The march of change beats like a drum at Washougal High School.  And newly hired Fine Arts department educators, MaKenna Clendenen, choir teacher and David Duarte, band teacher, are determined to maintain the rhythm and high quality of these programs that students and the community expect.

Duarte, who comes from a family of musicians, is an award-winning educator with more than two decades of teaching experience.  “I am excited at the opportunity to continue the amazing traditions of the Washougal community,” he said. “Covid has been hard for music students all over the United States, and I am excited about providing that opportunity for the kids to return ‘home.’ I hope to bring passion back to the classroom and a sense of belonging. Creating a culture of high expectations and recognizing a ‘students first’ philosophy is my source of inspiration.”

Clendenen, who grew up in a small town in south central Pennsylvania, is a recent graduate from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Music in music education.  This is her first official year of teaching. “One of the reasons I love choir so much is the community that comes with singing in large groups,” she said. “There’s a feeling of euphoria when the voices of many come together and it’s a feeling that you never quite forget.”

Duarte and Clendenen agree on the value of Fine Arts in students’ overall education.  “Students who participate in the arts get a chance to express creativity and experience an aesthetic appreciation for something that engages them each personally in a different way,” Duarte explained. “The arts connect to more than the subject itself.  The value of music is not just from the study of music alone. Music is an engaging practice that can help students learn other problem-solving and creative approaches to success not found in your typical school classroom.”

“When a student joins a Fine Arts program, whether choir, band, theater, or visual art, they gain so much confidence, social skills, and how to work as a team, the list could go on,” said Clendenen. “We also integrate different subjects into the fine arts. For example, in choir we talk about how sounds work which is science, we subdivide and count all the time, which is math, we can analyze the text of our music and explain why the composer might have done what they did and that’s English.  We also talk about how music evolved over time, which is history.”

Superintendent Dr. Mary Templeton said that, “with the generous support of the Washougal community, Washougal schools have a proud tradition of exceptional visual and performing arts programs.” Templeton, who has an arts background, also strongly believes that the arts are “critical for students, helping them build 21st century skills through problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.”  Templeton added that “we are pleased to add David and MaKenna to the outstanding K-12 Fine Arts team and are excited to see what they are able to do with this supportive foundation.”

Clendenen said she was drawn to Washougal School District for its willingness to fight for every one of their students. “They are looking at how each child is doing individually versus as a class and that attention to detail can be a make-or-break moment for so many students who may be struggling,” she said.

For Duarte, Washougal was first an opportunity, and then after extensive research, his choice. “I find it amazing to be a part of a community and city with such pride, where there is one high school with high community and parental support,” he said. “My first impression is that I am now home and hoping to win over the hearts of students, parents, and the community through my passion and commitment to excellence.”

Clendenen and Duarte join the WHS Fine Arts department alongside Kelly Gregersen, WHS Drama teacher and Robert Yee, WHS Art Teacher.