The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Jeremy Burnham

Teacher Profile Series: LRHS family and consumer science teacher Donna Koch

Born and raised in Ritzville, Koch aims to teach students lifelong skills

Series: Teacher Profile | Story 12

Last updated 10/17/2019 at 10:43am

Journal photo by Jeremy Burnham

Ask Lind-Ritzville High School family and consumer science teacher Donna Koch to describe her job and she will respond with one sentence.

"It's all about preparing kids for life," Koch said.

She says she's often asked what family and consumer science is.

"It used to be called home ec," Koch said. "When I tell people I teach family and consumer science, people are like, 'what are you talking about?' But if I reference home ec, people understand."

But whatever the name might be, it comes back to preparing students for life. For example, one class Koch teaches is Independent Living.

"We talk a lot about money management and employment skills," Koch said. "Right now we are doing career research. We'll be doing a unit on housing and how to rent an apartment. We'll be doing a unit on relationships and how to get along with people when you have a roommate you don't like."

Koch says preparing children for adulthood includes learning how to prepare meals at home and how to do laundry.

"We call them emerging adults," Koch said. "Because even though they may be turning 18 and may technically be an adult, they're not. They aren't ready for us to just kick them out and say, 'Okay, go for it.' There's a lot for them to learn. I like to watch that growth happen. I get to have some of them for four years. So I get to see that growth from when they are 14 to when they are 18."

TEACHER SERIES continued on Page 3

Koch is a fifth generation Ritzville resident. Her son is preparing to inherit the family farm.

Koch graduated from Ritzville High School and attended Washington State University in the 1980s. Her degree at WSU is in clothing and textiles. At this point, teaching high school was not her calling.

Koch got married and spent time living in the Davenport and Wilbur areas. She spent 20 years in the home sewing industry. Koch said this did include some teaching of adults.

"I had been teaching adults for 20 years," Koch said. "Different sewing classes. How to quilt, how to taylor. Whatever they wanted to learn, we would develop a class for."

After 20 years in that field, Koch was ready for a change. She was also planning a move back to Ritzville.

"This position just came open. My former home ec teacher was retiring," Koch said. "We were moving back to Ritzville and here was this opening. So I just applied and I was qualified for it."

Koch was offered the job, but had to go back to school to earn her master's degree in family and consumer science education from Central Washington University.

Koch has been in the job for 15 years now. She says she thinks it's what she has been meant to do all along.

"Everything in life was guiding me to teaching," Koch said. "And I really love this area [of education]. It's where my passion lies, in sharing these life skills with kids. When I was at WSU in the 80s, my adviser kept saying, 'You need to be a home ec teacher, you need to go into education.' I was like, 'I don't want to be a home ec teacher, are you nuts?' I went back later and said, 'I should have listened to you.'"

Koch said her job has changed a lot over the years. The change in name from home economy to family and consumer science has also brought a change in focus, which in turn has affected who takes the classes.

"It's been evolving as more and more women have left and are doing a full-time careers," Koch said. "When I was in high school, most of my friends' mothers were stay-at-home moms ... When I was in high school we were segregated. The girls took home ec and the boys took ag ... Now, all of my classes are half boys."

Koch says the culinary classes offered through the program are especially popular among boys.

"A lot of it comes down to food," Koch said with a laugh. "Kids like to eat. They really like to learn more about cooking, so that's the draw that brings them in."

Koch says she is happy that the Lind and Ritzville school boards make family and consumer science classes a priority.

"You'll see a lot of schools in the area that don't have family and consumer science," Koch said. "They may have an ag program, they have a business program. But they have discontinued this area, and there's such a need for it. There's such a need for students to learn these things."

Do you know a teacher you would like to see featured in our teacher profile series? Email Jeremy Burnham at [email protected] The series is coming to an end soon, so don't miss your chance to suggest a teacher now.


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