District News

Valley High School Named to NFL Super Bowl Honor Roll

Valley High School alum and former National Football League (NFL) player Justin Hartwig will present Valley Principal Tim Miller, Activities Director Brad Rose, and Football Coach Gary Swenson with a commemorative Wilson Golden Football on Friday, Jan. 29. The presentation will take place during halftime at the Valley basketball game against Dowling Catholic, which starts at 7:45 p.m. at Valley High School, 3650 Woodland Ave., West Des Moines. A reception with Hartwig, held in the Valley commons area, will follow the basketball game.

Petersen Named Teacher of the Year Finalist

Valley Southwoods Freshman High School teacher Wade Petersen showed up to his 2016 Iowa Teacher of the Year interview dressed as 19th-century French leader Napoleon Bonaparte.


Petersen in his Napoleon Bonaparte costume, in front of his “Battle of France” game and display.

Given five minutes to introduce himself and encouraged to think outside the box, Petersen decided to bring a bit of his classroom to the Department of Education’s offices. Department employees who saw him waiting in the lobby stopped to take photos with him.

“It’s the same anytime you wear the costume,” he said.

Valley Southwoods Principal Mitch Kuhnert supported the attention-grabbing approach to the interview because it represents who Petersen is as a teacher.

“He understands that being a teacher, you have to have the entertainment value,” Kuhnert said. “It’s not unusual to find Wade in a full costume to introduce a unit or do a reading.”

It is all part of what Petersen calls the art and science of teaching.

“No matter how tech-y you can be, there’s still an art to being in the classroom, being the person you are,” Petersen said.

The art of being Petersen seems to be balancing creativity and structure. He teaches language arts and French at Valley Southwoods, and uses original games, music, and elaborate displays in both classes. He also sends out monthly calendars outlining these activities. Students and their families know exactly what they will do each day in his class, and they are eager to take part.

“It really fits today’s type of learner because it’s so fast-paced and engaging,” said Pat Trotter, a district classroom associate and former teacher. “Everyone wants to be involved.”

Trotter nominated Petersen for the Teacher of the Year award after attending his classes with a special education student. Petersen will be honored at a luncheon with the governor in March, along with the other finalists and the 2016 Iowa Teacher of the Year, Scott Slechta of Fairfield.

Trotter was impressed with Petersen’s Hero’s Journey language arts unit. To connect the ancient Greek epic poem “The Odyssey” to modern day stories, each Valley Southwoods language arts teacher chooses a film that demonstrates the Hero’s Journey. A longtime comic book fan, Petersen uses “Batman Begins.”

“‘Batman Begins’ fits perfectly,” he said. “When (students) know they get to talk about Batman and it connects to their learning, I see the little spark in their eye.”

The French unit on history and culture is the most well-known in his foreign language classes. This unit is when Petersen usually unveils the Napoleon garb. In costume, Petersen tells classes they will compete against each other and work to “conquer my beloved France.” Their competition is in the form of a game Petersen designed: The Battle of France, based on the real-life board game Risk.

The two units are some of Petersen’s most elaborate, but he uses smaller-scale games to keep his day-to-day classes fresh. To him, doing something different in class every day it the best way to keep students interested.

“I think, at its essence, it’s just the variety,” he said. “It breaks up the normal class. Learning has to be first. You look for fun ways to support the learning.”

Petersen credits his time as a camp counselor with his ability to come up with fun activities that serve a purpose. Now his classes are an inspiration to others.


Petersen’s classroom features decor from his English and French classes, unit displays, and other unique elements.

“When you enter his classroom, it’s almost like walking into another world,” Kuhnert said. “He pushes other educators to support that kind of environment for the students.”

Kuhnert calls Petersen a “phenomenal resource” for Valley Southwoods, and Trotter recommends that all teachers watch him at work. He is a popular demonstration teacher in the district and has published several books on teaching in the past 19 years. He regularly gets emails from teachers across the nation saying his activities sparked excitement in their classes.

While Petersen appreciates those emails, his favorite messages are from former students. Often, they’ll reminisce about making crepes in class or cracking eggs over his head as part of his Mardi Gras celebrations. Such activities can be intimidating, even after 29 years of teaching, but Petersen says engaging his students is worth it.

“Not only am I teaching, but I’m creating memories for my students,” he said.

Valley Hosts #UniteIowa Dialogue March 3

Valley High School invites all WDMCS families to attend the second dialogue for #UniteIowa on Race, the series of forums co-sponsored by Drake University and the Des Moines Register. The session will take place from 6:30-9 p.m., Thursday, March 3, in the Valley High School Media Center

Life in the WDMCS 1/25/2016

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Learning Academy
Clive Learning Academy held its 2016 Open House on Tuesday, Jan. 19. It was a chance for students to show their parents their classrooms and what engages them in learning. This year’s open house was the first since the school implemented the New Tech Network (NTN) model and highlighted many of the NTN projects the students have been working on.

Crestview School of Inquiry
Crestview School of Inquiry kindergarten learners worked with two visitors from Shive-Hattery Architects and Engineers on Jan. 22. They collaborated to design and build a model of a house the Big Bad Wolf would not be able to blow down.

Hillside Elementary
Students and their families attended the Hillside Elementary Open House on Jan. 21.  Families got to see what their students were learning, and experience music “informances,” classroom activities, and treats!

Hillside kindergartners got to read to Principal Graham Jones last week. They chose a variety of books that would help them practice their read-aloud skills.

Western Hills Elementary
Western Hills Elementary student Niavh Hyatt and members of Team Elayna shaved Principal George Panosh’s head at an all-school assembly on Friday. The event was to recognize the school’s support of the two students, who have cancer, and their families. With help from Western Hills families, both met their donation goals by the deadline.

Indian Hills Junior High
Indian Hills Junior High eighth-graders in the Advanced Social Studies class visited the State Historical Building. They took part in a mock caucus and toured the “First in the Nation” exhibit.

Stilwell Junior High
The Stilwell Eighth-Grade Band got to perform with the Valley Pep band at both Valley High School varsity basketball games on Friday. They performed the Valley Fight Song, as well as other high-school level music, and got to have fun pumping up the crowd.

Valley High School
Students did not have school on Jan. 18, but the Valley Drumline took the extra time to get some practice in at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School.

What’s Your Slang Score?

Thanks to new and ever-evolving slang terms, it can seem like kids are speaking a different language — especially when they are online or messaging. Test your knowledge of teen slang, then tweet your results to us @WDMCS or share them with us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wdmcs. For more insight into life as a teenager, watch for our upcoming article on the teenage brain. For more social media tips and resources, check out our “Social Media Tips for Families” post and this upcoming WDMCS Community Education class: Social Media Safety for Parents of Teens.

en español

Once you’ve answered the questions, click here to see how you did.


Life in the WDMCS 1/18/2016

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

The Valley High School, Indian Hills Junior High, Stilwell Junior High, and Jordan Creek Elementary archery teams recently competed at tournaments in Albia and East Union.

Clive Learning Academy
Clive Learning Academy first-graders are learning about the importance of having a way to communicate without electronics. One speaker talked to learners about a Boy Scout trip to the Boundary Waters, while another explained how projectors use light and sound to communicate. The first-grade learners then invented their own communication devices that use light and sound to send a message.

Crestview School of Inquiry
First-graders at the Crestview School of Inquiry took a field trip to the State Historical Museum of Iowa in early January. They learned about mammoths, vintage planes and cars, Iowa’s natural resources, and more.

Sixth-grade learners at the Crestview School of Inquiry won time in Maker Space via a library drawing on Jan. 13. They worked together on projects using beads, magnets, origami, LEGO® bricks, and obstacle courses.

Hillside Elementary
The Hillside Elementary Student Council volunteered at Meals from the Heartland on Jan. 12. They packaged more than 12,000 meals for people all over the world as part of their continued service work.

Kindergartners at Hillside Elementary are learning about shapes through movement. They learned to identify and draw shapes, then used elastic bands and their bodies to create shapes the size of students.

Jordan Creek Elementary
The Jordan Creek Elementary Kids Care Club worked with Gabe Carlson from Upward Sports and four Kohl’s Employees from the Kohl’s Associates in Action program to create fleece blankets. The tie-blankets were distributed to Joppa, the U.S. Center for Refugees, and the YMCA Transitional Housing Campus.

Indian Hills Junior High School
Indian Hills students have been working in the science lab. They worked together to craft debates and start chemical reactions using Bunsen burners.

Reminder: No School Jan. 18

There will be no school for WDMCS students on Monday, Jan. 18. It is a professional development day for staff. District offices will be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For other important dates throughout the school year, please see:

Calendar at a Glance

District Offering Free Evening Meals for Children

The West Des Moines Community Schools Nutrition Services department is offering a free evening meal for children from 5:30–6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday night during the school year, excluding school breaks. An optional educational or enriching activity will be offered after each meal, from 6–6:30 p.m. The meal will be served at Crestview School of Inquiry.

The meal is free for children 18 and younger and children aged 19 who are still in school. Adult meals will be offered for $3.50 per person. These meals are being offered through federal funds as part of the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program, part of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CAFCP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. All At-Risk Afterschool Meals programs must follow guidelines to ensure children receive necessary nutrients.

Families with questions about the evening meals program can contact WDMCS Director of Nutrition Services Willow Dye at 515-633-5086 or Crestview School of Inquiry at 515-633-5700.

Non-discrimination Statement: The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)

If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online athttp://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866)632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., 20250-9410, by fax 202-690-7442 or email atprogram.intake@usda.govIndividuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339; or 800-845-6136 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Iowa Non-discrimination Notice: It is the policy of this CNP provider not to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, or religion in its programs, activities, or employment practices as required by the Iowa Code section 216.6, 216.7, and 216.9. If you have questions or grievances related to compliance with this policy by this CNP Provider, please contact the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, Grimes State Office Building, 400 E. 14th St., Des Moines, IA 50319-1004; phone number 515-281-4121, 800-457-4416; website: https://icrc.iowa.gov/.

Junior High Film Festival Showcases Creativity, Collaboration

The start of the new year brings the beginning of awards season in show business, and now in the West Des Moines Community Schools district as well. Indian Hills and Stilwell junior high schools held their joint film festival last Thursday, Jan. 7.

Life in the WDMCS 1/11/2016

Life in the WDMCS is a weekly feature that highlights what is happening at each of our buildings. If a school is not listed, there was no submission from that building this week.

Clive Learning Academy
Sixth-grade learners at Clive Learning Academy have been meeting with Detective Woods from the Windsor Heights Police Department once a month this school year for a program called Code 411. The program ties into the social studies curriculum about civics. Detective Woods talks to the students about topics including drugs, alcohol, theft, harassment, and law enforcement. Learners have been taking notes and asking her questions to prepare for creating their own PowerPoint presentations this spring. They will graduate from Code 411 at the end of the school year.

Clive Learning Academy third-graders are creating a Clive Museum and timeline as a way to learn about the people who walked the hallways of Clive for the past 60 years, when it was known as Clive Elementary. They recently interviewed former Clive students and teachers to piece together different parts of the school’s history.

Crestview School of Inquiry
Crestview School of Inquiry students completed a reading challenge during Winter Break. Students were asked to read 20 minutes each day during the break. Those who completed the challenge got to start school after the break by having hot chocolate and cookies.

Hillside Elementary
Hillside Elementary kindergarten students started school after the break by furthering their understanding of numbers. They are studying the calendar, calculators, and the hundreds chart to learn more about numbers in the double digits. Students are also continuing their exploration of the clock: reinforcing numbers up to 12, counting in increments of five, and beginning to learn concepts of telling time.

Jordan Creek Elementary
Miss Brittnee’s Tiger Cubs Preschool class recently received the Class of Character Award. The 3- and 4-year-old kids of character were found displaying caring qualities by walking quietly in the halls of their school.