End of another era

Jane Slach, a fifth-grade teacher at Esquire Hills Elementary School, was packing up her classroom early this week and found an old, partially fading photograph of one of her fifth-grade classes from the early 1980s. One of the boys — the dark-skinned one in the front row — is now a graduate of the military academy. Another boy who previous teachers had given up on is a corpsman in the Navy.

In the 33 years she has been a teacher, she has taught hundreds of fifth-graders and has learned a lesson from each one of them: Every child is worth their weight in gold. When she retired on Friday, on the last day of school, she was planning to take that lesson and teach it to others.

In her tenure, she took a community approach to teaching. She believed students should be involved in the community. To emphasize community involvement, she once had a class create a float and participate in community parades.

“I still get excited about education and learning,” she said.

Slach envisions herself taking a more political approach to education, but she isn’t sure what route she will take yet.

While she loved teaching, she said there are some aspects of education in Washington that need to be tweaked. First on her list is the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, which she said “is not age-appropriate.”

She agrees with the basic concept of accountability in education, but does not agree that the WASL is the proper assessment tool. She will have to overcome one obstacle before she can make an impact.

“I have to figure out how to communicate with adults,” she said. “Communicating with children is one thing, but communicating with adults is completely different.”

The only thing that is certain about retirement is that she will spend more time with her grandchildren and take a larger role in their education.

She has 23 grandchildren, 21 of whom are home-schooled.

Slach can relate to working mothers who have “mommy’s guilt” from spending so much time away from their children.

“I have grandma’s guilt,” she said.

She has been with Esquire Hills Elementary for 27 years — she previously taught in Arizona — she has nothing but praise for her fellow staff.

“We have the most dedicated teachers in this building,” she said. The teachers spend countless hours with parents and children to make sure the children are getting the most out of their education.

Likewise, her fellow teachers have nothing but respect for her.

“She’s amazing,” said fellow fifth-grade teacher Debbie Klebo.

Klebo said Slach took an interest in students in and out of the classroom and tried to teach them to be stewards of the community.

Slach was involved in the school’s student government and helped raise money to start the Eagle News Network, an in-house news channel.

Slach also worked until the very last minute, Klebo said.

“I never heard her say, ‘This is my last year,’ ” Klebo said. “She still cares about the students.”

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