Focus is on increasing math skills at Sunrise Elementary

Sunrise Elementary School teacher Nicole Leahy had a math student who was struggling with the concept of “less than” and “greater than.” She shared her story with fellow teachers Nancy Tubbs and Elisabeth Carlson.

Sunrise Elementary School teacher Nicole Leahy had a math student who was struggling with the concept of “less than” and “greater than.”

She shared her story with fellow teachers Nancy Tubbs and Elisabeth Carlson.

Carlson didn’t hesitate, suggesting Leahy teach the student how to place a single dot under the smaller number and two dots below the greater number. When the dots are connected, Carlson said, they form the symbol correctly indicating which number is greater and which is less (3>1).

Those ah-ha moments are happening across the Enumclaw School District Friday afternoons. The kids may not physically be in the classroom at that time, but the conversation is all about them. When teachers gather for Professional Learning Communities, they’re meeting to discuss student work and intervention methods.

Leahy, Carlson and Tubbs were part of a demonstration during the Enumclaw School Board’s Dec. 5 workshop. Board and audience members sat in on their PLC session at Sunrise.

The trio went through data Carlson compiled from earlier assessments. Each group has a data team that inputs, sorts and shares information with colleagues.

Carlson’s data showed the teachers’ fourth-grade students were having no problem understanding factors and multiples; a few were still not grasping solving equations or solving for the unknown number; and a much larger number were not understanding finding the area and perimeter of complex shapes.

Together, they decided to divide the groups according to learning level and team them with intervention specialist Desi Gibb.

Gibb and an assistant can work with pockets of students, concentrating on specific skills during 30-minute blocks of intervention time.

Fifth-grade student Nolan Hildebrand said the special attention he received helped. He used a rubber band to help him visualize the process for finding the area and perimeter of complex shapes.

Kage Bowdre, also a fifth-grade student, said he used his time to work on multiplication, division and area and perimeter, while Amaya Varga needed additional assistance with function tables and algebraic equations. She used a magic tunnel application on a SMARTboard to help her “get it.”

“They get more practice in a smaller group,” teacher Marsha Henderson said. “They get more one-on-one attention.”

Teachers also ask, “How do we enrich those who are getting it?”

Gibb finds more challenging work for them, sometimes online, or through different, but related, activities, like creating a dream home.

“Area and perimeter aren’t just used in math, but in a bunch of different situations,” fifth-grader Garrett Rismiller said. He related how he learned from an additional assignment that let students design a home.

Students also get the connection between the work their teachers are doing Friday afternoon and the work they are doing in their specialized groups.

Gibb said Sunrise math test scores are increasing and students are meeting standard due to a new math curriculum, PLCs, dedicated intervention times and after-school support and tutoring.

“A lot has happened in the world of math in the past three years,” Gibb said.

Sunrise PTA

The board also met Sunrise PTA President Mary Alicea, who gave them a quick overview of how parents work with school leaders and teachers there.

This year, the Sunrise PTA has budgeted $12,000 for field trips, curriculum and family nights, a year-end barbecue and assemblies.

The PTA also purchases folders that go home with students each afternoon to help with the flow of communication. This year, the PTA also launched a new website, There also is a newsletter and the PTA can be friended on facebook.

Principal Chris Beals reported the PTA provided $4,000 that will purchase nonfiction books for the school’s reading room. Superintendent Mike Nelson took a moment to thank the group for their effort in providing Thanksgiving dinners for the needy.

Organized by Sunrise’s fifth-grade students, the school collected more than 700 food items, including nearly 20 turkeys. Along the way, the students also generated a multitude of chain links of kind gestures for Rachel’s Challenge.


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