Washougal School District leadership will go to any lengths to see their students succeed.  For WSD middle school principals Brian Amundson of Canyon Creek and David Cooke from Jemtegaard, it means going into a light-hearted battle at the first-ever Principals’ Challenge held December 16.

The challenge set Cooke and Amundson against each other in a series of fun, holiday-themed “Minute to Win It” style competitions.  The whole event was broadcast over Zoom to students from both schools who had 100% of their assignments completed. At stake for the two leaders was the title of “December Champion” and plenty of bragging rights.

“For months we have been trying to find ways to motivate the students to engage in their online learning,” said Tracey Stinchfield, Student Support Assistant at CCMS. “Of course, that means we had to create something online that we thought kids would enjoy enough to want to work for it. So, the challenge was born.”

“Then we got lucky and a generous parent booster donated two iPads for the kids to win,” Stinchfield added.  “So, students have been working hard to get 100% of their work done between Dec. 1 through 11 for a chance to participate in the drawing and Zoom event.”  The 10-day window was chosen so students who were far behind could see this as a chance to succeed instead of feeling too overwhelmed by trying to get everything done quickly.

“The kids are working hard, and it is nice to be able to offer them a reward,” Cooke said.  “Even if it is all about making fools of Mr. Amundson and me in a friendly competition.  I am really ok with that.  Especially if it helps students create some positive study habits.”

“We hope this will be a jump start to get some of those kids engaged who may have fallen behind while rewarding the students who have been working hard all along,” Stinchfield said. “They enjoyed watching the friendly battle of their principals, cheered them on in the comments and finding out who were the winners of the iPads and other donated prizes.”  Students who had 100% of their work done for the entire semester had a second entry in the drawing so they had double the chances of winning.

“It was successful,” Stinchfield said.  “Teachers had the great problem of having tons of extra work to grade since some students suddenly turned in lots of missing assignments! Our teachers work hard every day to help the kids succeed.  I even heard from parents that their children were extra motivated to stay up late to get things done that they had left as missing for weeks!”

“A big part of going to school is the feeling of community, and it is something that we are all missing this year,” said Amundson.  “Something like this helps to bring everyone together. Not having the students here with us is hard, but we hope they enjoyed this shared experience and the reward for all of their hard work.”

Although the winners were clearly the students who had their work completed and were able to watch the competition, Amundson took away the prize with a narrow victory of five to four. The Washougal High School Panther was on hand to present the trophy, which Amundson teased that he plans to place it in his office so it can be seen during Zoom meetings. There is already talk of a January challenge and finding ways to include more staff.

Stinchfield hopes students enjoyed the chance to see their administrators having fun and being silly on their behalf.  “Students are really struggling emotionally with remote learning time and this may be a bright moment in their week,” she said.