At Westside, a banner day raised for a beloved teacher

Memories adorn the trees, and soon the sunlit commons at Westside Elementary School, in an enduring tribute to the memory of a teacher.

Students, staff, and parents joined in a colorful ceremony Friday to remember the late Kim Yamashita, who taught at Westside for many years until shortly before her death from cancer on Sept. 15, 2003. A parade of banners helped celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, with special recognition for Yamashita.

“This is the perfect time to honor one of our former beloved teachers,” said Terri Vann, principal, and friend of Yamashita. “She touched the lives of everyone she came into contact with.”

Students in kindergarten through grade four made carp fish streamers and the fifth and sixth graders created larger banners, under the tutelage of artist-in-residence Shelly Toon Hight. The students displayed their streamers and banners during a Teacher Appreciation Week assembly. The streamers and banners reflected Yamashita’s treasured Japanese heritage, according to Vann. Many of the carp streamers will go on temporary display at the school, while the banners will be permanently exhibited next to a sky-lit commons where two hallways meet, according to Vann.

As 400 students gathered in the gym, Vann said, “The effects of Mrs. Yamashita on our children are apparent.” Most of the students present were in Yamashita’s classroom, an environment known for its mixture of music, art, and nurturing. Special guests at the assembly included Betty Shalhope, former Westside principal and longtime associate of Yamashita’s, and Kim’s husband, Ron, who retired from teaching at Westside in 2004.

“You all know what this means to me. All of you represent all of the children who had Kim as their teacher,” Ron said. “When I came into the gym and looked at the banners I felt they represented all the things Mrs. Yamashita expressed throughout her career. It really hits me right in the heart to see you children and how much you’ve changed and grown. I know Mrs. Yamashita would be so proud.” He said he was touched by the creation of the carp, as Kim had brought in her own silk and paper carp from Japan each spring and taught her students about the important role of the fish in Japanese culture.

“Kim really enjoyed doing that,” Ron said.

Carrying his streamer, second grader Matt Kuatt told Ron, “Mrs. Yamashita was really nice. She always smiled. She was generous.”

Mikayla Kiyokawa, who was also a student of Kim, said that if Kim were present, “she’d be crying, because she would be really happy to see all this.”

Second grade teacher Shannon Perry said the event was a fitting tribute to her friend and colleague.

“When I watched the children in the gym I thought how what they did is such a physical representation of what a difference Kim made. We don’t always get to see that. They grow up and go away. But I can see they are all part of her, and what’s in them is always going to be there.”

While the event gave special focus to Yamashita, it also honored teachers in general.

After the ceremony, some students hung “weather grams” — messages and drawings of love and remembrance tied with ribbons to trees and shrubs for all to read. Many bore tributes to Yamashita, but students also took them home to help students and their families remember “all teachers and others who had made a difference in their lives,” Vann said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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