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Community Spotlight: For love of the game

Loisanne Sykes - Photo by Paul Balcerak
Loisanne Sykes
— image credit: Photo by Paul Balcerak

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Ridgetop Junior High School teacher Loisanne Sykes is a teacher by trade, if not by birth. She’s spent the last 30 years teaching and is currently teaching Ridgetop’s seventh- and eighth-grade humanities block class.

“I was born into a family of a minister — a Presbyterian minister — and a schoolteacher,” Sykes said. “Both of those are service kind of occupations and I just naturally fell into a service kind of occupation.”

Sykes came to Silverdale with her well-known husband, Hank Mann, in 1989 and fell into a job with Ridgetop that she thought would only last a year. As fate had it, however, Sykes jumped on full-time at the school and never looked back.

“This is where I want to be and this is what I want to do and I absolutely love it,” she said in a recent interview. “I love the kids, I love what I do.”

We got a lot more out of her during that interview, including her thoughts on the WASL, Central Kitsap school closure and the upcoming presidential election.

Question: What’s the hardest aspect of teaching middle schoolers?

Answer: They have so much energy. It’s sometimes really tiring to keep up with their energy and the age that they are, the biggest part of their development right now is social. You have to learn to work with that and get them to do what you want and yet give them time to socialize, too.

Q: Why middle school? Have you taught any other grades?

A: I’ve taught seventh through 12th. I taught eight years of high school; I loved high school because I really felt like I was really teaching. You could see lights come on in high school students a lot more than junior high kids. I did my student teaching in third grade and I thought I was going to be an elementary school teacher. My first job was in a junior high. I never, ever thought I would want to teach junior high. My belief was just, they’re crazy; put them in a box for a few years and dig them up later when they’re a little more civilized, but I found that was it. That was where I needed to be.

Q: Your husband has been nicknamed “Mr. Silverdale;” does anyone call you “Mrs. Silverdale”?

A: (Laughs) Yeah, “First Lady,” “Mrs. Silverdale.” For a long time, he was so active in the community people didn’t even know he had a wife. I was busy with our son who was young and I didn’t attend everything with him and it was quite a while before (the public) knew there was a Mrs..

Q: What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had as a teacher?

A: One of my students — this was when I was teaching high school — she was telling me she was the youngest of six children and she was going to go into business because she thought she needed to make a lot of money (to support her parents). I said, “Is that what you really want to do?” and she said, “no, I want to be a teacher.” I said, “You need to do what your heart tells you,” and she’s a teacher, she’s a fabulous teacher. I’m really proud and pleased that I got to have that kind of influence on her.

Q: What is it about Ridgetop that you like so much?

A: Ridgetop, in the CK School District, would be considered probably not the top junior high and I think that there’s a constant feeling of, we’re gonna improve. I guess that it gives me a challenge that, we’re just as good and I want everybody to know that we are. I love the kids here, too. We have a great mix here, we have a good ethnic mix that’s different than maybe some of the other schools and I like that, too.

Q: Do you have any idea when you might retire?

A: Five years at the most and maybe sooner, but probably within the next five years.

Q: What other schools have you taught at?

A: This is the only one in CK School District. I’ve taught in North Shore School District — Inglemoor High School — and I’ve taught in Bellevue, two different schools, Tillicum and Highland.

Q: What are your thoughts on the WASL?

A: I think the idea of a test like that is good; I think students should meet a standard. I think that all students are never going to meet the standard because we have such a diverse group of students that (have various learning capabilities). I don’t think that there is one test that is going to fit everyone, ever. I find it frustrating as a teacher because our curriculum has certainly changed, more geared toward teaching those things that are exactly on the WASL. We don’t have as wide a spectrum to teach anymore. I’m frustrated that social studies isn’t one of the WASL items. I think it needs to be changed. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some kind of standard for all kids to meet, but I don’t think we have it. We’re not there yet.

Q: How do you feel about the possibility of another CKSD school closure?

A: I think we need to configure our schools because I think ninth grade needs to be in a high school setting. I don’t know about a closing, but I think we need to change the (configuration). Ninth grade needs to be in the high school and I would like to see a seventh-/eighth-grade combination school and not the sixth-graders (with sixth-graders at a K-6 school).

Q: In terms of their stances on education, which presidential candidate do you like?

A: I think that Barack Obama is probably ... he’s my No. 1 right now. I’m usually Republican. I haven’t always voted straight Republican, I’ve voted for Democratic candidates before. I think because he’s so new I trust him more. He doesn’t have a bunch of (baggage) that he’s bringing along with him and other agendas and things. I like him. I like his youth and freshness.

Q: What’s your favorite part of Silverdale? What would you like to see changed?

A: I like Old Town, but I’d like to see Old Town made to be more of an old town. I’d like more little shops and things down there. I would like it built up so when boats come in, people have places to eat and shop.

Q: What is your favorite memory of Silverdale?

A: My husband was one-time grand marshall of the Whaling Days parade and that was just a hoot, riding in this car. Somebody yelled out, “Who are you?” and it was like, “Well, I’m just a citizen.” But that was really fun to be in a parade.

Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since you moved to Silverdale?

A: The traffic. A lot more streetlights. Just the amount of time it can take you to get through town on a Friday now.

Q: Which local event is your favorite to participate in?

A: It’s probably Whaling Days.

Q: Why?

A: Tradition — watching the parade and then going to the Rotary pancake breakfast and then going to the street vendors and the duck race.

Q: Who would play you in a movie of your life and why?

A: Sally Field. She has bounce and she doesn’t care (what people think). She did what she thought she should do, what her heart told her to do. I like her enthusiasm, I like her realness. I really like, now that she’s aging, if you look at a picture of her in a magazine it’s not airbrushed, it’s the real person.

Q: Do you have a favorite book?

A: The Bible. I’ve read it nine times. It’s my favorite. I was trying to read it every year and I did read it consecutively for five years in a row. Then I read it again I think three years in a row.

Q: Do you have a favorite meal?

A: Yes — one that someone else has cooked for me. Somebody else’s food always tastes better.

Q: If you had one magical power, what would it be and why?

A: I would give my husband good health. He had good health until he was shot in Vietnam and in the 30 years since then, it’s just deteriorated and he’s pretty frail. I would give him good health so that he was out of pain.

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