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Teacher boosts life-long habits for learning, health, fitness

In teaching and volunteer activities, Fannie Bush helps children and youth develop or change habits so they gain more from their education and can establish life-long health and fitness.

Fannie Bush 1
Fannie Bush encourages good eating habits.

“I see a sense of need every day in the eyes of children,” she said.  “I see their need for love and attention.  I see children acting positively or negatively to draw attention.

“Every day working with the students is revitalizing,” said Fannie.  “There is never a day that is the same as a previous day.”

As health and fitness teacher at Adams and Regal elementary schools, she knows that many children need mentoring and tutoring to meet Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) test requirements.  She also has a volunteer avenue to help make such assistance possible.

She is one of 20 local members of The Links, Inc., an African-American women’s community-service organization, connecting volunteers and service-learning students at Eastern Washington University (EWU) and Washington State University (WSU) with middle and high school students who need help.

The channel is Keys to Success, a weekend mentoring and tutoring program.

The Links, Inc., started Keys to Success by linking several organizations—the NATIVE Project, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, AHANA (Asian, Hispanic, African American and Native American) Business and Professional Association, Spokane Public Schools and the National Sorority of Phi Kappa Delta (for African American teachers).

Their goal is to excite children and youth to improve math, science, language arts and social skills, and to give students confidence in taking the WASL test.

Both in teaching health and fitness and in the Keys to Success program, Fannie encourages students to understand their own roles in their education and she seeks ways to involve parents.

Keys to Success started with $15,000 from the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia in 2006. 

“An alarming number of students were not meeting requirements, and an alarming number of those were students of color and low economic status,” she said.  “We wanted to see what we could do through mentoring and tutoring.”

It surprises some that participation in and support for Keys to Success is cross-racial, she said, because The Links women are predominantly African American.  The program held serves students that the district recommends.

The Links coordinates the organizations to provide tutors, calculators and other supplies.

“We started with five students from fourth to 11th grades,” Fannie said, “primarily middle-school and high-school students. 

Fannie Bush 2
Fannie Bush seeks to involve parents

“We also want to engage parents to support their students academically and emotionally, so they fit into the school environment,” Fannie said, describing challenges of recruiting students. 

While five students from five middle schools and high schools come regularly, other students come and go because of jobs and other activities. 

The Links, Inc., works to involve more students regularly.

On second Saturdays, service-learning students from EWU mentor, tutor and listen, working one-to-one with the younger students.

Keys to Success also offered a series of sessions on robots.  About 40 students and families met with the National Society of Black Engineers from the University of Idaho.  In the first session, they learned science and math to create working robots.  The second session, they made a more advanced robots.

“We encourage students to ask questions when they feel unsure.  Much of what we do is confidence building to prepare people for the future, to give them options,” said Fannie, a 1972 graduate of Texas College in Tyler, Tex., in physical education and biology.

After earning a master’s degree in health and physical education at Texas A and M in Commerce, Tex., she taught a year Kansas City, Kans., public schools, five years at Texas College and three years in Tyler before moving to Spokane 26 years ago with her husband, Ivan.

In Spokane, Fannie, the mother of three daughters—Shayla, Ivy and Oceana—taught at seven schools in grades four to six, before coming to Adams and Regal.

Seeking friends when she moved here with no relatives in the area, she joined the Spokane chapter of The Links, Inc., which formed in 1978 with 20 members.   It is one of 276 chapters nationwide.

Nationally, Links was formed in 1946 in Philadelphia by women needing companionship and friendship, because many of their spouses had been in World War II.  As their friendships grew, the women decided to do something in their communities.  The mission of The Links is both friendship and community service. 

Over the years, the Spokane chapter has donated books about African Americans to the East Central library.  Now it is distributing those books to other library branches.  The Links also sponsors The Ebony Fashion Fair at Northern Quest Casino to support scholarships and fund its programs.

Locally, Fannie said The Links, Inc., also provides scholarships to help students attend college and pay for books, clothes, transportation and other expenses.  Along with the funds, members offer students emotional support.

In the process, she said the organization has helped her.

“I want to give back what it has given to me by supporting and giving an extra boost to students,” said Fannie, a member at Morning Star Baptist Church. 

“My faith calls me to help other people reach their potential, go beyond it and stretch it,” she said. 

“Faith helps us persist and have the courage to carry on,” she added.

To help students in her classes understand their role in their own fitness, health, nutrition and education, Fannie offers them ways to help them discern and develop habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

To involve her students, she has them fill out activity logs at home, recording when they take a walk, give someone a hug or smile or help prepare a meal.  They write down what they eat and what other activities they do alone or with their families.

The challenge is to have students understand how changing their habits will affect them long term, she said.

Although she started teaching as a physical education teacher, she values the focus on fitness. 

It eliminates the emphasis on competition, so all children are included in sports and fitness activities in elementary school, she said.

Fannie teaches each of her 483 students in 30-minute classes twice each week.  Teaching so many students so little time, she is committed to knowing each student’s name and something about them to express her caring.

“Children need to belong, to be recognized and valued,” she said of teaching, family life and Keys to Success.

For information, call 534-9071 or email