7:15 a.m. – Mr. Lee’s special education class
Aaron Lee ’02, has just arrived at his classroom from his South Hill home in Puyallup, 30 miles away. He has about 10 minutes before students in his special education class begin to wander in. He usually uses this time to prepare. Or at least think. First, he’d planned to become a social studies teacher, but the special education position in the district was the only one available. So he took it. Now, Lee, 32, doubts he’d want to teach in any other discipline. He gets to know – really know – the 11 students assigned to his class each year. They range from an autistic young boy who won’t utter a sound to a girl who will probably be mainstreamed into the regular classroom soon. At first the pay was tough, he admits. He was pulling in about $2,200 a month, if that. But now that he’s up the pay scale, it’s better.“My friends might be making more money than I, but they are not happy with their jobs,” he says. As the students come in, they quickly focus on Lee, who starts by asking them to write and talk about their favorite food and why. French fries and pizza top the lists.
Next, they break into small groups with aides and start working on math and reading. Lee takes the two toughest cases for himself: Sarah and Carlos. Sarah has had a bad night and keeps falling asleep on the desk. Lee said he feels the girl has some medical issues that need tending, but they can’t get her mother to show up for the doctor’s appointments.
Carlos is awake and quick to help Lee make change for an imaginary $10 bill. But this is the first time he’s shown up for class in awhile. Lee never knows whether he’ll disrupt the entire class or be the star pupil.
8 a.m. – Cascade Middle School hallways
Johnson is out and about, two-way radio in hand, roaming the hallways and courtyards of Cascade, keeping a watchful eye on his students.
“I like to be visible in the hallway,” he says. “I haven’t been able to do enough of that this year.”
He high-fives students as they pass by and once the class bell rings, he checks to make sure the hallways are empty. He likes it that way – it means the students are in class.
“This is what it’s supposed to be like,” Johnson says. “Quiet.”