Kids solve surprise "arrest"
Students in Carson Valley Middle School’s Core 8B were shocked and horrified on March 4 as they watched one of their favorite teachers get hauled off in handcuffs by Officer Keith Logan of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.
Well, they were shocked until they realized what had really happened: They had been set up by their English teacher to become investigative reporters. Their task? Solve the mystery behind the surprising “arrest” of Kelley Yost, the art teacher.
“My first love is journalism,” said Linde Pirtle, 8B English teacher, “so I really enjoy teaching my students about the fundamentals of newswriting. this year, I wanted to make it fun by allowing them to be little 8th grade Woodwards and Bernsteins, trying to crack the case of the art fraud charges against Ms. Yost.”
Pirtle wrote the “mystery,” which involved an art fraud ring centering in the CVMS art room. Some teachers and administrators volunteered to play roles in the mystery, and Pirtle distributed 17 different versions of the story to herr volunteers.
“I wrote it so that if the students were persistent and found all 17 ‘sources,’ they would be able to solve the mystery,” Pirtle said.
In order to solve the mystery, the students had to interview teachers in the school.
“I thought this unit was good,” said Chrissy Kaffenberger, 8th grade student, “because we were involved in the story while it was happening. I got to know a lot of teachers I didn’t know before because I interviewed them.”
when Yost was arrested, 8B science teacher Lin Nooner “burst” into tears. Nooner’s role was as a friend of Yost and a school gossip source.
While still in character as an “enemy” of Yost, Eric Feeney, 8B history teacher, talked about his role in bringing Yost to justice. He was one of the teachers who “informed” authorities of the art fraud ring.
“I did a great service to mankind getting that kind of teacher out of our school. We’re trying to foster the kind of strength that builds nations, and the evil forces of Yost were interfering in that process,” he said.
Another teacher who played the role of Yost’s enemy was Jill Davis, alternative education teacher.
“It was difficult for me to say creepy things about Ms. Yost,” she said, “and it was really hard to keep a straight face when the kids thought the arrest was real.”
“I thought it was interesting talking to the teachers. It was like the real thing. The best parts were talking to the teachers, seeing Ms. Yost get arrested, and going to the press conferences,” said Tim Jansse, another of Pirtle’s students.
One press conference was held by Howard Bennett, vice principal, and Lauren Young, head secretary. In the story, all of the evidence led to Bennett and Young, who were “wanted” by the FBI for international art fraud. Their aliases were Howie the Slick and Mama Cookie. During the press conference, both “resigned” their positions under pressure from the pressure from the persistent 8th grade reporters.
“In some ways, I was trying to recreate the Watergate scandal at CVMS,” Pirtle said. “Ms. Yost took the fall, but Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Young were the most guilty parties.”
Kelley Yost, in her role as Nelly Yost, the substitute for Kelley Yost while she was in jail, said, “I liked the unit. It was fun getting arrested, and it was interesting to watch the process of the students gathering information and asking questions. I knew when they were getting closer to the truth because they started asking more specific questions. It was an excellent 7unit. It was valuable for the students and fun for me.”
The students who write news articles with the most correct information will be in the running to receive the Pirtle-Pulitzer Prize, Pirtle said.