Pioneer School

618 N. Sullivan Rd., Spokane Valley, WA 99037 (509) 922-7818

Staff Profiles
Student Resources

Welcome to Betty Wolf's Classroom

Language Arts Program

Though reading and writing are integrated in nearly every activity, there are several elements to our language program. These include:

  • Stilton Spelling
  • This is an individualized system that allows students to focus only on words they have misspelled. New words go home Monday in the Homework Folder. The test is Friday, unless we have an all day field trip, in which case it will be on Thursday.
  • Literature Circles
  • This is an opportunity to respond in more depth to their reading. Peers share ideas and questions. Writing assignments are often generated from the discussion.
  • Poetry
  • Both reading and writing specific styles of poetry, usually through the lens of the topic.
  • Silent Reading/Buddy Reading
  • Both of these include self selected books and those at an appropriate level to make gains in fluency and comprehension.
  • Writer's Workshop
  • Guided writing provides help to early writers who may still have a gap between knowledge they can say and what they can put to paper. Authentic writing challenges students to express themselves more independently. This is a spectrum common to a First/Second Grade classroom. Students progress through both challenge and experience. A reliable way to encourage this progression is a literature-rich environment and a family love of books, libraries, stories, etc.
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Mathematics Program

Mathematics is a part of our daily conversation, however specific mathematical skills and concepts are introduced and reinforced within Calendar, Practice Makes Better, and Math Groups.

  • Calendar
  • Involves daily practice with reading and creating a calendar, number sequencing forwards and backwards, odd and even integers, counting, adding, and exchanging money, telling time, fractions, reading a thermometer, etc.
  • Practice Makes Better
  • Practice Makes Better begins later in the year. It is a game in which the children answer multi-leveled flashcards, hard, harder, and hardest, in an effort to earn as many cards as possible for the class. Time allotted to this activity varies from 3 to 5 minutes, but often carries on longer as we discuss strategies for earning more cards and various ways to count our total number of cards.
  • Math Groups
  • The Math Groups include introduction, practice, remediation, and opportunities for more challenging mathematical ideas in a small group format. These small groups allow gaps in learning to be more easily identified and additional opportunities to challenge those who are ready to move forward. These groups are by ability in order to provide peers who can 'play' with concepts and struggle equally.
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The physical and social sciences are integrated within topic instruction. It is wonderfully beneficial for children to see the connection between a theme, or topic, and how it interacts with the world around them.

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Portfolios, often referred to as "yearbooks," are assembled throughout the year to be sent home the final week of the school year. The portfolio includes authentic writing, photographs of field trips and exciting moments, topic math problems, and work that your child was especially proud to share. Rather than sending home each project one at a time, the portfolio is an organized way to provide families with a review of both learning and treasured Pioneer memories.


Homework packets are sent home Monday to be returned Friday or the following Monday. Additional homework, such as math practice or a topic-related project, may also be assigned. The children will not receive consequences for not completing their homework, but rather receive rewards for completing and submitting homework in a timely fashion.


Keeping kids interested in lunch can be challenging but please try to keep microwavable lunches to a minimum and when you send something in need of microwaving, please keep that cook time under 1 minute. For example, make the Easy Mac at home and simply warm it up at school. Finally, when the children are waiting in line to "cook" their lunch they have less "eating time" and I therefore have less time to spend on academic endeavors.


Mutual respect is an expectation of our classroom and our school. In the classroom I maintain a 3-Strikes-You're-Out rule. The first strike is a warning. Strike 2 is often moving away from the problem if able or other redirection. Strike 3 is a trip to the quiet corner to fill out a time-out slip. If the child is unable to sit quietly in the quiet corner, he or she will complete a time-out form in the principal's office.


It is difficult to define one's teaching philosophy in a paragraph. Through my experience in the public, private, and parochial schools, I have learned the expectation and exposure are key, necessary elements to every successful program. Expose children to as much as possible, even if it is seemingly beyond their conceptual understanding, as this will hinder fears or hesitation when encountering the same or a similar concept at a later time, algebra for example. And, maintain high expectations in behavior, comprehension, and performance-based tasks because meeting a standard set low is not nearly as beneficial as coming just short of a higher expectation.

Providing children with a good, solid foundation is of utmost importance and thematic instruction is my preferred method. I truly believe the connections made between a central theme and new information make learning more meaningful and therefore more memorable. Pioneer is an environment in which this approach is encouraged and allows children to follow their curiosities. This intrinsically motivated acquisition of knowledge, and the skills taught within, is irreplaceable.

Another thought I would like to share is the definition of grades, or lack thereof. Children develop in differing ways at various rates. Students are placed in classes according to their emotional and intellectual development, not simply age. A young child's physiological development must be considered when assessing their intellectual growth. At certain times, a child may become lethargic during class due to a growth spurt for example. While he or she is slowing down, others are soaring intellectually because their physical growth is slowing.

Finally, all children have different strengths and weaknesses. One child's abilities in math may exceed those of his classmates; however the child struggling mathematically may outperform the class in reading ability or on the ski slopes. My point, encourage individual strengths while building weaknesses. This is encouraged through the individualized approach Pioneer School promotes.


Before becoming a teacher I spent several years lending a hand with a variety of subjects and methodologies as an APPLE parent. Some are familiar with this District #81 program focusing on parent involvement to create an educational community. It was this experience that inspired me to become a teacher focused on experiential learning. Pioneer School is a wonderful fit for my collaborative approach to teaching. I graduated from Gonzaga University with certification in Elementary Education in 2003. Since then I have worked mainly in West Valley School District, with assignments ranging from a year at the Outdoor Learning Center to teaching a multi-age, gifted class. When not in the classroom I'm usually cooking, riding my bike or refusing my teenagers' frequent requests for money!

Darla Eaton