Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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Holly Sims, an Independence Elementary School first- and second-grade teacher, was recently named Central School District's primary teacher of the year.
March 13, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- Independence Elementary School teacher Holly Sims said she didn't have to wait long in life to make a decision about what she would be doing as a career.
"In kindergarten, I would play school at home," Sims said. "We had one of those chairs with an attached desktop ... I would read stories to my sister and have her do the sound effects."
Van Holstad, meanwhile, said working in a classroom was the last thing he would have envisioned. The Tillamook native said he wasn't a "studious person" in high school and was focused primarily on the opportunity to wrestle in college.
"When I graduated (from Western Oregon University), we sent out invitations to graduation and people were shocked," said Holstad, who teaches social studies, psychology and other subjects at Central High.
Early or late, it's finding that calling that matters.
"With teaching, you understand that concept of delayed gratification," Holstad said. "Much of the time, you're pulling kids kicking and screaming through the education process ... and when they're out, they come back and thank you later."
Holstad and Sims were recently tapped by their peers within the Central Education Association as secondary and primary teachers of the year, respectively.
Central High social studies and psychology teacher Van Holstad was named CSD secondary teacher of the year.
Both were honored Friday during the Monmouth-Independence Chamber of Commerce's Community Awards Banquet.
"I feel really humbled," said Sims, who's taught at IES since 1997. "I don't really feel like it's just my award, but all of those elementary teachers in the district."
Storytime is a big deal in Sims' first- and second-grade class, if only to hear her voice characterization of Roald Dahl's "Big Friendly Giant."
"I read that myself as a child," she said. "During reading time, we get to share adventures together ... I feel like that's bonding time."
Sims, 40, grew up around piles of books and relatives eager to read them to her while growing up in Eugene. She spent all four years of high school teaching preschool.
"I just knew what I wanted to do early on," she said.
Sims earned her education degree from Western and got a job at IES not long after. She figured she would wind up back in Eugene, but she and her husband "fell in love with (Independence.)"
Sims is on IES' site council, is part of a "high performance learning committee," and has written several grants for IES health and arts programs. A mother -- her daughter is actually in her class -- Sims also recently received her master's degree.
Sims also maintains a website and blog as a way to stay in contact with parents.
"As teachers, we can't do this job alone," she said. "We need specialists, support staff, colleagues and definitely parents ... any way we can communicate is a benefit."
Holstad's no stranger to technology or unconventional teaching methods, either. As part of an American government assignment, he has his students survey community members about whether or not they've voted.
The results are relayed through poetry or song, by the kids and himself; look hard enough on YouTube, and you can find Holstad, 43, singing and playing a ukulele on a student-recorded video.
"Not one of my proudest moments," he said with a laugh. "But I try to use whatever tool I can to help every student's learning style."
Holstad earned a geography degree from WOU. After a few years doing home building, retail work and other "life experiences," he returned to the university to become a teacher.
A father of two, Holstad does the public address announcing for many of Central's athletic programs and coaches for Central Youth Sports. He's best known as Central High's wrestling coach.
While he's not as intense in class as he is by the mat, the same approach applies to both endeavors, he said.
"You're still trying to get kids ready to perform," he said. "And you need a basic understanding of human nature to assess what's going to motivate one person and what might motivate another."