As part of a media workshop, students from Bellevue's International School took photos of peers or teachers who have taught them a valuable lesson this year.

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Every year, students at Bellevue’s International School spend one week in workshops focused on providing them with real-world experiences.

Teacher Kristin Leong’s workshop this year, filled with 24 students from grades six through nine, focused on Media Madness and she invited Seattle Times photographer Bettina Hansen and me (Education Lab engagement editor Anika Anand)  to talk about our work.

After we shared tips on interviewing and how to take good cell-phone photographs, we gave them an assignment: Take a picture of someone at their school who has taught them a valuable lesson this school year.

We were impressed by the students’ photos and the stories they chose to share — below are some examples.

Are you and your students interested in participating in a similar assignment? E-mail me at

Ninth-grader Emma Eversole wrote: “In physics, I was so excited for my mouse-trap car but when we tested the cars, mine veered too much and I was so disappointed. I thought I was a failure. Mr. Moorhead assured me that mistakes help us learn. Mr. Moorhead is a teacher at International School in Bellevue and has been working here for almost two years. The best advice that Mr. Moorhead received was from his dad, who said: ‘If you are having trouble figuring something out, then think of a person you admire and how they would overcome the situation.’ Whenever I have trouble figuring things out, I think of Mr. Moorhead.”


Sixth-grader Maya Shrufi wrote: “This is my math teacher Julie Reeder, and in addition to math what she has taught me is to always be independent, and self-sufficient. For example, once while I was in her math class, I had a big question for her about a big problem. After I asked her the question, she told me how I had the materials, and that as long as I focus, I can answer my own question. I talked to Ms. Reeder recently, and I asked her what advice she has for students. She said, ‘To always give your best, even if it is something that you are not interested in.’ Ms. Reeder has been teaching at International School for 14 years.”


Seventh-grader Jasna Chong wrote: “Michelle Daniels, a ninth-grader at International that inspires me, said to me, ‘You’re perfect in every way, don’t let anyone tell you something else… you might not be okay now but everything will be okay.’ When I was going through tough situations, I would always go to Michelle for help. She would always comfort me, encourage me and say that everything will be okay. These quotes taught me many things and was very valuable to me because it made me think that I can get through whatever situation I’m in and it will get better because I would always look down on myself but now I don’t. Michelle gets her inspiration from her grandparents. She thinks that ‘many people don’t know or are scared to help each other when someone in the same grade is having a tough time because they might be scared and don’t know what to say to them. But people might have an easier time encouraging someone younger than them because they have more experience on what they are going through.’ ”


Eighth-grader Julia Hamilton wrote: ” ‘I am nonbinary,’ said Meffan Frei, 17, who is a senior at International. I met them two years ago, when I was in sixth grade. Going into middle school, I had no experience with gay or transgender people. I first noticed Meffan’s clothes, which were not girly, but not boyish either. As a nonbinary, Meffan doesn’t classify as a specific gender and prefers the term transgender. As a sophomore, Meffan was inspired by a friend’s short story, which opened their eyes to the world of transgender identity, and lead them to question their sexual orientation and gender. When they came out to their family, Meffan was nervous, but more excited. Today, Meffan feels more stable in their lifestyle since ‘finding a label that help[s them] feel [complete].’ Getting to know Meffan has inspired me to just be myself.”


Student Kavita Getchell wrote: “Nick Lombardo, my middle school PE teacher, has been an amazing role model and inspirational person in my life. At my school we do a lot of running, about three or four miles a week. I complain about running a lot even though I sort of like it. Nick always talks about the reason I don’t like it is because of my attitude towards it. He says it all the time: ‘Your attitude and effort can only be controlled by you.’ I realized that this is such an important life lesson because it helps me control my effort and attitude towards life, and if I can’t do that it will be a lot harder for me especially toward things I don’t necessarily love. If I use this lesson I can improve my overall attitude and become happier, more positive and be willing to even give small things like running a second chance.”


Seventh grader Novia Liu wrote: “Kennedy and I have math and International Studies together, and we have completely different outlooks on life. I’m obsessed with making sure my grades never dip below an A and I volunteer to answer teacher questions whenever I can. Kennedy, on the other hand, finishes her work within 30 minutes and spends the leftover hour on her phone. Kennedy has shown me that there’s more to life than what is in a textbook. ‘I like to know what’s going on around the world, not just like breaking news stuff, but like trend stuff,’ she says. As a person whose life has been dominated by academics, I never knew pop culture could be relevant.  Kennedy says, ‘Everyone has different lives, they all have different normal things. That’s actually what’s going on. It’s not like important necessarily, but it’s like something I choose to know. I’m going to use that knowledge more than using like algebra or like learning the cell parts.’ ”


Ninth-grader Sage Cook wrote: “Kristin Leong, also an inveterate poet, has been teaching at my school for five years and has transformed the way I think about school and education. She keeps her classes interesting and non-intimidating through the use of a revolutionary practice, dubbed the student-led classroom. In return for our present-mindedness and cooperation, her system rewards us by giving us genuine opportunities to influence our class, and forming authentic connections between classmates. ‘The best way to connect with kids is to listen to them,’ she says. Ms. Leong has given me and my classmates the appreciation for learning and free-thinking that we need to forge a happy, successful life for ourselves. This year I no longer have her as a teacher, but there is at least one lesson she taught me that will stick with me to the end of my days: Every assignment, or test, or project, as tedious and as meaningless as it might seem, is only as meaningless as you want it to be. There is always a way to put a little bit of your soul into your work, make it breathe a little, and often, that’s the way to pass the test as well.”