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10/3/2012 2:34:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Photo by Kacie Thrift
From left, Leah Hammond, Shawna Smith, and Farrah Dotson.
Vale adds new teachers
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

Four new teachers have been added to staff at at Vale Elementary School. This year, the Cashmere School District Administration have added a new kindergarten teacher, Farrah Dotson, second grade teacher Shawna Smith, third grader teacher Rachell Foster, and fourth grade teacher Leah Hammond.

Dotson has experience teaching the fourth grade in for Selah and Cascade School Districts. She recently took the past few years off from teaching to raise her four boys, Jacob, Sam, Felix, and John.

Dotson said she wanted to be a teacher because she loves children, reading, and learning. By combing three of her most passionate things together she was able to chose a fulfilling career.

"I love to teach reading. That is one of the reasons I enjoy teaching kindergarten, it's such an important year to learn reading," Dotson said.

Dotson received her four year degree and teaching certificate at Central Washington University and received her Master's at Walden University. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her four boys and husband, who is a teacher in Wenatchee. She watches and plays a lot of sports since she has so many boys in her family.

"Cashmere is a really special place. It's so family centered," Dotson said. "It's a great place because of the family atmosphere. We moved here 12 years ago. We just kind of stumbled upon it and we have been blessed to be here."

For Smith, this will be her third year teaching. After graduating from Cashmere High School, Smith went on to Eastern Washington University where she received her teaching certificate and four year degree.

The last two years she was teaching in a private school in Seattle. Smith, who is a Cashmere native, said she kept trying to make everywhere she went like home until she decided to move back and teach here.

"I had to try the big city thing and see how that worked out. I loved it I am so thankful I did it I got experiences there I wouldn't have got here," Smith said. "There is a unique touch to Cashmere, it's hard to explain but it's that warm mushy kind of feel that makes you feel at home. As soon as you walk in the door your teachers are your brothers and sisters."

Smith said she credits becoming a teacher to those who taught her in Cashmere. She said she had great examples growing up. Teaching was a career where Smith knew she would have a different experience everyday and be able to create with students.

Smith is continuing her education over the weekends to get her Master's through Western Governors University. In her free time she enjoys running and being outdoors.

"Cashmere is very community involved. Other communities you have multiple elementary schools and have volunteers that are somewhat separated. Here, its full force and you go to the football games Friday nights and everyone is there," Smith said.

One of Smith's first teachers in Cashmere was Ginny Davidson who is now Smith's co-worker.

"She is in my pod with me and she was my first grade teacher. The teachers I learned from were inspirations for me its fun to call them a colleague now," Smith said.

Foster went to college in Seattle through separate Central Washington University branches and received her teaching certificate and degree there. She lives in Cashmere with her son Isaac and husband Patrick.

Foster moved to Cashmere four years ago with her Cashmere native husband. Like Smith, Foster also credits wanting to be a teacher to those who taught her while growing up.

"I had great teachers growing up," she said. "I had a neighbor who was a teacher and taught me to read before kindergarten. I just had a string of great teachers."

In her free time, Foster teaches aerobics classes at a gym and enjoys biking and the outdoors. She also enjoys taking her family to the local festivals and watching music performances.

Hammond has been teaching for 12 years and is excited to be starting a new career in Cashmere. For over a decade, she was teaching at Rock Island but since the school only goes up to fourth grade, she wanted to be somewhere the students could continue in the same district.

Hammond received her teaching certificate and degree from Central Washington University and her master's from Lesley University.

"I wanted to become a teacher because I love the fact every school year is different. You are always challenged to find a different way to teach. What worked one year may not work the next year. They just bring a ton of joy to your life," Hammond said.

After school Hammond spends time with her husband Kurt and two daughters, Grace and Madeline. Her family does a lot of outdoor activities including downhill skiing. She said her and her husband made a conscious effort to try and move to Cashmere because of the community support.

"So far being a new teacher in Cashmere has been fun. Even though I have taught over a decade I feel like a brand new teacher again," Hammond said. "I feel like I need my hand held and those sorts of things."

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 548-5286 or

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