BGHS students admitted to WSU prepare for transition to college

posted by Joe Vajgrt   [ updated ]

BGHS students admitted to wsu prepare for transition to college

March 23, 2017

Yesterday, admissions representatives from Washington State University hosted an informational 'Celebration Lunch' for Battle Ground High School seniors who have been admitted to the college this coming fall. The incoming Cougars munched on pizza in BGHS' College and Career Center while learning about the transition from high school to college and the steps that need to be completed before enrolling in classes in the fall.

The topics covered included financial aid, making arrangements for university housing, taking math and writing placement exams, submitting transcripts and other documentation, advising and registration, new student orientations, accessibility accommodations, and paying advance tuition and housing deposits. 

Congratulations, seniors! Best of luck as you continue your academic careers at the next level. 

Battle Ground receives $25,000 grant for Computer Integrated Manufacturing at PHS

posted by Joe Vajgrt

Battle Ground receives $25,000 grant for Computer Integrated Manufacturing at PHS

March 23, 2017

Battle Ground Public Schools has received a $25,000 grant to purchase new equipment for Prairie High School’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) class. The grant is from Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a non-profit organization that provides hands-on curricula in the fields of computer science, engineering, and biomedical science.

The primary goals of PLTW classes are to build enthusiasm while developing in-demand skills and providing students with an opportunity to explore careers through hands-on learning and real-life problem solving. Prairie's CIM course illustrates the opportunities related to manufacturing by teaching students about modern manufacturing processes, product design, robotics, and automation.  

“The Computer Integrated Manufacturing class provides a unique opportunity to prepare students for their next step after high school,” said Cindy Arnold, the district’s director of career and technical education. “This class bridges engineering design with a more traditional shop class, which provides excellent training for the skills required by modern manufacturing jobs.”

Students in the CIM class build upon their Computer Aided Design (CAD) experience through the use of Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software. With this software, students import a digital design into a program that a Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) mill uses to transform a block of raw material into a product designed by a student. Students learn and apply concepts related to integrating robotics, such as Automated Guided Vehicles and robotic arms, into manufacturing systems.

The $25,000 grant will be used to purchase a new CNC mill and robotic arm bundle for PHS, ensuring that the classroom is properly outfitted to fully take advantage of the curriculum. Project Lead the Way was first introduced to the district at the middle school level through Pleasant Valley’s Design and Modeling and Robotics courses. Since then, the district has added PLTW classes at Daybreak and Tukes Valley middle schools, providing a gateway for more students to transition to related high school courses.
PHS teacher Rob Smith has already noticed the difference. “Thanks to the middle school Project Lead the Way classes, incoming freshmen are able to hit the ground running by the time they reach my classroom,” Smith said. “Technology is completely changing what's possible, and no matter whether students are looking to enter the workforce right after graduating high school or plan on going to college, these classes and the equipment provided by the grant will help our students be as prepared and qualified as possible.”

Computer Integrated Manufacturing is the third and most recent PLTW class offered at PHS, joining Introduction to Engineering Design and Principles of Engineering. Students have the option to take Introduction to Engineering Design in place of required fine arts credits, and Principals of Engineering can take the place of physics.

“The next generation of technology and manufacturing jobs requires highly skilled and trained employees,” Smith said. “This grant will help ensure that our students are ready.”

Battle Ground High School ceramics students impress at art show

posted Mar 15, 2017, 4:26 PM by Joe Vajgrt

Battle Ground High School ceramics students impress at art show 

March 15, 2017

Ceramics teacher Tamra Galles will readily admit that she can’t teach students how to be creative. She can, however, teach her students good craftsmanship, which she says is key to producing quality work. That idea is certainly paying off, as evidenced by her students’ impressive results in the 2017 Southwest Washington Regional High School Art Show. The annual event, sponsored by the Educational Service District (ESD) 112 in Vancouver, is on now through April 7.

This year’s art show received 278 student submissions from high schools throughout the six-county region of southwest Washington. Of these, 20 pieces received Regional Awards and will advance to compete against entries from around Washington in the Annual State Superintendent of Public Instruction Art Show in Olympia in April.

Remarkably, six of the eight student pieces submitted by Galles were selected by ESD 112 to receive awards. Students in her ceramics classes claimed four of the 20 Regional Awards, and two students also won ESD 112 Awards. The six total awards granted to BGHS students were the most given to a single school in the entire regional competition.

“I’m very proud of my students,” Galles said . “Their success in receiving these awards is a reflection of their skills and hard work, and I’m thrilled that they’re being recognized beyond our classroom.”

Regional Winners were selected by participating judges and were scored based on four 
criteria: originality, composition, emotion and technique. The BGHS students who won Regional Awards are Gillian Kandoll for her piece "Red Oni," Isaac Davisson’s "Into the Void," Kylie Smithline’s "Untitled 1," and Dixie Anderson’s "Weaved Pot.” The submissions that received ESD 112 Awards were Matthew Harmon’s “Face Mug” and Kylie Smithline’s "Untitled 2." 

After teaching at Amboy Middle School for five years, Galles is now in her second year of teaching ceramics at Battle Ground High School. Galles says that when she was in college studying art, she didn’t enjoy ceramics as much as painting and drawing, but that she’s since found a passion for teaching it.
“I’m still learning methods and techniques to improve my own abilities, and I think this makes me a more effective instructor for my students,” Galles said. “I can pass on the new things I learn directly to them while they’re still fresh in my mind. It’s been very rewarding seeing my students absorb knowledge and then immediately apply it to their projects.”

Later this spring, Galles is taking eight students to the National Conference for the Education of Ceramic Arts. The two-day event is being held in Portland this year and will provide a unique learning opportunity for Galles and her ceramics students.

Now in its 44th year, the Southwest Washington Regional High School Art Show is one of the few opportunities for area art students to receive wider recognition and exposure for their work. You can see the students’ artwork on display through April 7 at ESD 112’s office, located at 2500 NE 65th Ave. in Vancouver.

Chief Umtuch students shape school culture through new clubs

posted Mar 9, 2017, 11:19 AM by Joe Vajgrt

Chief Umtuch students shape school culture through new clubs

March 9, 2017

Students at Chief Umtuch Middle School made it clear in their feedback: they wanted more responsibility and opportunities to be directly involved with shaping the culture of their school. Students provided the feedback on a bi-annual Healthy Youth Survey that measures health behaviors in Washington youth.

Armed with the knowledge that their students wanted to be more involved, Principal Beth Beattie and Assistant Principal Matt Kesler collaborated with the school’s teachers and developed several new groups and activities to support a variety of student interests and provide multiple opportunities for students to be heard.

“It was apparent that giving our students more ownership and responsibility was an ideal way to strengthen their connection to the school,” Beattie said. “It’s important for our students to have a voice and to know that their voice is being heard.”

Chief Umtuch Middle School's efforts are helping the Battle Ground Public School district to reach its social-emotional goals of providing a variety of activities that enhance the educational experience and supporting and promoting the well-being of students. "Chief is a great example of a school that has listened to its students and provided supports that meet them exactly where they are," said Sandy Mathewson, the district's director of social-emotional learning.

When it comes to implementing successful social-emotional learning programs and supports, providing multiple avenues for student voice and engagement is key. At Chief, students have five new groups in which to help make a difference at their school: Chief Positive, Sources of Strength, Yearbook Crew, Green Team, and Prevention Club.

One group, Chief Positive (Chief+), supports the district’s efforts to implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in schools. PBIS is a system that helps support staff and students by creating predictable, consistent, positive and safe schools.  The students in Chief+ work with sixth grade teacher Jim Thompson, who is the school’s PBIS lead, to create activities and policies that recognize students who are “caught” doing the right thing.

“Chief Positive has three main messages: be safe, be engaged, and be respectful,” Assistant Principal Kesler said. “Students in Chief Positive spread this message throughout the school and help us find ways to acknowledge students in ways that are most meaningful and impactful to them.”

Sources of Strength, or SOS, is the largest group on campus. The 80 student leaders and eight adult mentors help communicate ways for students to be resilient, even after adverse childhood experiences.  SOS takes an innovative, upstream approach to prevention by focusing on strengths, resiliency and connectedness rather than risk factors, warning signs and sources of trauma.  The mission of SOS is to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse by increasing help-seeking behaviors and promoting connections between peers and caring adults.  The SOS students at Chief lead assemblies and organize school spirit weeks, among other activities.

In addition to SOS and Chief+, the school also has a Yearbook Crew with about 20 participating students; a Green Team with 12 students; and Prevention Club with 45 students. The Green Team helps with school recycling projects and recently conducted a school-wide trash and recycling audit to identify areas of potential improvement. Prevention Club is focused on promoting healthful behaviors and educating students about the dangers of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use.

When students first provided survey feedback that they wanted to have more responsibility in their school, the sole student group on campus was the Associated Student Body (ASB). This group consisted of 16 students who helped shape school culture by organizing and running school assemblies and other social functions such as school dances. With the addition of the five new groups, more than 130 students actively participate in shaping their school culture.

“These new clubs help students feel engaged and give them a renewed sense of ownership at their school,” Principal Beattie said. “Each and every student should know that they belong here at Chief, and these new clubs are a huge step in the right direction.”

Students make healthy comfort foods for 2017 Future Chefs Challenge

posted Mar 6, 2017, 3:50 PM by Joe Vajgrt

Students make healthy comfort foods for 2017 Future Chefs Challenge

March 6, 2017

Primary students from Battle Ground Public Schools will apply their creative culinary talents to making healthy comfort food recipes in Sodexo’s 2017 Future Chefs Challenge on Wednesday, March 22 at Prairie High School, 11311 NE 119th Street in Vancouver. 

Finalists will prepare their recipes and present them to a panel of judges, who will assess the culinary creations for originality, taste, ease of presentation, kid friendliness and use of healthy ingredients. Ninety-eight primary school students submitted healthy comfort food recipes for the contest, and 15 were selected to participate in the district-wide finals event.

The winning recipe from Battle Ground Public Schools will be considered for a regional award, and regional finalists will vie to become one of five national finalists competing for the public’s vote on

The national initiative, now in its seventh year, was created by Sodexo to get students thinking about making healthy food choices while also encouraging them to get active and creative in the kitchen. Battle Ground Public Schools contracts with Sodexo to provide the district's nutrition services.

Students will prepare their dishes from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, with judging taking place immediately after. Awards will be presented soon after judging has concluded. 

Daybreak 5th graders touch beating fish hearts

posted Mar 2, 2017, 3:26 PM by Joe Vajgrt   [ updated Mar 2, 2017, 5:37 PM by Rita Sanders ]

Daybreak 5th graders tough beating fish hearts

March 2, 2017
Thank you to Katie Woollven, the Salmon in the Classroom coordinator at Columbia Springs, for contributing to this story

“Gross, but AWESOME!” That's how students usually describe the fish dissections from the Salmon in the Classroom (SITC) program, and this year certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, the students in Mike Walsh’s fifth grade science class at Daybreak Middle School got to see and touch not one, but TWO beating fish hearts, and we’ve got the video to prove it:

According to Walsh, the SITC program fits perfectly into Washington State’s learning standards for science, also known nationally as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). “The Salmon in the Classroom projects provide opportunities for our kids to learn about living systems as well as environments,” Walsh said. “The kids love the tactile, hands-on experience, even if the dissections gross them out a little bit.” 

Walsh’s students are learning about environmental stewardship by raising salmon throughout the school year. Sponsored by Columbia Springs and Clark Public Utilities, the SITC program has been providing hands-on education for students throughout Clark County since 1991. 

The SITC program gives students the opportunity to learn about local habitats, the interrelationships between species within their local watersheds, and the importance of keeping our environment healthy and clean. Multiple lesson plans around this program allow students to interact with material for the full year.

During the dissection portion of the project, students' first challenge is to remove structures that the fish uses for movement, protection, breathing, and sensing. Students then look at those structures under a microscope. Students look for evidence that will help them answer all sorts of questions, such as: Do salmon have taste buds? Do they have teeth? Do they have eyelids? Do the fins have bones? What color are the gills? Why are they shaped that way?

When the dissection shifts to focus on internal anatomy, students continue to lead the investigation. Students perform the main incision and identify all the internal organs before completing additional challenges.  

The first challenge is to identify the two chambers of the fish's heart. They answer the questions: Which is the tough, muscular ventricle, and which is the darker-colored atrium? Pacemaker cells can be found near the atrium. If stimulated, these pacemaker cells can make a fish's heart beat long after it's dead. This is a test of patience - students must do the incision carefully and correctly, not damage the heart, keep the heart inside the fish's body, correctly identify the chambers, and gently touch the atrium without damaging it. It is a memorable experience for those students who see a beating heart.

Salmonid dissections are a full-sensory experience, which you can see from these reflections from a student in Walsh's class:

Battle Ground High School taps Mike Kesler for head football coach

posted Feb 23, 2017, 4:49 PM by Joe Vajgrt   [ updated Feb 23, 2017, 4:55 PM ]

battle ground high school taps mike kesler for head football coach

February 23, 2017

Battle Ground Public Schools has hired Mike Kesler to be the next head football coach of the Battle Ground High School Tigers football team, pending board approval. Kesler, the head of security for the district and a former Washington State Patrol Trooper, brings over 25 years of football coaching experience to the position.

"Mike brings a vast wealth of knowledge and experience as a football coach to Battle Ground High," said Matt Stanfill, Battle Ground High School's athletic director and an assistant principal. “Mike coaches with a great deal of heart and is dedicated to challenging our kids to be the best versions of themselves both on and off the field. We’re looking forward to building on our solid foundation, and we’re thrilled to have Mike on board as head coach.”

Kesler attended Lincoln High School in Seattle, earning all-league honors as a defensive and offensive lineman in 1975. After graduating, Kesler attended Walla Walla Community College and was named a National Junior College First Team All-American in 1977 before wrapping up his college-playing career at the University of Oregon, where he played defensive line from 1978-1980. 

"I'm excited about the opportunity I have before me, and I'm ready for the challenge,” Kesler said. “We are in the profession of encouraging, developing, and building young men of character, and it is a privilege to call yourself a coach. Our ultimate challenge is not in defeating our opponents on the field, but in continually overcoming our weaknesses and adversity to become the best we can be in all aspects of our lives.”

From 1991-2009, Kesler was a head coach and league commissioner for Clark County Youth Football. Mike also served an assistant coach at Evergreen High School from 1997-2007 and at Union High School from 2007-2016. Over this span, Mike’s teams compiled a record of 115-32, won six league championships, played in four semi-final games, two state championship games, and won the WIAA 4A state title at Evergreen High School in 2004.

Battle Ground High School is in the 4A division of the Greater St. Helens League. Kesler replaces Larry Peck, who resigned for family and personal reasons but remains a teacher at BGHS. Peck was the coach for the previous six years, and led the team to a state berth in 2015 for the first time in over two decades. 

AFJROTC cadets receive high honors at Regional Air Rifle Championships

posted Feb 23, 2017, 1:34 PM by Joe Vajgrt   [ updated Feb 23, 2017, 1:40 PM ]

AFJROTC cadets receive high honors at Regional Air Rifle Championships

February 23, 2017

 by BGHS student and AFJROTC Public Affairs cadet C/T Sgt Sandra Fachiol. Photos courtesy of parent Diane Harpe.

Cadets from the Air Force Junior Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs at Battle Ground and Prairie high schools received high honors recently at the JROTC Western Regional Air Rifle Championships in Las Vegas, including top prizes for two individual students.  More than 290 cadets from seven states representing all service branches gathered at the Cashman Center for the three-day event held Feb. 9-11.  

When all the shots were fired and the scores tallied, cadets Kaci McCrary, a senior at PHS, and Taylor Harpe, a sophomore at BGHS, captured first and second place, respectively, in the Air Force JROTC Precision rifle class. Their efforts qualified them for the All-Service National Championships to be held in Anniston, Ala. in March. The pair are the only two cadets to qualify individually from among the nearly 900 Air Force JROTC units in the nation.  

Kaci McCrary began shooting with JROTC as a freshman. As a sophomore, she competed in the Civilian Marksmanship Program national competition in Utah. Last December, USA Shooting invited her to compete at the Olympic Training Center for the Winter Open Air Gun competition.  She is now ranked as the number three shooter in the nation for Air Force JROTC. Kaci will graduate in June and is pursuing a career in international business management.

Taylor Harpe is a sophomore who began shooting competitively in Air Force JROTC last year and quickly surfaced as a natural in the sport. A member of the 2016 BGHS team that went to the Western Regionals in Utah, Harpe is now ranked as the number four shooter in the nation for Air Force JROTC. Taylor is actively pursuing academic excellence through Advanced Placement (AP) courses and aspires to attend a service academy after he graduates. 

Marksmanship is a co-curriculum activity in the Air Force JROTC portfolio, and each school hosts teams in the Sporter Class and Precision Class. The sport requires the shooter to fire at targets 10 meters away from three different positions: prone, standing (off-hand), and kneeling. While a perfect score over the course of the three target sets is 600, thousands of practice shots are fired in preparation leading up to the competition.

Photo at top right: PHS senior Kaci McCreary. Pictured at left:  BGHS sophomore Taylor Harpe

Prairie High School Drama set to perform 'Catch Me If You Can'

posted Feb 22, 2017, 4:50 PM by Joe Vajgrt

Prairie High School Drama set to perform 'Catch Me If You Can'

February 22, 2017

Prairie High School Drama will present “Catch Me If You Can” beginning March 16. Produced by special arrangement with Musical Theatre International, the play follows the adventures of Frank Abagnale Jr., a suburban kid in the early 1960s who leaves home before graduating from high school and parlays a gift for telling tall tales and forging checks into an around-the-world spree.

Based on the book by Terrance McNally and featuring a score composed by Marc McNally and Scott Wittman, PHS Drama’s show runs March 16-18 and 24-25. Performances will be at Prairie High School, 11311 NE 119th St., Vancouver. Tickets can be purchased online at and cost $6.50 for students, $8.50 for senior citizens, and $12.50 for adults. Tickets can also be purchased at the door just prior to each performance, but will cost more than tickets that are sold in advance online.  
The performance dates and times are as follows:

Thursday, March 16 at 7:00 p.m.
Friday, March 17 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m.
Friday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 25 at 1:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m.

Battle Ground Public Schools receives $25,000 grant to support homeless students

posted Feb 16, 2017, 2:58 PM by Joe Vajgrt

battle ground public schools receives $25,000 grant to support homeless students

February 16, 2017

Battle Ground Public Schools (BGPS) has received a $25,000 grant from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for the development of a volunteer program that will help teach resilience skills to district students faced with housing instability.

According to the National Center for Homeless Education, a student who is considered homeless (lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence) and unaccompanied (not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian) can be identified as an unaccompanied homeless youth under the McKinney-Vento Act. These are the students this program seeks to support by providing individualized, one-on-one resilience coaching from qualified volunteers. 

The resilience coaching program is a joint effort between BGPS’ Family and Community Resource Center (FCRC) and Connect Battle Ground (Connect BG), a local nonprofit that will help identify and train resilience coaches to work with the district’s unaccompanied youth.

“This program will help provide a positive trajectory for these students,” said Lydia Sanders, the district’s family resource services coordinator. “Resilience coaches will be powerful advocates for instilling hope and confidence in youth as well as assisting students with reaching specific goals they have for their lives. This will go a long way towards helping them become happy, healthy, independent adults.”  

“Building a system guided by resilience coaches will help students navigate their growth as they build confidence, said Curtis Miller, executive director of Connect BG. “Having a network of volunteer coaches who speak a common language and provide these kids with structure and support will be highly effective in helping them to establish life plans and achieve their long-term goals.”

The program is seeking volunteer resilience coaches to meet with an unaccompanied student about once per week. Volunteers will receive training before being assigned to and meeting with a student. Ongoing training will also be provided. Sanders and Miller say that coaches should be prepared to volunteer about 10-12 hours per month for training, and meeting and communicating with a student.

“Volunteering to be a resilience coach is probably the most effective, hands-on way to have a positive impact in our local community” Sanders said. “Over and over again, I’ve witnessed the transformative effect that just one person can have in helping a struggling student simply by being a positive role model and assisting them with organizational and life skills goals.”  

If you’re interested in becoming a resilience coach for an unaccompanied homeless youth, please contact ConnectBG at (360)399-6445 or email The BGPS Family and Community Resource Center can be reached at (360) 885-5434.

More information about the Family and Community Resource Center is available at More information about Connect BG can be found online  at

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