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Oct 11, 2001

Spencer’s Space

Welcome to my personal pages. You’ll find links here to the portions of my life that don’t include Sheila. At the present time those would be my life as a teacher at Stevens School, my experiences as a staff member at Camp UKANDU, my 50th birthday celebrations (9/02), and my experiences with hearing aids.

You may want to know more about my personal history to get you started. I was born in Salem, Oregon in the fall of 1952. I am part of a family of 9 (five boys and two bossy girls, shown to the left at our parents’ 60th anniversary party) who still enjoy spending time together. My immediate extended family now numbers around 50, although that number keeps going up as nieces and nephews wed and grand-nieces and nephews are born.

I graduated from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) in 1974, got an MA in Education from SF State University in 1978, and my teaching credential in 1990 from the University of Washington.

My careers have run the gamut from YMCA youth director to crisis counselor to UPS driver to teacher. Oh yes, I waited on a lot of tables in between some of those positions. I’ve been teaching at Stevens Elementary in Seattle since September 1990. I’ve taught second through fifth grades as a classroom teacher. (I think I prefer fourth.) Now I am the Physical Education teacher and work with all grades K-5.

I am a licensed pilot, though I haven’t flown since I decided to become a teacher (too expensive). Besides tandeming, I enjoy playing guitar, doing projects around the house, reading, silk screening t-shirts, building sand castles any time I’m at the beach and of course, I love to nap!

Sep 11, 2011

School Stories

I’ve taught at Stevens Elementary since 1990. I taught third grade for five years, fourth grade for five years and fifth grade for six years. From 2000-2006, I was job-sharing with Colby Dresbeck, the most wonderful co-teacher in the world. For a variety of reasons, most financial, we both switched to full-time employment. Colby is at West Woodland and I remain at Stevens.

In 2007 I left the fifth grade and became the physical education teacher. My main goal has been to make PE fun and help kids get healthier. The change has been serving all the grade levels from K to 5th. Hoooo-boy!
I got my basic PE teaching training from friends and from spent a week with Two PE Guys. I was fortunate enough to start my new career just when Seattle was adopting a new PE curriculum. I became one of the pilot teachers for the 5 for Life curriculum and got a more well-rounded approach to physical education. Now I had a way to teach not only games, but content about nutrition and fitness.

I’ve brought many programs to Stevens such as the First Tee golf program from the USGA, Bicycling Basics from Cascade Bike Club, tennis via the US Tennis Association, as well as a Marathon Runner’s club.

My proudest achievement has been to get PE for every child, every day at Stevens. Children need to move to learn. When an opportunity came to increase the number of minutes of PE we provided, I led a charge to make PE a number one priority. We began in the 2010-20-11 school year and haven’t looked back. It is awesome.

In 2012 I returned to half-time employment as a precursor to retirement. I still enjoy teaching and getting kids excited about learning and moving, but I’m ready to take more time for myself. If it works out well, I may stay at Stevens for another 5 or 6 years.

Aug 11, 2011


I Click to enlargeworked at Camp UKANDU from 1989 until 2001,Click to enlarge then again from 2004 to the present. UKANDU is an American Cancer Society camp (in Oregon) for children with cancer. Being there is a heart-opening experience for me.

The kids are always so wonderful. They are all full of life. Their spirit is contagious. They always made the camp experience special. As I write this I realize it is pretty sentimental and schlocky sounding. But the truth is that words can’t really describe what it is like to be at camp. The closest I’ve ever come is to say that camp is a place where everyone relates to everyone else straight from his/her heart. That pure honest communication of love and compassion is everywhere. If you haven’t lived it, you can’t imagine it. If you have lived it, you can’t forget it.

For my first 12 years I was in charge of campfires, ceremonies, general camp cheer, etc. (That’s me in my Dredd McMahon above right.) Upon my return I’ve been in charge of music pretty exclusively. It’s been absolutely fabulous, although I still wonder why they have a guy who can’t hear, can’t sing, and can’t really play guitar be in  charge of music. I guess they just want to prove the axiom that says “If you can talk, you can sing.” The best part has been the years when Phil and I have gotten to combine forces to do music. It has been tons of fun for us and for the camp.Click to enlarge

I have to say that, in addition to the kids, the staff is really tremendous. Many of them have been at camp for 10 years or more. It’s a very special group of people. Another wonderful thing about camp was spending the week with many of my family members who tended to become counselors (see both group photos).

Sep 11, 2011


Click to enlargeI’ve upgraded my hearing aids after five years. I now am wearing Inteo aids from Widex. They do a better job of amplifying than my old Resound aids. Of course the technology has improved dramatically since I got my first set of aids. These allow me to hear much better in the classroom. I’m curious to see how they will do when I move into the gym.

My ears have been going downhill for years. I got that first pair in 2001. They were “Canta” by Resound. There were four programmable channels on that first pair, but I only used two of them, one for noisy environments and one for general use. One of the big differences between my new ones and my old ones is the way the new ones automatically adjust for the levels of sound in the environment. They automatically tune down extra sounds. It almost eliminates the need for multiple channels.

If you are trying to decide if you need or want aids, I’d be glad to talk to you about the process I went through and why I ended up with what I ended up with. Just email me.

Sep 18, 2002

Spencer Turns 50

Click to see enlargedYou only turn 50 once, so I decided to make this a celebration to remember. As such, I started early, and ended late.

Round 1: Family
My first party came on September 7. On that day my family gathered in Portland. As it turned out, my niece and nephew Sarah and Aanen needed help putting the finishing touches on their house. Many of us went over there to plant bushes, install woodwork, and whatever other odd jobs needed doing. It was a great work party, complete with delivered pizza for lunch. Daddy had a little shock when he dug into some kind of power line. (Actually, the line didn’t break, so he just was surprised to find it.) We ended the day around 3 and headed over to Emmy’s.

Emily and Sheila had been setting up the birthday party there. Balloons and signs greeted us as we arrived. While we were waiting for critical mass to arrive for the softball game, we watched the Ducks stink up the field against Fresno State. Brooke and I couldn’t take it anymore, so we went to the school and started hitting the ball around.

Click to see enlargedEventually most of the gang showed up at the ball field. We started by playing workup, but eventually chose up teams. Lots of the little girls from Peter and Leslie’s and Joy and James’ families rounded out the squads. They could hit the ball pretty well, too. I learned that you can’t talk to the right fielder (Greta) while playing second base when Don is pitching. He pitched the ball while I was talking. I turned back toward the plate and everyone was yelling at me. They pointed to the sky, I stuck out my glove, and the baseball landed two feet away from me. Sometimes songs lie. But I got to slide headfirst into second later on, so the game was a success. Final score must have been 25-25.

Click to see enlargedA tired, dusty troupe headed back to Em’s for BBQ dinner. The food just kept on coming. That was followed, of course, by homemade cake and ice cream. I was incredibly touched by having the family sing Happy Birthday to me. It was the first time that had happened in 32 years. I felt wrapped, surrounded, cocooned in love.

Click to see enlargedLater that evening, we took our sparklers out into the cul-de-sac. I’d brought 50 to celebrate with. We set them off with the little girls asking for more, more, more. So Emily dragged out a huge supply of unused stuff from the 4th of July. Soon we had fountains of sparks and little poppers going off all over the place. The neighborhood loved it and even joined in.

What a party. I’m so blessed to have such a wonderful family to live with.

Click to enlargeRound 2: Friends
The next Saturday, I headed for Vashon for a party with my closest circle of friends. I had rented a retreat center (complete with hot tub and yurt) for 24 hours. I was hoping to spend quality time with each of them.

When we arrived, my good friend Cheri was already there. We spent more than an hour catching up with her stories from New York and our stories from Seattle. Then other guests started arriving. Rick and Carol Hammond, Bill and Sooz, and Richard and Dianne all appeared by 4:30. We set up a rousing game of croquet, on a terraced lawn complete with rocks and weeds for obstacles. It was amazing how many sure shots went awry as one ball hopped over another. Cheri eventually outlasted everyone else.

Click to enlargeRichard and Sheila had been setting up the diner while the rest of us played. Another BBQ, this one all vegan from the Boca Burgers to the homemade baked beans. Rick and Carol had to leave early, but eventually Jon and Diane Taylor and Ted and Laura Gillette showed up. We gathered around the campfire for our ceremony.

Click to see enlargedI’d asked everyone to submit a song to Richard that reminded them of me somehow. Then he compiled them onto a tape. We played the tape at the campfire while we ate vegan chocolate mousse cake. I’d try to guess who sent the song. They’d tell a story. It was a blast.

Click to see enlargedThe songs were amazingly eclectic. I’d expected a lot of 60’s songs. Instead, I got “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” by Karen Chandler, Sinatra’s “Young at Heart”, Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection”, John Lennon singing “Imagine”, Doo Doo Wah from Modesto, California railing about turning 50, “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys, “Cheap Seats” by Alabama, as well as the expected “Desperado” by the Eagles and “Singin’ in the Rain.”  Not a single Beatles tune!

The stories were all touching though. We laughed and laughed and laughed. As a final song, Richard and Dianne added Bob Dylan’s version of “Forever Young”. “May you staaaaaaay……… forever young.” A nice thought to end on.

Click to see enlargedSome folks went home. Some went to bed. Some went to the hot tub. The next morning we had a yoga session, a big breakfast and another croquet game. The high point for me was when I was ready to go through the midway wicket and was hit by Bill. Bill carefully set up to send my ball flying. Then he put his foot down on the wrong ball and sent himself flying! Ooops. He redeemed himself by winning the game later.

We played some cards, had some lunch, then had to call it quits. It had been a great 24 hours with some very special people. And the fun wasn’t over yet.

Round 3: At home
Click to see enlargedWhen we arrived home, there was Russ and his son Matt waiting on our doorstep. They’d been unable to get all the way up to Vashon (from California, via Portland) in time for the party, so just met us at home. John and Lynn also were visiting. We played the tape from the party, ate more corn on the cob and chocolate cake, and then sat around telling stories into the evening. It was great to have some time with Russ, even if it wasn’t around a campfire.

Round 4: The actual day
FinClick to enlargeally, my actual birthday came. I went to school as usual, but that’s when the usual things stopped. My work partner, Colby, had set up another surprise for me. She had the kids write stories about how Mr. B saved the day. Of course there were also brownies to share. She also had all the fifth graders in the school bring me bags of 50…..50 marshmallows, 50 popcorns, 50 toothpicks, 50 M&Ms, etc. etc. The day ended when I was presented with 50 paper beards, which they had worn when they had the photo taken on the back steps (see below).
Click to enlarge
At our staff meeting after school, my birthday twin Nancy (thanks for the rubber ducks, Nancy!) and I were feted by the whole staff. Another cake. More singing. More fun.

Click to see enlargedTo end the day, Sheila and I went to a party put on by our yoga teacher. She also turned 50 this week, and chose my day as the day for her community party. There was a free yoga lesson, a potluck dinner, musical entertainment, and performances by a human jazz machine and a belly dancer. Denise also had silly hats for all her guests.

The next night we had cake with our meditation group and lit the last of the sparklers in the street. By the time it ended, I had pretty well partied myself out. It was great