By Alan Sorensen
Judy Wolfe is convinced that she is living her dream life.
And after spending only a few minutes with her, it is impossible to believe that she could possibly find anything more rewarding than what she is doing right now teaching a variety of middle school subjects.
I teach because I want to, Wolfe said, as she prepared her Havre Middle School room Wednesday for the first day of school. This is actually my second career. I worked for several years as a microbiologist.
Its Wolfes dedication to her 13-year teaching career in Havre that won her the Teacher of the Year honors last spring. That her bid for the Montana Teacher of the Year award fell short is of little consequence to Wolfe. Her reward comes from her students.
I like kids a lot; they teach me a lot, Wolfe said. I love the humor at the middle school. (The students) make me laugh.
Wolfe said she grew up wanting to teach but that her college professors convinced her to pursue a career in science instead because of teachings low pay. She graduated from Montana State University in 1971 with a B.S. in microbiology and joined the National Society of Registered Microbiologists and the American Society of Clinical Pathologists.
Wolfe completed her medical internship in medical technology in 1972 and began working in hospital laboratories.
Despite her demanding career, Wolfe managed to devote time to children. She volunteer to lead lab tours for visiting students and became a Girl Scout leader and Sunday school teacher. She also helped to set up a preschool in her Idaho community.
Wolfe stopped working for five years so she could spend time raising her children: Serie, who is 23 now and a second-year law student at the University of Houston, and Ryan, 21, a senior at Boston University.
Then, when it was time to go back to work, Wolfe decided with her husband Toms support, to get an education degree from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.
When Tom transferred to Havre with Norwest Bank, Judy was hired to teach fourth grade at Lincoln-McKinley. She held that position one year, 1986-87, and then taught fifth grade from 1987-90.
Wolfe moved to the middle school in 1990. She taught seventh grade life science and environmental education until 1998, adding the gifted program from 1994-98. This year shell teach seventh grade life science and world geography.
Wolfe also developed a new course offering for this year: Interactions between living things. Course topics will include global diseases, population, environment, food distribution, wealth, and climate.
Wolfe credits her teaching mentor, retired high school chemistry teacher Ron Kologi, with fostering and nurturing her teaching style. Its a style Wolfe defines with just one word: Enthusiasm!
He told me my job is get them interested, so when they get to high school theyre ready for those courses, Wolfe said. Seventh-graders come in here excited about science. I just capitalize on that. Thats easy for me.
Wolfe, who is certified to teach high school chemistry and reading, is actively involved in the Havre community. She is president of the local Delta Kappa Gamma chapter, serves on the ethics committee at Northern Montana Hospital, and volunteers at First Lutheran Church.
She said she relaxes by reading, traveling and shopping.
Wolfe was nominated for the Havre teacher of the year award three other times: 1993, 94 and 95. She belongs to numerous professional associations and 18 professional development leadership activities. She has won several professional awards, too.
Wolfe said it is nice to be paid for something she enjoys doing in a place where she enjoys doing it.
I think I have a great world here, she said with a wave of her hand from behind her desk. I love this facility; look at this room.
That is precisely what her new batch of seventh-graders had the pleasure of doing when they returned to HMS Thursday for the onset of the 1999-00 school year.