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Redmond Elementary's Hall named classroom hero, honored at Seahawks game

Redmond Elementary teacher, Amanda Hall (left) and school psychologist Talia McKay are all smiles at Monday night’s Seahawks game. - Courtesy of Amanda Hall
Redmond Elementary teacher, Amanda Hall (left) and school psychologist Talia McKay are all smiles at Monday night’s Seahawks game.
— image credit: Courtesy of Amanda Hall

Amanda Hall’s work with kids began when she was just a kid herself.

When she was in second grade, she would give up her lunches and recesses to spend time with some of the special-needs students at her school. When she got older, she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Washington State University (WSU) in 2008 and started working in the court systems, but found she missed interacting with kids. So she went back to school at City University and earned her master’s degree in teaching special education in 2011. Now she works as a behavior intervention teacher at Redmond Elementary School, overseeing a class of kindergartners through third-graders.

“Working with these kids is just perfect,” she said about her job.

Hall learned the feeling went both ways as she received quite the surprise on Nov. 26 when she was presented with $1,000 to go toward her classroom and a ticket to Monday night’s Seattle Seahawks game against the New Orleans Saints as part of the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom.

“It was unbelievable,” she said about learning she’d been named a Hero in the Classroom. “I was just so honored and touched.”

The Heroes in the Classroom program is a partnership between Symetra and the Seattle Seahawks that began in 2006 and honors teachers throughout the Puget Sound area for educational excellence. Hall is one of 16 K-12 teachers who will be honored during the 2013 NFL season.

“Teachers are recognized in front of their students and peers at surprise in-school presentations and they receive a $1,000 donation for classroom books and supplies,” said Symetra media relations manager Diana McSweeney. “In addition, they receive tickets to a Seahawks home game and are acknowledged during an on-field presentation at CenturyLink Field.”

A SURPRISE THAT ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN

Redmond Elementary principal Joyce Teshima wanted to be able to have as much of the staff present during the surprise in addition to Hall’s current and past students, so she arranged for things to happen during lunch in the school library. So she sent Hall an email saying she wanted to speak to her during lunch and planned to bring her to the library.

It turned out that Hall didn’t read the email and was eating lunch in the staff break room.

“I was actually eating lunch by myself, which I thought was very strange,” Hall said.

Once Teshima located Hall, she brought her to the library for the surprise.

“I was just dumbstruck,” Hall said, who was shocked to see that her mother had been notified, as well, and had made it that afternoon.

A LIFELONG IMPACT

Also present for the surprise was parent Stacey Gardner, who nominated Hall for the honor.

Gardner’s second-grade son Gavin has been in Hall’s class since the middle of last year. Gardner said Gavin had been struggling academically at their neighborhood school of Benjamin Rush Elementary School, telling her he was “not good at (school).” He was also having significant behavioral issues. Gavin transferred into Hall’s class in the middle of first grade as Ben Rush did not offer a behavior intervention program.

“The change was just night and day,” Gardner said.

In the past, she said Gavin often appeared depressed or upset after school. But once he was placed in Hall’s class, the boy began to get excited for school and would want to read and do nice things for his teacher.

Gardner said her son loves the Seahawks and they would often attend home games. One time, they saw other teachers being honored through the Heroes in the Classroom program and Gavin was struck with the idea to recognize his teacher.

“(He said) ‘That should be Ms. Hall,’” Gardner said. “And I totally agreed.”

Gardner said teachers do so much for their kids and their community and there are so few ways for parents to thank them for it. She said a Christmas or end-of-the-year gift is not enough to express her thanks to Hall and what she has done for Gavin. The Heroes in the Classroom program helped her do it.

“Ms. Hall is going to be one of those teachers we talk about for the rest of (Gavin’s) life,” Gardner said about the impact Hall has had on her son.

NOT AN EASY JOB

Teshima said Hall works with an incredible group of students and creates a positive environment that shows her confidence in her students and their capabilities.

“It’s a very nice community for learning in the classroom,” Teshima said.

She also acknowledged that Hall does not have an easy job as she works with students with special needs, who may have given up and need extra motivation to want to do well academically. Hall’s classroom is also a self-contained classroom, Teshima pointed out, so she has her students all day and must teach to the curriculum of all four grade levels.

“She was the perfect person,” Teshima said about Hall being recognized. “Couldn’t have been a better person.”

AN UNBELIEVABLE EXPERIENCE

Hall’s classroom is decorated with Seahawks and WSU memorabilia and uses sports-themed games and challenges to motivate students. For example, her classroom behavior chart is called “Quest to Seattle.” Students begin with the Miami Dolphins and as their behavior improves, they work their way across the country, through the rest of the NFL, until they end up in the Pacific Northwest and become a Seahawk.

With her love of sports, Hall said attending the game and being on the field — only a few feet away from the players — was unbelievable. The significance of Monday’s game also added to the experience.

“It’s Monday Night Football versus the Saints,” she said, adding that she was a bit hoarse the next morning from all the cheering.

Hall has a few ideas for how she would like to use the $1,000. Ideally, she would like to look into a program with Little Bit Therapeutic Riding in Redmond in which students work with horses to learn social skills, empathy and compassion, how to express themselves and more. But that may be too pricey, so Hall said some other things the money could go toward include fun field trips, a new typing program and classroom books.

“I have a lot of big readers,” she said.

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