Butte Creek Elementary celebrates diversity, fitness, academics and good behavior

At Butte Creek School, even 1st Graders have their own lockers.

At Butte Creek School, even 1st Graders have their own lockers.

Aside from being the largest K-8 school in the District and the only school located in Clackamas County, Butte Creek Elementary has a lot of interesting and unique things going on. With 325 students from diverse backgrounds, a nationally qualifying robotics team, a strong positive behavior culture, and a P.E program that gets kids moving every single school day, students and staff are thriving.

“I love the way the Butte Creek staff and families embrace and value diversity, culture and history,” said SFSD Superintendent Andy Bellando. “They also place a high value on the development of quality education and meeting the needs of each student.”

According to Butte Creek Principal Kevin Palmer, another unique thing for this K-8 is the separate middle school hall and classroom that has helped students prepare for high school.

“The middle school structure has been such a positive experience for our students,” said Palmer who added that every student from grade 1 through 8 has their own locker, something most elementary school students don’t get to experience.

(From left) Eighth graders Payton Elsenbaumer and Madison Mead say they like having P.E. everyday at Butte Creek.

(From left) Eighth graders Payton Elsenbaumer and Madison Mead say they like having P.E. everyday at Butte Creek.

Teacher Dylan Uselman agreed that Butte Creek’s model works.

“I like the general climate here,” said Uselman. “Mr. Palmer maintains a very solid culture of collaboration and high expectations. That’s why our students do so well in high school. The academics are impressive.”

Palmer also credits the team’s focus on rewarding and promoting positive behavior. As one of only two schools in the district to formally participate in the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) program, Butte Creek trains teachers to recognize and reward respectful behaviors including presenting students with “gotcha cards,” which are given whenever they are caught doing something good.

“I like the way the kids are thinking about making good choices, working cooperatively with each other and problem solving instead of always turning to adults right away,” said Butte Creek School Counselor Debbie Scott who explained that the District is expanding the PBIS program to serve other schools as well.

All Butte Creek students also participate in 30 to 45 minutes of physical education class every day which helps them focus in class.

“I feel like having PE everyday helps the kids so much,” said Sierra Kester, who teaches P.E. to students in grades K through 4. “We hear from parents and teachers that the kids are more focused and calm when they get that time for physical activity.”

Jeff Seiler who teaches P.E. to the older students at Butte Creek agreed.

“The value is not just physical, it’s mental as well,” said Seiler. “We hear from teachers that students come to class more awake and energetic after P.E. They are physically tired, but their brains are awake.”

“I have too much energy and I need to work it off,” said eighth grader Payton Elsenbaumer. “It’s fun and good for you…instead of sitting in a chair all day,” added Madison Mead who is also in the eighth grade.

Butte Creek Elementary School also offers sports, reading and science programs after school, including an All Kids Are Scientists program for grades K through 3.

Among the school’s most creative offerings are an after school Russian Language Program and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for its diverse population of native Oregonian, Russian and Latino students. The city of Mount Angel itself has a rich and varied population that is made up of German, Irish, English, Russian, Swedish and Latino ancestries. The Butte Creek students, families and staff embrace and celebrate the gift of diversity.