April Pigue, Distinguished ORLA Grad (2018)

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April Pigue, Distinguished ORLA Grad (2018)
April Pigue

April Pigue loves the Olympia School District so much that, after attending pre-k through graduation here in the OSD, she didn’t want to leave. So, upon graduation from Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA) in 2018, she took a job as a paraeducator at Garfield Elementary School. It was fitting that Pigue became a paraeducator. Her mom, Denise Pigue, is also a paraeducator at GES.


Pigue began accompanying her mom as a volunteer in schools when she was in eighth grade. “It became one of my favorite things to do,” she said. “Working with kids has become a big passion of mine. I enjoy building relationships with all the kids I see on a day-to-day basis. I really enjoy watching them get older and start figuring out who they are as a student and a person. It's an honor to be a small part of their journey.”


Garfield Principal Brendon Chertok said the school is lucky to have Pigue there. “April is a fantastic employee,” Chertok said. “She has developed a strong, genuine rapport with students and is consistently a great support to other staff. She is often seeking ways to help others, including myself. She has contributed to our culture and environment in various positive and constructive ways.”


Pigue transferred to ORLA from Olympia High School after missing an excessive amount of school during her 10th grade year due to health issues. That year, Pigue suffered from viral myocarditis, a condition which causes heart failure and is usually related to a viral infection. Pigue spent three weeks in the hospital fighting the infection and then two months at home recovering. When doctors finally cleared her to return to school, they advised that she should only attend for three hours per day. Although Pigue fully recovered, her high school credits did not. She transferred to ORLA for the flexible schedule and opportunity to catch up on her class credits.


“Looking back now, transferring to ORLA was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Pigue said. “My teachers and peers were so supportive and welcoming, especially after everything I went through personally. With ORLA being a much smaller school than most, I was given so many additional opportunities to try new things and I was able to really start finding out who I was as a person. I was able to find my voice and find my confidence, and I am forever grateful to ORLA for doing that for me.”


As a student at ORLA, Pigue served as head editor of the student yearbook. She also managed the student cafe and worked as a teacher’s aide in her science class. Her skills editing the yearbook and helping in the classroom allowed her to practice skills that she uses in her current job as a paraeducator today.


“I used what I learned in my yearbook class to create a yearbook for Garfield the last two years and I have been able to use what I learned from my art classes to teach after-school art classes for grades K-5,” she said. “And, most importantly, I am able to use the voice and confidence that I discovered at ORLA to work well with colleagues and students as well as advocate for them.”


Pigue recalls one former ORLA teacher, Taryn Veloni, for having an especially large impact on her. “She took me under her wing and went above and beyond to help me in every way possible,” Pigue said. “She looked at me and saw me as a strong person before I ever believed it. I was a quiet, reserved kid. She gave me the confidence to become someone that could not only stand up for myself but stand up for others, which in turn helps me advocate for the students I work with today.”


Veloni remembers Pigue fondly. She advised Pigue while she ran the student store at ORLA and saw how kind and gentle she was with younger students and those she managed. “She has the most patience out of anybody I’ve ever seen,” Veloni said. “And when it comes to younger kids it seems like she was made for it. She just has endless amounts of compassion and patience.”


Pigue has many fond memories from all of her many years as a student in OSD. Among her favorites was attending Camp Cispus with her classmates during fifth grade. “I remember it being a time when all the kids in our class got along and had the time of our lives,” she said. “I loved the songs and the walk to Angel Falls.”


Another important lesson Pigue learned from her school years was not to focus too deeply on test scores. “You are more than a test score,” she said. “Academics are important but a score doesn’t define you -- it doesn’t define your intelligence level. Everyone learns differently and that's okay. Another piece of advice I would say is don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. You know yourself the best, you know how you learn best, you know how much stress you can take, you know what's good and what isn't for your mental health. Do what’s best for yourself, always. Don’t let school burn you out.”