By Alan Sorensen
Lincoln-McKinley Elementary School teachers grades 1-5 take their careers seriously, but insist on having fun doing it.
First-grade teacher Windy Olson has been with the district for four years. Her attitude very nearly mirrors her peers. Her classroom curriculum includes language arts, Mathland and Math Their Way, FOSS science, thematic units, reading, plus we have fun!
The most humorous part (of her job), Olson said in a recent survey, is the honesty, innocence, and frankness of first-graders. They will say just what they are thinking. The most enjoyable part of teaching first-graders is when I watch them read independently with a smile.
The schools other first-grade teacher, Kathy Sather, is a 16-year veteran with the district. Her curriculum fits the geology, flora and fauna and history of north central Montana.
We study insects, balance and motion, pebbles, sand and silt, and dinosaurs, Sather said. We choose from other themes such as pets, cowboys, rain, the circus and trains.
Sather said she particularly enjoys being able to watch as kids discover and learn new things and getting to participate in and touch their lives.
The three second-grade teachers at Lincoln-McKinley have a combined tenure with the district of 69 years: Alice M. OLeary, 40 years; Judy Ireland, 20 years; and Karen Mikota, nine years.
Each teacher uses literature-based reading, Mathland, and FOSS science in her curriculum.
OLeary also employs Action Spelling, while Ireland adds Math Their Way and Talents Unlimited, and Mikotas other tools include think time, multi-age, looping, and integrating the arts. Mikota also works with student teachers.
I love to see their eyes light up when they finally understand a new concept and when they are enjoying learning, OLeary said.
Ireland said she enjoys seeing students get excited when they learn something new or difficult for them. She also enjoys building a relationship with each student and having them come to trust me and rely on me to help with schoolwork and other problems.
Listening to a childs version of how things around them work is fun for Mikota. Watching students master new skills and sharing all sorts of art pieces prepared by children also bring her joy.
Sandy Wilson is the third-grade teacher and Jackie Rygg is the intermediate multi-age, grades 3 and 4, teacher. Wilsons been with Havre Public Schools for three years, and Ryggs been with the district for six.
Wilson employs Mathland, FOSS science, Write on Track Everyday Spelling, art projects, Talents, Math By All Means, and Hooked on Fishing.
I like to see the students faces light up when theyve finally gotten the idea on a new concept, Wilson said. I enjoy listening and interacting with them on subjects that they want to share. They are full of energy and the desire to learn.
I love to watch their faces when they get that all important ah-hah! moment in the learning process, Rygg said. Children love to be involved in the problem-solving process and when they finally reach that point, their pride in achieving their goal is fun to see!
Fourth-grade teacher Vicky Michels has been with Havre schools for 14 years. She uses AIMS (Activities integrating math and science), FOSS, Montana history with field trips, inclusion of special education students, Project Wet, Project Wild, literature-based reading, Math Solutions, Internet research, and Cable in the Classroom.
I love to challenge students to think rather than give them the easy answers, Michels said. The best part of teaching is when the light goes on in the mind and the children say, I get it now.
Giving children the confidence in their ability to learn empowers them to take charge of their own education and expand upon their individual interests. Developing students into critical thinkers who can learn from and evaluate the validity of information that they are bombarded with from print, television, music, and the Internet is an educators greatest responsibility in todays world.
Michels said she particularly enjoys teaching her students history.
The schools two fifth-grade teachers have 30 years experience in the district between them.
Beyond his 21 years of classroom instruction, Michael Spencer has been instrumental in providing bicycle safety and orienteering programs to elementary students throughout the community.
I have to say that the most enjoyable part of working with students is the constant learning with them, Spencer said. The search for the answer is as fun as reaching the answer.
Marilyn Granells fifth-graders are involved now with a couple projects in which they participate directly in the lessons.
For the past three years, weve been participating in classroom feeder watch, she said. It involves bird feeding, local data collecting, and research through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
This is our second year in learning about entrepreneurship and economics through youth empowerment and self-sufficiency (YESS) mini-society. My students love mini-society.
Granell derives a lot of joy watching her students grow throughout the school year.
It is exciting to see how much theyve learned in nine months of school, she said. Some students progress steadily throughout the year while others plateau and then make huge strides as the concepts gel for them. It is very gratifying to see when students make the connection between what they are learning in school and how it applies to their own lives.
School then become meaningful and not just something they have to do.
Mark West is a counselor for K-5 students at Lincoln-McKinley and Devlin schools. He provides individual counseling, group counseling, teaches a couple of classroom packages (Get a Life Portfolios to fifth-graders and conflict resolution), and handles discipline.
West said he enjoys working with a student who begins to experience improvement in self worth and confidence. They begin to feel good about themselves.
That, along with teaching, appears to be the goal of all Lincoln-McKinley faculty.