airport to be part of this. So thanks to all three of you for going to the effort of making this work in your schedule. I know you're very, very busy.

Jordan Teuscher:
I wouldn't miss it. You know, we all love Riverton High School and I wanted to be here for this. So yes, I have my letterman jacket right here. Haven't worn it in a little while, but it looks good. It's warm and nice. 

Candice Pierucci:
What did you letter in?

Jordan Teuscher:
I lettered in debate. Yep. So I was a National Debater here and then French, and Seminary. Which is kind of awesome.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's really great. You know, yours says 2002, mine is from the 1900s. So at least it's recent in my book. That's awesome. So now we're going to have our current student officers introduce themselves. 

Dylan:
I'm Dylan. I'm the Student Body President here.

Tessa:
I’m Tessa. I’m Artist SBO.

Anthony Godfrey:
Dylan, Tessa, what is your first reaction sitting across from three State Representatives who used to be in your shoes? 

Dylan:
I think it's awesome. And I think it shows that Silverwolves can produce such highly esteemed people. It’s almost like a flexing moment for all of us. They’re Silverwolves.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's a good flex for Riverton High. I don't know that there's another high school that can claim three current state representatives.

Candice Pierucci:
I was not aware of any in the legislature right now that have this many. Maybe rural Utah can pull out a couple, but not this many. 

Ashlee Matthews:
Well, if they are, they're not saying anything.

Anthony Godfrey:
You got to represent, that's right. 

Jordan Teuscher:
I’m just doing the quick math here. We’ve got 75 representatives. So 3 out of the 75, that's 4% of the entire House is a Silverwolf. I think proportionally speaking, we’re punching above our weight.

Anthony Godfrey:
4% came through this building, that's no small matter. That's a big deal.

 Jordan Teuscher:
We have some open seats coming out so we’ll just need to find some more Silverwolves.

Ashlee Matthews:
The most important question we will ask any candidate is, are you a Silverwolf?

Anthony Godfrey:
It’s about growing the Silverwolf Caucus, that’s the important thing. Tell me what questions do you have for our State Representatives? 

Dylan:
My first one is like, what's the biggest thing, or what thing do you notice the most that's like, you're still a Silverwolf? What reminds you the most? Like, you'll do something in your day and you're like, ah, that's because I'm a Silverwolf

Candice Pierucci:
For me, when I think of high school, I think of the community and I feel like it lays the foundation for a lot of students on thinking you can do anything in life. When I think back on high school, I wish I could tell young Candice not to stress so much, but maybe it was good I did. Because then I tried to achieve a lot of things. Just the sense of friendship that carries with you that obviously we immediately all feel some camaraderieship because of that. Also the awesome teachers here, who you still want to check the board and see how many of them are here, but there are a lot of life lessons and fond memories as you walk through these doors that kind of takes you back. 

Ashlee Matthews:
It's true. I'm not even going to try to top that because you said what I was thinking only way better.

Jordan Teuscher:
I'll tell you my thought. I started here in 2000, so this was the first year it opened. So I was a sophomore, it was brand new. We were trying to decide what are the traditions that we need to have. What will actually unite us as a school? Because we had people coming from all different high schools, Copper Hills High School, Bingham High School, that may have had some allegiances there, but we wanted to start off great. So I harken back to that anytime I have a new project, it just reminds me of that idea of coming fresh into a new school, wanting to have good traditions, wanting to get off on the right foot.

Candice Pierucci:
That's crazy because I was here in 2010, which was the year before it split off to go to Herriman High. It was like, everything was one last time that we were all going to be together. So Silver Rush was huge. I remember the One Last Dance theme and it was just really cool. I think high school is terrifying for a lot of people, right? You build relationships with people that you'll never forget. I still am best friends with my high school friends and we keep tabs on each other. So it's really cool, the memories you make.

Ashlee Matthews:
I have something that's not deep or philosophical, like either of them, but I grew up in the neighborhood. We are just right behind the football stadium. So listening to the band practice and every Friday night listening to the announcers, the football game. Where I live now, I live just down the street from my community's high school, and I will say that every time I hear the band practicing it takes me back.

Anthony Godfrey:
There is something about the lights, the crisp air, hearing that ratatat, and the announcer is pretty exciting.

Ashlee Matthews:
It's the last time it's socially acceptable to really paint your face. It’s awesome, I definitely painted my face.

Anthony Godfrey:
There’s license to do some things that you can't later in life.

Ashlee Matthews:
Exactly.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay tuned. When we come back, find out more about how Riverton High School helped prepare these three legislators for public service.

Break:
Do you simply love learning online? We can't wait to have you join the amazing teachers in our brand new Jordan Virtual Learning Academy. In Jordan Virtual Learning Academy schools, we offer innovative, fun and flexible online learning with daily, real-time instruction from teachers. Enrollment is currently open for all K-12 students in Utah. Start on the path to personalized virtual learning success now at http://connect.jordandistrict.org. That’s connect.jordandistrict.org.

Anthony Godfrey:
We have Principal Carolyn Gough here with I think a few additions to the swag that you brought.

Carolyn Gough:
We do offer a yearly pin so that you can take advantage of the pin that we have for this year. And then this, because you mentioned that Silver Rush was such an integral part of your experience, we have our jug or Silver Rush jug pins. So we wanted to present you with those just as a token of our appreciation for the service that you give.

Dylan:
And a shirt that says ‘Riverton Pride of the Pack”.

Legislators:
Thank you!

Carolyn Gough:
Thanks for representing us so well. If you could wear that in a session, that would be great.

Tessa:
What was like your thing in high school? Like we have student government, like, what was your thing and how did it prepare you for the position you have now? 

Ashlee Matthews:
I was on the newspaper staff, and that was my thing. I'm an observer, I'm a watcher, I'm a listener. I just kind of learn by watching and listening to other people, which was very helpful going into this. I had no idea what I was walking into. So I spend a lot of time just taking mental notes and watching and listening to things that are going on. On that same token, talking about relationships and such, I have a very good relationship with the former newspaper adviser, April Squires. She's amazing. We still talk to her all the time and she tells me every time like, ‘oh, you were my favorite life editor.’ I'm sure she tells that to everybody. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Life editor, was it the Riverton Life? Is that what it was called?

Ashlee Matthews:
No, Silver Scribe. No, just the life page.

Candice Pierucci:
For me, I did Peer Leadership Team, the National Honor Society. I did the FBLA, Future Business Leaders of America and I did Acapella, but really loved my experience there. Also, my senior year I did an internship at the state Capitol, which totally changed my trajectory. I also did the We the People competition. My teacher advisor was Jenicee Jacobson who I still am in touch with. That internship at the Capitol changed my life. That's where I decided I wanted to do something in government to make a difference. So it was really, really instrumental, I feel like, in me getting here.

Jordan Teuscher:
I mentioned it before, debate. I mean, I was involved in a lot of different things, but that was definitely kind of the hallmark of what I focused my time in most. Little known fact probably for most people here, but debate was the first trophy that Riverton actually won. We had a whole trophy case out here and nothing in it and it was great to be able to put something in the middle. We kept adding to it, adding to it. Over the years, we kind of had to fight with football and cheer and other people that wanted to kind of move debate to the side, said this is more for athletics, but we enjoyed it. We actually competed really well and had a great program. 

Anthony Godfrey:
What would you say to current high school students who are maybe considering whether they could or should get involved in politics down the line?

Jordan Teuscher:
I'll say, you know, a lot of my political interest started when I was in high school. It was getting involved in an AP Political Science class, learning about the system and getting challenged to show up to a caucus meeting and it was a scary type thing. So I think that's the biggest advice that I can give to any high schoolers, get involved. I mean, especially at this age there's there's clubs and classes, and even just coming up to the Capitol and spending some time with your elected official, to just learn how the process happens, that will put you in a really good situation in the future to be able to jump into public service when the opportunity presents itself.

Candice Pierucci:
I would say half of the effort you need to be involved is just showing up. So I would encourage students to start getting engaged now and actually take your government course seriously. If you can jump on a campaign, there's no minimum age to help on a campaign, and knock doors or deliver flyers. I'd say, definitely reach out to one of us about doing an internship. If you're a senior, we can always try and pull some strings to get you up there for a fellow Silverwolf. Also not letting your age stop you. As you can see we're all millennials up here, for those of you who are listening. We're all millennials and having different age groups provides different perspectives and diversity in the Legislature that I think is really helpful. So I'd say jump on in and don't hold back. 

Ashlee Matthews:
On that same token, but a different way, I agree with Candice, don't let your age hold you back. I was not involved politically at all until, until I ran for office. So, it was weird and it was scary and it was exciting starting something that I had absolutely zero experience in. So I did it and I, and I think everybody else should do it too. 

Dylan:
So what do you guys think the state of politics is today and how can we work together to be better?

Candice Pierucci:
I think we have to learn again as a culture, as a society to disagree civilly. I think it starts in AP Government when people start formulating opinions and you get to be able to share your own and realize that just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they're evil. It just means they have a different opinion. I feel like I've developed a great friendship with Ashlee who sits across the ideological aisle. But my goodness, apart from being legislators and a Republican and Democrat, we're both moms and friends and able to talk about things that we all care about. I think we have to do a better job of getting off social media, getting out of our echo chambers and learning to interact with people, and learning to meet them as people before we do their ideology. It makes the negotiating process that much better because you're able to find common ground on what you can agree on, which is the best way to create policy.

Jordan Teuscher:
Yeah. I think Candice hit the nail on the head. It's all about finding people that you disagree with and having those conversations. Too much today, people either are afraid to have the conversation or they're being told not to, right. They're saying, you know, we need to alienate ourselves from those people who are across the aisle, who may believe differently than we do. So the more that we can reach out to people who have different opinions and have the discussion and try to understand why they believe that way and not necessarily try to change their opinion, but just seek to understand, we’ll be in a much better spot.

Ashlee Matthews:
For me, the biggest struggle that I had, I guess starting, is just making sure to always keep the people separate from the work. Because, like Candice said, from a political standpoint, I feel like all three of us are in very, very different places. But as people we are, like you said, we have way more in common than not. So it's easier to not take things personally, right. If they disagree with something that I say, if they voted against the bill, I don't think that personally, because I know that it's not intended to be personal. We can leave from a discussion where we disagree with everything and we can say, ‘Oh, dang. Oh, I saw that picture of you on Facebook and Oh wow! Your kids are so cute. Oh, what are you doing for Halloween?’ 

Dylan:
That kind of reminded me of something, so I want to ask a question. We recently asked a bunch of people, why is Silver Rush your favorite thing? Or why do you think Riverton has a thing? And they said, it's because like everyone forgets who they are and they just become one. They get along with everyone. Do you think there's some part of Silver Rush that helps you to build that assessment as you go further. You've seen that for three years in the month of December, everyone's one group body and their Silverwolf is what makes them the same. Do you think that has affected in a positive way, the rest of your lives?

Candice Pierucci:
Yeah. I have a distinct memory of when we're knocking doors, it was snowing. We were flipping cold, but we were having so much fun. I remember I was with the SBO president. I was with a drama student, there was a football player and a wrestling player. When else in high school, other than at lunch, when you bump into each other, are you all thrown together for the same cause and how much fun we had. You got to know people at a different level. And especially when you're performing right, you're performing tasks or jobs or shoveling snow. At that point, all your labels just drop to the ground and you're just people. So I definitely think that's a big lesson. I think our country has had those moments, not to extrapolate this, but if you think about World War II or getting a man on the moon, we have moments where we let labels fall and we all get together. I think that's when our country's at its best. And that's when Riverton High is at it’s best. There's a difference in the air. I remember walking around just feeling lighter during Silver Rush. I feel like a lot of people feel that way. 

Ashlee Matthews:
It carries with you too. You can take that forever. None of us have been here for a very long time, but you asked us what our favorite thing was, and I think we all said Silver Rush was our favorite thing. The thing that we miss most, and when we were the happiest and most proud of being here and you won't forget, you won't forget that feeling. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Join us tomorrow for a bonus episode featuring the Silverwolf Caucus. And remember education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

It was a moving celebration of Dia de los Muertos created, in part, by Spanish Dual Language Immersion Classes at Riverside Elementary School. On this episode of the Supercast, Superintendent Godfrey takes you inside the temporary Dia de los Muertos museum which was organized by 3rd grade teacher Kathy Wride. Find out how students were able to honor family members, including pets who have passed away, by creating altars for them.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It was a moving celebration of Dia de Los Muertos created in part by Spanish Dual Language Immersion classes at Riverside Elementary School. On this episode of the Supercast, we go inside the temporary Dia de Los Muertos museum organized by third grade teacher, Kathy Wride. Find out how students were able to honor family members, including pets, who have passed away by creating altars for them. 

We are here at Riverside Elementary with Kathy Wride to talk about her Dia de Los Muertos activity. And this is something that's been going on for a while. Is that right?

Kathy Wride:
Yeah. Seven years. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Introduce yourself a little bit and tell us about this activity.

Kathy Wride:
I've been in the Spanish Immersion program since I started about seven years ago. My first year at Riverside, I wanted to bring forth culture, and what better way than to celebrate Day of the Dead and to actually introduce something that is celebrated in a Hispanic culture. That is also why we are a Spanish Immersion school. So this is my baby for the last seven years.

Anthony Godfrey:
So we're standing in the gym right now. We have some music in the background that you can hear, and there is a wall of artwork that the students have put together. But there's also row after row of displays that students have created, and it's really amazing. You have the lights dimmed and it creates a wonderful atmosphere in here. Tell me about Day of the Dead and how all of this works.

Kathy Wride:
Well, the Day of the Dead is celebrated November 1st and 2nd in Mexico and Latin American countries. It's very highly emphasized, more in Mexico. They have a big celebration in their towns and villages and everything. This is just something to celebrate those that have departed. It can be individuals, it can be also pets that have passed away. We do have quite a few, because pets are part of a family. So it's celebrated as celebrating their life. It has nothing to do with death. We recognize, we remember the loved ones that have passed on. It's just something beautiful that they do in Latin American countries and we brought it here to Riverside.

Anthony Godfrey:
Let's talk about the wall over here. Let's walk over and take a look at the artwork there.

Kathy Wride:
The wall is just the Calaveras. It’s just a very big symbol that represents the actual person that has passed, or like I said, a pet that has passed. It’s just a representation, like a symbol of life of what they used to be. We don't do any dark colors. It's very pink, orange, all the bright colors you can possibly do. Then it just emphasizes the culture and just the life that the person or pet had.

Anthony Godfrey:
So it's really a celebration. 

Kathy Wride:
It's totally a celebration, nothing sad about it.

Anthony Godfrey:
So are there any of these that you can give me any additional detail about?

Kathy Wride:
No. With the movie Coco that came out a few years ago, that actually helped introduce Day of the Dead a little bit more to parents. They were actually able to understand what it was. So that's why I connected with Coco, the movie. Parents were like, “Oh wow! Yes, this is great.” They get involved, they start sharing. But the art is just their interpretation, like a student's interpretation of what a Calavera would be. So their colors, they picked. The only thing they're told: don't black, no dark colors, just bring life to your calavera. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Very good. So there's the Calavera, which is the skull. I see that they're decorating in various ways with various designs. So the skull is a part of it. 

Kathy Wride:
Yes, a very big part. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Are there any other instructions beyond that? Just no dark colors, no black.

Kathy Wride:
No dark colors, just have fun with it. Just colors that will represent the person that you're thinking about.

Anthony Godfrey:
And it represents a specific individual.

Kathy Wride:
Whoever they're thinking about that moment or pet, depending on who they're doing it on. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Now tell me about the other component. 

Kathy Wride:
The altars, los altares, all have ofrendas on them. Ofrendas can be from objects to food. It's pretty much anything that the individual or the pet liked while they were living.

Anthony Godfrey:
We have a picture of a father and daughter, it looks like.

Kathy Wride:
You can tell right away just by looking at it, he loves popcorn. He likes eggs and bacon and he loves cars and he was a handy person because he has tools on there. There's a lot of race car things on there. Pizza was one of his favorite things. So actually, you can kind of tell a lot on the altar. 

Anthony Godfrey:
I don't know either one and it's very touching just to see that.

Kathy Wride:
Yeah. They go all out, with individuals, with pets, you see like their favorite toy. Like we have one over here. This was a little kitten, his name is Whiskers. You can see, he loved playing with string with the little toy ball and the little fluffy mouse and there's even some cat food. We have pictures of course of the animal.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yes. Whiskers looks like a bit of a rascal.

Kathy Wride:
Yeah, and you learn a lot about the person that has passed because everything that's on the altar is something that symbolizes and represents that person.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the reactions you've seen from students as they have gone through this process of creating the altar?

Kathy Wride:
The best thing that I've actually heard from parents is that they appreciate doing this with their students because they're able to bring history back. Something that maybe the student at the time didn't know, a loved one they didn't really get to meet. They're like, “oh, tell me more.” The first two years I did this, there were tears. It was just the joy of having this, just being able to spend family time together. That has been the biggest thing that I've been told. ‘Thank you for letting me share my history with my child. Thank you for letting us bring back a loved one.’ So this has just been able to connect parents with their students. Just being able to bring back a little bit of family history.

Anthony Godfrey:
So sometimes they're creating an altar for someone they may not have met either.

Kathy Wride:
Absolutely.

Anthony Godfrey:
Wow. It's clear just looking over this, that a lot of thought and love and hard work has gone into creating some very touching memorials.

Kathy Wride:
Yeah, honestly, I get super emotional just because I love seeing the connections it has with the parents.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah.

Kathy Wride:
This year we asked the dual immersion teachers to make an altar. I have one and another English immersion teacher did one and she's fantastic. The teachers were able to share with their students some personal things about themselves. Mine's right here. It's very simple, but it tells a lot about my poor dog that decided to pass away because cancer took him away. I was able to remember him and I spoke to my students about him. Then there's another one over here. This is from another teacher. She was able to share with her students in Spanish, because she's one of our Spanish immersion teachers as well.

Anthony Godfrey:
These are pictures of her parents I assume.

Kathy Wride:
I'm assuming those are grandparents. So she was able to create one and the students got to know a little bit more about her family. It just creates connections, not just with family, but with teachers and their students.

Anthony Godfrey:
So there are connections with those who've passed, but also with the friends around you who can support you now that they know you a little bit better and they know who you've lost and what your connection is to them. I love yours with the picture of Einstein over the top. That's a great picture of your dog having a great time in the snow. 

Kathy Wride:
I choke up because I don't get sad. I was pregnant with my last daughter, my last child, and I have a picture. One of the last things that I took of him by my side when I was pregnant, and he would just cuddle with me. So I share that with my kids and then we just remember him and remember the best times.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, that's a great lesson to students to remember the good times and to really empathize with what other people have been through.

Kathy Wride:
You just feel a love. This is all about love. You feel them, you can feel that family connection, you can feel who this person or who this pet was, what a difference they made in your life. Whether it's for the student themselves or for their parents or their grandparents, things like that. So there's just that connection that I love.

Anthony Godfrey:
What an immersive, important learning opportunity. This is incredible. 

Stay with us. When we come back, students talk about the altars they created to honor family members who've passed, including beloved pets.

Break:
Do you simply love learning online? We can't wait to have you join the amazing teachers in our brand new Jordan Virtual Learning Academy. In Jordan Virtual Learning Academy schools, we offer innovative, fun and flexible online learning with daily, real-time instruction from teachers. Enrollment is currently open for all K-12 students in Utah. Start on the path to personalized virtual learning success now at http://connect.jordandistrict.org.

Anthony Godfrey:
Is this every grade 1st through 6th?

Kathy Wride:
Yes, 1st-6th. We have some kindergartners that decided to do it, and we also have a preschooler that did it as well, but we have first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. So it's just amazing, like just the detail that goes into all their altares.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, and when they know that they're doing it year to year, then they're probably thoughtful over the course of the year, about who am I going to honor? What am I going to do this time?

Kathy Wride:
Yes. Sometimes they even use the same one, but they add another detail they may have found out and they're like, ‘oh, this is great.’ You know? So it's just cool to see, it's amazing to see.

Anthony Godfrey:
So the connection just deepens over time.

Kathy Wride:
For sure. It's amazing.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's really something. With COVID and everything that's been going on, does this take on a greater significance?

Kathy Wride:
Absolutely. We do have some altars that are of individuals that have passed because of COVID. So instead of remembering the sad part of COVID, they remember the person's life and it just creates, like I said, a bigger bond. It helps you remember the good, not when they were sick, not when they were ready to go. It just helps you reconnect with the person. 

Anthony Godfrey:
It's interesting because even though I have no connection to anyone represented here, I'm thinking about my own family, my friends and my pets, and it makes you cherish what you have. Thank you so much. 

Tell me your name.

Abby:
I’m Abby.

Anthony Godfrey:
Abby, what grade are you in? 

Abby:
Sixth grade. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Will you tell me about your altar and who you honored?

Abby:
So I'm honoring my great, great grandpa Howard. He worked at an oil field, he made spinning wheels and stuff like that. He made the newspaper a lot for making all of his spinning wheels. 

Anthony Godfrey:
What's something you learned about him that you didn't know before this project?

Abby:
I didn't know he made his own spinning wheels.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's a really unique talent. Where did you get the idea to honor him?

Abby:
My parents and I were just thinking about him.

Anthony Godfrey:
Do you feel a connection to him that you didn't feel before? 

Abby:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
It looks really good. What did you make here? What is that?

Abby:
That’s an oil field. It's an oil tank because he worked there.

Anthony Godfrey:
So the spinning wheel was on the side in addition to his work? 

Abby:
Yes. 

Anthony Godfrey:
So you have a picture of him and it looks really nice an article about him too. Oh, that's exciting. Well, thank you very much. Great work. 

Tell me your name. 

Ellie:
I'm Ellie.

Anthony Godfrey:
Ellie, tell me about your altar.

Ellie:
This is my dad's uncle, Rick. I think he died a couple of months ago and I never actually got to know him very well. He owned horses and he and my dad would go and ride all the time. I never have seen his horses, but it's really cool to hear about. I was told that he really loved pie. He liked all kinds of pie and he loved fishing. He would just go all out with the outdoor stuff. And because I didn't know him very well, I don't understand it all, but I do think that he was one of my dad's biggest role models in his life.

Anthony Godfrey:
What did you think of just doing this project in general?

Ellie:
At first I didn't really care for it very much, but every year you keep doing it, and the more it ends up kind of like meaning something to you. I did a different person or a pet every year and it just became really special.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's wonderful. Well, great work. It looks really nice and I'm sure your dad is proud and I'm sure it meant a lot to your dad. Okay. Thank you very much. 

Tell me your name, 

Audrey:
Audrey

Anthony Godfrey:
Audrey, talk to me about your altar.

Audrey:
This was my great grandfather Stanley Jones. He had his own construction company. He really liked York Peppermint Patties. He used to do carpet cleaning before he did construction, and he really liked animals.

Anthony Godfrey:
Who are some of the other people that you honored? 

Audrey:
My mom had a friend who’s son died of a brain tumor, so I did him. I've done my grandma and my grandpa and my great grandma.

Anthony Godfrey:
Very nice. Well, obviously it's had an impact on you and I really appreciate your talking with me about the altar. All right, thanks. Great job. 

Tell me your name.

Sofia:
Sofia

Anthony Godfrey:
Sofia, talk to me about the altar. Who are you honoring here?

Sofia:
So this is my grandma. Her name is Grandma Beryl. She's my dad's grandma and my great-grandma. She died the day after Mother's Day, this Mother's Day. She really liked chocolate. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh yeah? Do you like chocolate as well?

Sofia:
Sometimes it depends on the type. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Not as much as she did though. Huh. Obviously she just passed away recently, so you know her.

Sofia:
We would usually go to her house for family dinners. I think she had four sons.

Anthony Godfrey:
What do you know about her because of this project?

Sofia:
I learned that she hated peaches, but she would can them every year for her husband because her husband loved peaches.

Anthony Godfrey:
So she hated peaches, but loved her husband. Oh, that's really cool. So what do you think about this project?

Sofia:
It's really fun because you get to learn a lot of things about your ancestors and it's a fun way to just learn.

Anthony Godfrey:
Who are some of the other people you've honored over the years?

Sofia 5:
I think I honored my dad's great grandpa and the wife of his great-grandfather.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Well that looks really nice. I love the roses and the circle around the picture of her face. Is that a picture of you and her in the heart there? 

Sofia:
Yeah. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Wow. I really like that. And the candles that you have lit electronically they're on top of the altar and the beautiful designs on those candle holders. Is this a project that you'll remember after elementary school? 

Sofia:
Yeah. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. It's had an impact on you. Okay. Thank you very much for talking with me about that. That's very cool. Thank you. 

Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

She is bringing out the inner artist in young students with creativity and confidence. On this episode of the Supercast, we meet an amazing visual arts teacher at Westvale Elementary School helping students realize their potential by engaging them in art projects that are fun and exciting. Find out what happens when Superintendent Godfrey gets his hands on some clay in the class.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. She's bringing out the inner artist in young students with creativity and confidence. On this episode of the Supercast, we meet an amazing visual arts teacher at Westvale Elementary School, helping students realize their potential and possibilities by engaging them in art projects that are both fun and exciting. We're here with Mrs. Rachel Henderson, who is the visual arts educator for Westvale Elementary. Thanks for spending time with us today.

Rachel Henderson:
Thanks for coming, appreciate it.

Anthony Godfrey:
The reason I'm here is because I was at the school for some other reasons, walking around, and I saw your room. I couldn't resist it and I wanted to know more about it. So we're back and I just want to find out, first of all, tell us a little bit about your background in coming to this position. Then let's talk about what you do here and why it's so important.

Rachel Henderson:
Okay, great. So I have my degree in fine arts, so I have a BFA. I got that in Idaho and moved here with my husband's job. When you get your kids into the school system, they ask you to come and do PTA. So we do PTA. They ask you to come volunteer. So I did all those things. Then all of a sudden they're like, “Hey, you have a teaching degree, come teach for us.” So it kind of just fell into my lap. I've been teaching art here for about eight years now. My degree is in secondary, but I have a certification for elementary. So they hired me through the BTS, Beverley Taylor Sorenson Learning Arts Program. They hired me through that program, which is amazing. I've been doing it ever since, and I just love it the best job ever. I can't think of anything I'd rather do.

Anthony Godfrey:
The BTS program is really exciting because it has allowed us to expand the art offerings, performing and visual, in all of our elementary schools so that everyone has a specialist or a teacher that can help out. I love your enthusiasm for it. Your enthusiasm is obvious as you look around the classroom. There is not a square inch that isn't covered with something related to art, and yet it all feels very calm and very inviting. Can you tell me a little bit about what you have up around the classroom here to draw kids in? 

Rachel Henderson:
So I figure you better be, you know, inspired by the art room. I've got hard work cut out for me. So I just like to make it colorful. I want it happy. No matter what's going on with the kids during the day, I want them to come into the art room and be happy. Kind of have that aha moment like, ‘oh, I can breathe. I can relax. I can just be’. So the happier I can make it the better. The more inspiring I can make it the better. So color to me is the obvious choice. We take advantage of the rainbow for sure.

Anthony Godfrey:
Everything is color-coded and there are lots of messages that jump out. One of them, ‘The growth mindset versus the fixed mindset’. I suppose you probably run into that when teaching art. “I'm not an artist, so I don't, you know, I'm not good at art.” How do you address that? 

Rachel Henderson:
So our first project, this year, addresses that head on. We did a little project by Peter Reynolds, The Dot. It's about a little girl who's very, very unsure of herself. Doesn't think she's an artist. Doesn't think she can draw or do anything. Her teacher just gives her great advice and says, 'make a mark and see where it goes.' Our whole job is to really just give them a creative environment for them to let their creativity show through. So I'm not saying 'this is the next step, this is the next step.' I want to see what they can create by giving them some inspiration around the room, by showing them a few techniques, showing them different supplies. I love to put art supplies in front of kids that have never had them before. So they can explore, they can create, and then they discover what they like and what they want to make. So really it's just about letting them show me what they can create. Giving them the freedom and the space to do that in. 

Anthony Godfrey:
I love that. Part of what's fun for me is that you get the material in front of you. Whether it's clay or a watercolor crayon or whatever else. There's an instant impact from what you've done. You've created something right off the bat and you want to hone it and you want to improve it, but there's an impact. There's a sense of efficacy right away and not everything we do during the day has that. But art does offer that sense of efficacy and the sense of playfulness and creativity. I like the way you described that. Ken Robinson talked about an industrial approach to education versus an agricultural approach. The agricultural, creating that fertile atmosphere for learning and creativity. I love that you've created that fertile atmosphere. Like you say, you put the materials in front, you create this great environment and then you allow them to express themselves.

Rachel Henderson:
Exactly. That's the goal anyway.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me about some of the materials that you have around here. First of all, yarn, paper plates, glue. I wish my entire life were as organized as your room is.

Rachel Henderson:
We’ve got a little of everything. Everyone else's trash is the art room's treasure. We can make a project out of almost anything. So that's another plus in my job is to expose the kids to more than just paper and pencil, right? We get to explore a little bit more.

Anthony Godfrey:
I've never seen quite an array of not only paintbrushes, I think you have every size of paintbrush and foam paintbrush I can imagine, but you have like nine colors of tape as well.

Rachel Henderson:
We do. We make good use of all the colors around us, right? We'll incorporate that in one project or another.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us. When we come back, we'll hear from some students about their canvas in the classroom.

Break:
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Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me your names and what grade are you in? You're both in sixth grade? Okay, cool. What are you working on here?

Student #1:
These are like dots from the book. It talks about the dot and you can make anything with just a blank piece of paper.

Anthony Godfrey:
So what are you making with your blank piece of paper? 

Student #1:
Types of like balls and like shapes in them.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. So what do you have here? What is this? Describe this to me.

Student #2:
So it's supposed to be a baseball. So I did the Xs first in a white crayon, and then I put red over it for the like side streaks, and then I put white in the background.

Anthony Godfrey:
Why did you choose a baseball?

Student #2:
Because it's one of my friend's favorite sports.

Anthony Godfrey:
How did you get these Xs? You did that with a white crayon in advance?

Student #2:
Yeah. 

Student #1:
That's how I did the flower and the star.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. So you did the flower and star the same way? What are some of the favorite projects that you remember doing?

Student #1:
In third grade, a turtle, like a clay turtle.

Anthony Godfrey:
You remember making a clay turtle back in third grade huh? Tell me about the clay turtle.

Student #1:
We sculpted it, then we created it and colored on it.  And we made a habitat.

Anthony Godfrey:
You made a habitat too? Where does your turtle live? What kind of habitat? Was it a city turtle or a country turtle? 

Student #1:
Country.

Anthony Godfrey:
Country turtle. So you made a pond? What was the pond made out of?

Student #1:
Paper and like Sharpies.

Anthony Godfrey:
Hmm. What's your favorite project?

Student #2:
Definitely when we did our portrait, like half of our face.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you did a portrait that was half of your face. So like a profile? What medium did you use? Was that a pastel, gouache, watercolor? 

Rachel Henderson:
I think we did, was it crayon? Was it crayon and then watercolor crayon, and then colored pencil. We used a little bit of everything, right? 

Anthony Godfrey:
What's a watercolor crayon?

Student #2:
It's like a normal crayon, except when you color it and then you put water over it and then it kind of looks like paint.

Anthony Godfrey:
Are there any of those around that we could check out? All right. We're going to check out a watercolor crayon. What did you like about your portrait?

Student #2:
How we got to like, like everything about it. It was really fun to make.

Anthony Godfrey:
Do you still have it? 

Student #2:
Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
Where did you put it? 

Student #2:
Up in my room.

Anthony Godfrey:
When you said, “yeah”, it's like, well, obviously I still had it. Yes. So you have it up in your room. What other work do you have in your room from this class? 

Student #2:
It was in third grade when we did the equations. Where you had to make up an equation and you had to kind of like disguise it, but they had to try to guess the equation that you did.

Anthony Godfrey:
So did you start with an equation and then make it into an image? Or how did that work?

Student #2:
So you came up with an image or not an image, an equation, like a multiplication equation. Cause we were in like third grade, so you always multiply. So you choose the numbers, you write them. Well, you wouldn't fully write them down, but you would like make them into something else other than the actual number. Then you'd have to go through the entire paper doing like, let's say you did two, then you'd have to do how you did the two the same way down the paper. So they have to kind of like, guess the equation that you did.

Rachel Henderson:
Do you want to show him how these work, guys?

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. Let's see how those watercolor crayons work. I think you kids call it a mashup. Is that correct? Combining those two things. Oh no, you didn't have to do it on that work of art, but is it feeling right? Does it feel right to add it to that one right there? Okay. Good. 

Student #2:
So you color in whatever you're coloring in.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Do you mind if I tried a little bit just to see if it feels like your regular crayon, am I going to mess it up? All right. Let me know if I go astray. I'm pushing a little bit hard to start with. So it feels maybe it resists a little bit more than a normal crayon, a little more drag,

Student #2:
A little nicer. 

Anthony Godfrey:
That's a good color. Okay. Keep going. Sorry. I got carried away. I kept coloring once I got started.

Student #2:
So after you color the whole thing in where you want it to be colored in.

Anthony Godfrey:
It just looks like crayon so far. 

Student #2:
Yeah. And then you go 

Anthony Godfrey:
There’s some white paper showing through. Are you going to color it all the way to that end too? Or do you need to?

Student #2:
Yeah, in a second.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. Sorry. I got in the way of your process. Go ahead.

Student #2:
Then you take water and it will start like going together.

Anthony Godfrey:
Oh, I like that. So it kind of blends as you've just put the water over there. Yeah. Yeah. That's nice. Now it doesn't make a totally solid color yet. Now you use this for your portraits, huh? That's nice. I can see that working out nicely.

Student #2:
We did like a cityscape and it was like where you were looking up at like tall buildings. Then we would color these in and then we would paint them with water.

Anthony Godfrey:
Lots of different colors of the buildings. Okay. You have a really interested me in this turtle project, can you show me a couple of those methods that they learn in first and second grade?

Rachel Henderson:
Here is our clay bin and we have colored clay. I usually get them going with white. Little pouch, just perfect for little hands so that they can also paint it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Can we try it with big hands? 

Rachel Henderson:
Yes, absolutely. No, you're great. You just tear it open. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Now these are all for those listening and these are all single serving packs of clay.

Rachel Henderson:
Perfect. For little hands.

Anthony Godfrey:
All right, Crayola Model Magic. Bust it open. It is great because it's nice and soft. All right. Well, let's see. I'm going to pull up a brightly colored stool, even the stools are color coded. Okay. So tell me what's one of the methods that you teach them in first or second grade, that would help me make a turtle.

Rachel Henderson:
In first and second grade, we learned how to do things like pinch pots. Exactly what you're doing with the clay right now. You're working it with your hands. You're working it with your fingertips, pinching it, getting that sticky feeling gone so it can make a shape. 

Anthony Godfrey:
I just started doing that, I couldn’t resist it. It feels good.

Rachel Henderson:
It is. It’s very tactile. Kids want to do it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Plus, nobody else touched it. It's only mine. 

Rachel Henderson:
It’s purely yours. Everyone gets their own. They don't have to share.

Anthony Godfrey:
All right. So now I've kind of kneaded it a little bit and played with it. So what happens next? 

Rachel Henderson:
The thing about clay, the thing I love the most is that it's so forgiving, right? If we make a mistake with clay, guess what you do? You roll it back into a ball and you get to start over. There's no tears. Everything can be redone. It's all okay.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yes. I'll bet you do encounter some tears when a project isn’t going just this way and ‘oh no, I messed up.’ 

Rachel Henderson:
We’ve got some perfectionists with us for sure.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's a good lesson too. How do you fix the mistake? 

Rachel Henderson:
That’s a lot of over time saying, “It’s all about the process. Not so much about a beautiful finished product, but the process. What did you learn? How did you feel when you were making this? Was it a good experience?” And 9 times out of 10 it is. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Another great lesson that transfers to other classes and to life in general. So I've pinched.

Rachel Henderson:
So roll it into a ballI. Roll it into a ball and we'll do a simple pinch pot.

Anthony Godfrey:
Should I roll it against the table? Is that the best way to do it?

Rachel Henderson:
You can do either one. I have the kids roll it on the table, they roll it in their hands. That way, if they have this supply at home, they can do it at home.

Anthony Godfrey:
All right. Now I'm feeling perfectionist because it's feeling more like a 20 sided die than like a round piece.

Rachel Henderson:
We say all the time, there's no perfect in art, right? There's no perfect in art. Perfection does not exist. We do not strive for it.

Anthony Godfrey:
So if there's no perfect, then you are excused from trying to pursue that. Right?

Rachel Henderson:
Right. Then you're free to just work and try your hardest. So we have a ball and now the essence of a pinch pot is to take your thumb and just push right in almost making a small donut. Right. You don't go all the way through the clay. You just make that round little circle. And then, because it's called a pinch pot, we take the ends of our fingers and we just start pinching. We start pinching and pulling and pinching and pulling. We're making a circular shape and we're working the clay up as we go. And from time to time, we'll get saucers that are flat, that don't keep the shape. So we show them little techniques. I'll show you.

Anthony Godfrey:
I've got a little bubble forming.

Rachel Henderson:
There's different things with the clay that you can do. So if you're like, ‘oh, this is more of a bowl, not a pot.’ I can say, let's fold it back in. Let's make it more upright. Let's fold it back in. Like I said, clay’s very forgiving, right? We can always smooth things out later.  Hold your hand in a cupping shape. Use the end of the table to make a nice lip. There are lots of little tricks you can do. We don't even need any tools for this. This is just our hands. We're going around and around. If we wanted to add maybe a stem or if we wanted to add a handle, we could pull some clay off there and do that. But then at the end we dry them upright, so they're little domes. Then the following week, they come back and they get to paint them. So that's a very simple project. And this actually, incidentally is the shell for our turtle. So skills that they learned way back when we utilize again, when they come back for third grade.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, I think it's great that first, second and third grade, there's this progression of skills. And that the sixth graders we talked to remembered the turtle as their very favorite project right off the bat.

Rachel Henderson:
It’s a favorite for sure. 

Anthony Godfrey:
That's really cool. Okay. Well, um, what is the fate of my turtle? I guess I will just smash him back into the clay from whence he came.

Rachel Henderson:
The beauty of clay. Roll back into a ball, put it in a bag and you can come back to it another time.

Anthony Godfrey:
That this feels really good. When you had it in your hands showing me stuff, I kind of wanted it back. Because it's quite fun.

Rachel Henderson:
Very relaxing.

Anthony Godfrey:
Very nice. All right. I'm going to put it back in your package here. What ideas do you have for parents who may want to incorporate more art in their kids' lives or give them more of a creative outlet at home?

Rachel Henderson:
This was really apparent when we went on soft closure, right? We had lots of kiddos that were like, ‘wait a minute, Ms. Henderson, I don't have clay at my house. I don't have watercolor crayons at my house.’ And I assured them, there were numerous things we did online with pencil and paper. If you could just give your children pencil and paper, and time, and a space. I've noticed that if there was a designated spot in the house or a designated space for them, they felt more free to create. Rather than cluttered with everything else. So if you just give them a little space, paper, and pencil, there is no end to what they can do.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for letting me get a little taste of what the kids get to experience here. It's obviously a great experience for them and an important part of their education here at Westvale. So thanks again.

Rachel Henderson:
Thank you. Appreciate you coming.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.