RSD’s Team Spotlight…StepUP’s Emily Sample!

This month’s Team Member Spotlight features…
Emily Sample, a StepUP Behavior Intervention Assistant who goes above and beyond with unique projects!

Here’s a little more about Emily Sample.

How long have you been working for RSD and what did you do before coming here?

I started with RSD four years ago as a Title1 Instructional Assistant, doing reading interventions at Vern Patrick Elementary. I was transferred to StepUP in the spring of 2018, and prior to that I was a librarian at Long Beach Elementary in Washington. I have also been a chef and a pastry chef for more than 20 years, working in Alaska, Florida and Maine. I grew up in Florida, sailing and scuba diving all through school. After meeting my husband while studying fine arts at the University of Florida, we drove long-haul trucks to see the country, then settled in Maine and had two amazing kids. We moved to the West Coast in 2012 for a new adventure, and we love it here. We are avid campers, adventurers, and wild mushroom hunters.

How has your role changed during the pandemic?

My role here at StepUP as a behavior intervention assistant has changed dramatically since the pandemic closed our doors last March. Where before I was in classrooms all over the district supporting students, I am now in a more behind-the-scenes role. I am part of a team that works closely with other schools within the district that helps to get supports in place for our students, as well as supporting those who are here on the StepUP campus during LIPI. 

What have you done to help improve the school’s garden and why is that important to you? 

The gardens here at StepUP have been an amazing project that many of us are involved with. I spend much of my time here in the summer months doing general upkeep. This past summer, I built a free farmstand for our local community. Every Wednesday morning, Karen Mitchell and I would harvest whatever we could and set it out on our stand for our families and the community, bagging and labelling all the produce in portion sizes to keep up with COVID safety measures.  Karen promoted this on our Facebook page, and I believe word of mouth helped it be a big success for us.

The garden is important to me for many reasons, but one goal I strive for is to make it look amazing for the students who attend here. I want our school to be a source of pride for students and staff alike, and when they drive by in the summer, I want them to be excited about what they see, from the giant sunflowers to the great variety of pumpkins, and say, “Hey! That’s my school!” 

What other projects are you working on and why do you think these things are useful for StepUP students?

Right now I am focusing on our new indoor garden space. With grant money from the Redmond Garden Club and the Environmental Center in Bend, we have built a seed-starting garden in our basement, bringing students down weekly to grow lettuces and spinach. In a few weeks we will begin growing for the outside beds. I am always sad when the students leave for summer break and don’t get to experience the garden and its summer growth, so I started this program as a way for them to gain some knowledge of how a garden gets started, the benefits of growing your own, and the satisfaction of actually eating something they grew themselves. 

What do you enjoy most or find most rewarding about your role? What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced this year? 

One of the greatest rewards of being at StepUP is seeing growth in our students. Getting to know these amazing people and being able to be a positive influence in their lives on a day-to-day basis is really important to me. One of the biggest challenges for me has been not being able to connect with students who I know need more positivity in their lives. It was hard for me to not be able to check in with them, or give them a high five and say, “I’m so happy to see you today!” One of the best parts of being at StepUP is the people I work with. We are an amazing team that I am always learning from. We have a hard job, and the support and care we have for one another is inspiring and crucial in the work that we do. StepUP rocks!


Emily consistently goes above and beyond to provide instructional and emotional support to the students at StepUP and throughout the district as she supports students on their home campuses. She is incredibly innovative and seeks creative solutions to problems. Emily’s calm, reassuring presence alone can help a student who is dysregulated or in crisis feel safe and feel heard. It is apparent to all who know her that Emily is a champion for kids! — Karen Jordan, Executive Director of Student Services

In addition to her responsibilities as one of our Behavior Intervention Assistants, Emily is our “Garden Champion.” Emily not only keeps our garden in tiptop shape, she also works to get us grants through the Redmond Garden Club and The Environmental Center. She comes in throughout the summer to ensure our garden continues to produce and be ready for students, and has organized work parties with Eagle Crest to keep the weeds under control in the summer. During the spring school closure, she took the garden “home” and started the seeds we had planned to grow with students. She created videos to show the plants’ progress to share with students. This summer, she created a free farmstand where the harvested food from our garden was placed each Wednesday for the community to take for free. This quickly became a hit and the stand, which was overloaded with produce when we left it, would usually be empty in less than two hours. This fall/winter she created an indoor garden for starting seeds before they are ready to go into our greenhouse, and students have enjoyed their time planting seeds and getting to see them start to grow. This year, Emily has also jumped into a new role and has been learning how to take notes for our SSEAT (Student Social Emotional Advocacy Team) meetings that happen monthly on each campus. Emily is a champion not only for StepUP students and staff and for the StepUP garden, but for RSD as a whole. — Karen Mitchell, StepUP principal