By Susan McCabe
For Vashon Island School District
Starting as a substitute teacher in 2002, Sally Adam earned a permanent place in the Vashon Island School District when she joined the staff as an interpreter/translator for the District’s Spanish-speaking families in 2005.
She retires this year from her current dual role in the district — ECEAP (Early Childhood Education Assistance Program) Preschool Family Support; and Pre-K to 5th grade Latino Family Support and Liaison — both vitally important jobs.
Adam’s professional journey through the Vashon Island School District (VISD) has taken her through all three schools as Latino Family Support. She has also led Vashon High School students on service-learning trips to Guadalajara, Mexico.
Throughout her time in the district, the common thread has been her work to support Latino families and students. This has included working closely with Vashon’s Latino community from the time Comunidad Latina de Vashon (CLV) was established.
“I remember the first public action that was decided upon collectively,” Adam said. “It was to walk as a unit in that summer’s Strawberry Festival … women and girls were in beautiful dresses and shawls and some of the boys in cowboy boots, dancing and throwing handfuls of candy into the crowd.”
The group carried banners that read, “We are your neighbors/Somos sus vecinos.”
Adam joyously worked with CLV to bring ECEAP (Early Childhood Education Assistance Program) Preschool to fruition on the VISD campus, supporting Latino families as they made free preschool a priority and did fundraising to provide preschool scholarships.
The work has been gratifying, said Adam.
“My greatest joy has been to see the evolution of parents finding their strengths and building a better future for themselves and their families,” she said.
Still, Adam said she still worries that her favorite District programs might disappear due to state or local funding shortfalls.
Her commitment to Vashon’s Latino community has earned her cherished relationships with families in the community.
“My life is richer and my sense of belonging to the fabric of Vashon life is broader and deeper because of the good fortune I’ve had to work at VISD these past decades,” she said.
She cited VISD staff as the best part of a Vashon education.
“We have many wonderful teachers and staff who put their heart and soul into building relationships with students and making their experience in school a starting point for life-long learning and exploration,” she said.
She’s grateful to Captain John Burke for his “inspired teaching of woodworking skills,” to Martha Woodard for “sharing her love of history with my son Charlie,” and of course, “to the talented and devoted preschool team” she will now miss.
As she heads into her next chapter, Adam is looking forward to spending more time traveling to see family and friends with her husband, Jim — who she calls a “role model for retirement.”
Their sons in New Mexico and California can expect more visits as well as their many friends in Spain and Mexico — “all places that are conveniently warmer and drier than Vashon.”
She will play JS Bach, Villa Lobos and Flamenco on the guitar and piano, cook up a storm, assemble ironic collages, continue to explore her passion for ornamental ironwork, and she says, “continue to engage in meaningful opportunities with preschoolers and with our Vashon Latino neighbors.”
Chautauqua Elementary School Principal Rebecca Goertzel praised Adam’s work.
“Sally is an amazing advocate and collaborator,” said Goertzel. “She works collaboratively with families, teachers, paraeducators, and community organizations. She thinks about the family and the whole child when planning and helps to create a crucial link for families as they become part of the Chautauqua school community.”
Goertzel also said that in addition to Adam’s work as Latino Family Advocate, she has worked with the Latino community as they created events such as Chautauqua’s Dia de Los Muertos dinner and celebration, and has been a strong advocate and team member in Club Chispa, an after-school club for Spanish-speaking students.
“Sally’s care for our students and their families shines through everything she does — she thinks long-term and big picture, and she helps families in a holistic way by supporting them and our teachers,” said Goetzel. “She’s so positive and supportive while being true and real and always standing for what she believes.”