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Six Estacada High School graduates join school district's team and are eager to connect with students

PMG PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - New Estacada School District staff members Bri Jury, Emma Kirchoffer, Brandy Atwell, Kristine Bible, Sammie Beaton and Rita Hill are all Estacada High School alums.

When Estacada school bells ring in September, several of the district's new teachers will have been in the same classrooms as students.

Six of the district's 25 new teachers for the 2018-19 school year are Estacada High School alums. Clackamas River Elementary School kindergarten teacher Rita Hill graduated in 2004; Estacada Middle School learning specialist Kristine Bible graduated in 2007; River Mill Elementary School first grade teacher Bri Jury graduated in 2015; River Mill Elementary School kindergarten teacher Emma Kirchoffer graduated in 2014; Estacada High School learning specialist Brandy Atwell graduated in 2000; and the district's adult transitions teacher Sammie Beaton graduated in 1982.

All are eager to serve students in the school district where they themselves grew up.

"A lot of it was giving back to the community that gave me so much as a student," Bible said. "I want the students to see that the community is so important, that I came back."

The former students, now alums, added that they appreciate the community found in the school district and surrounding city.

"I felt like I had such a good experience here and that there's such a unique community," Jury said. "It's such a close-knit and special place."

Members of the new cohort are also eager to collaborate with their former teachers.

"I'm looking forward to getting to work with the teachers I had in elementary school and showing them that they inspired me to do what they do," Kirchoffer said.

COURTESY PHOTO: ESTACADA HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK - River Mill Elementary School kindergarten teacher Emma Kirchoffer won best smile in the 2014 Estacada High School Yearbook.

Many have appreciated the support of specific Estacada teachers.

"The transition from elementary school to junior high was very emotional for me," Bible said. "Mr. Erickson was my social studies and homeroom teacher, and he created a positive and welcoming environment, which really eased the transition."

Kirchoffer has enjoyed staying in touch with Clackamas River Elementary School teacher Kari Hulsey.

"She came to my graduation party and brought a piece of writing I'd done in her class," she said, adding that she was also inspired by her father, Estacada High School science teacher Kevin Kirchoffer.

COURTESY PHOTO: RITA HILL - Clackamas River Elementary School kindergarten teacher Rita Hill attended River Mill Elementary School and is pictured here as a fifth grade student.

Atwell noted that she valued the support of her teachers in and out of the classroom.

"They came to events, and they would come to (sports) practice," she said. "I remember my English teacher came to track practice and wanted to race me."

The group noted that their own educators in Estacada have inspired their craft.

"The teachers cared. You could walk up to one of them if you were struggling," Bible said. "I hope to continue that legacy with my students."

"I always felt special and valued. I knew all my teachers cared along the way," Jury added.

Beaton has appreciated seeing the progress the school district has made with time.

"Estacada is reinventing itself in a positive way. The schools and the community are really coming together, and you can feel it," she said. "People who have been away will notice that it feels different since you left."

The new teachers believe their backgrounds as Estacada graduates will allow them to connect with students.

"It builds that instant connection and sense of community, both in the community itself and in the classroom," Bible said.

They also hope to provide students with tangible examples for their future.

"We can tell students that we've also been students at the same school and encourage them," Hill said. "If I can do it, you can do it, too."

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