A big day for Valley education

Tracy Petroske, Patrick “PJ” Duvall and Nancy Pastrana are the Valley’s Educators of the Year. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Tracy Petroske, Patrick “PJ” Duvall and Nancy Pastrana are the Valley’s Educators of the Year.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Sampling everything from electronic classroom ‘clickers’ to African drums, Valley schools supporters got a taste of the many ways the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation helps local teachers and students at the foundation’s spring luncheon fundraiser.

Nearly 300 people gathered last Thursday, March 26, at the Snoqualmie Ridge TPC for the fundraiser, the biggest luncheon yet for the foundation. Honored were the three Snoqualmie Valley educators of the year — Mount Si math instructor Tracy Petroske, Opstad Elementary teacher Nancy Pastrana and Fall City custodian Patrick “PJ” Duvall.

The three educators were surprised in their workplaces last month with the news that they were chosen as model educators for their community.

“I was shocked, actually,” said Duvall.

Duvall is deaf, but the children at Fall City Elementary know he cares about them, even though he doesn’t always say it with spoken words.

As he goes about his tasks, Duvall says ‘hi’, or flashes a thumbs’ up.

Several Fall City students want to learn sign language, and they send him a ‘hi’ sign when they get the chance.

“I’m always smiling at them,” Duvall said.

Pastrana is in her 30th year as an educator.

“It gets better every year,” she said. “It’s always changing, it’s never the same.”

Pastrana credits the schools foundation for being there with resources that might not be available otherwise.

“It’s nice to know there’s another place to go,” she said.

Opstad parent Shelley Huestis said her daughter Dora helped nominate Pastrana for the award.

“She has talked about Mrs. Pastrana all year long,” Huestis said. Excited about class, Dora cried when she missed a day of school.

“Mrs. Pastrana is the most organized person I’ve ever met,” Huestis added. “Most of the teachers have said they want to be like Mrs. Pastrana.”


Diners at the luncheon got a chance to handle the ActivExpressions remotes, or ‘clickers,’ used by Valley students. The devices help draw students into learning, allowing them to instantly answer in-class questions, and provide quick feedback for teachers. The foundation seeks to make the clickers available throughout the district.

“I wish that they had these in school, because I might be able to handle my computer and audio-visual remotes more easily,” quipped diner Phil Harrington of Snoqualmie.

Mount Si teacher Ryan Hill asked each table of attendees to text in their one-word assessment of the clickers. The winner, by far, was the word “cool.”

Heather Vincent of Snoqualmie texted in the word “awesome” to describe the technology.

“That’s a good word to describe a good thing,” she said.

Making music

The luncheon also included a performance by students from Mount Si High School and Opstad Elementary’s fourth grade, who brought thunder to the room using drums provided by a Schools Foundation grant.

The drums help younger students learn music on a rhythmic level.

“It really gets the mind and the body multitasking, in ways that most classes don’t,” said Mount Si band teacher Adam Rupert. “It ties it in with your pulse, your body clock.”

The drums have helped shy students break out of their shells. Elementary students have sacrificed their recesses to practice on the drums.

“That’s an exceptional thing,” Rupert said.

Twin Falls Middle School music teacher Matt Wenman thanked the foundation for the grant that’s helping him build a sheet music library at his school.

“A music class without sheet music is not entirely a music class,” Wenman said. “They may be able to make music, but they will not entirely be able to learn music.”

Foundation president Carolyn Simpson said more fundraisers are being planned for later in the year. Donators can select six different areas for their funds to help, including math and science, music, professional development, or wherever it is most needed.

To learn more about the schools foundation, visit

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