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Sonoma Valley High vice principal gives thanks

Thanksgiving is three days away as I write this and, like many others, I am taking stock in all that I have to be thankful for today and throughout the year. Our principal, Kathleen Hawing, created a “List of Gratitude” on a shared Google Doc for Sonoma Valley High staff and I really enjoyed seeing what my colleagues added to the list. I appreciate that technology allows us to share and collaborate in new, exciting and engaging ways!

We are all, of course, thankful for our friends and loved ones. In light of recent events in Paris, many staff also expressed gratitude for living in a country where democracy is valued and are especially appreciative to live in such a beautiful community as Sonoma. As I walked through campus and visited classes in the days after the Paris attacks, I appreciated that many teachers were taking time to talk with students about the tragic events that transpired and to find “teachable moments” throughout the day.

Not surprisingly, so many of the contributions to the “List of Gratitude” were about appreciation for colleagues, the great staff that we have at SVHS, and of course, our students. Together as a staff and with our community partners, we work to support our kids and, in doing so, great things happen.

Freshmen teams Mauna Kea and Olympus are working on college and career projects with a myriad of community members coming to speak to our students about their careers. Similarly, Team Fuji is underway with the portfolio project related to sustainable agriculture. Fuji teachers have helped connect students with mentors in our community who advise students on their project. I am thankful that so many of our staff have joined in support of our students with their Senior Projects. Learning about some of the projects and activities the seniors are enthusiastically working on is very exciting and I can’t wait for the final results in May! I especially appreciate that so many students are using this opportunity to explore future career possibilities, or to contribute and “give back” to our community.

Great things are happening outside the classrooms as well. Our seniors have begun to receive college acceptance letters (yes, already!). I am thankful for all the support our counseling and College and Career Center staff have given our students during application season.

Our sports teams finished the fall season strongly with both our volleyball and cross-country teams winning Sonoma County League titles. The homecoming and fall sports rallies were big successes and I am inspired by our coaches who were willing to get out on the floor and even dance with our students. I know the athletes enjoyed it and the crowd did too!

SVHS recently had its first Career Fair and it was hugely successful, with 35 community members participating and over 600 students attending. We have such an array of student clubs and I am pleased that students are always initiating something new, such as the Model UN club this year, and that our faculty are always willing to work with students and serve as club advisors.

At a time when many schools are struggling with teacher shortages, I am thankful that SVHS has all teaching positions filled and we have even been able to increase our counseling support services with new hires, an additional school psychologist and increased services from Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) and Crisis Assessment, Prevention, and Education Team (CAPE Team). I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm our new teachers, counselors and support staff bring to our school. I am so grateful that our office and custodial staff always rise to the occasion when we are in need and short-handed.

During the school year, November is the time of year when energy levels dip the lowest and people anxiously await a break to rest and rejuvenate. With all the good work that has taken place this fall at SVHS (I’ve only mentioned a slice of what is happening at our school), this Thanksgiving break is well-deserved. I am thankful for all that our staff and students have accomplished thus far and look forward to more good things to come!

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Jessica Hutchinson is a vice principal at Sonoma Valley High School.