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OP-ED: Grateful for Hinsdale Teachers

The national teacher shortage is certainly felt in districts across Montana. When I entered the teaching profession eighteen years ago, it seemed that most teaching jobs were competitive with several qualified applicants seeking the same position. Today, hundreds of vacancies remain across the state according to “Montana Jobs for Teachers,” found at the Office of Public Instruction website. Montana students need and deserve a quality education, yet many districts cannot fill positions to provide in-person instruction by certified teachers.

In Hinsdale, we are grateful for two courageous women who entered their classrooms without teacher training. These ladies tackle the daily duties of lesson planning, classroom management, corrections, and more, while working towards their teacher licensure. Lacey Mogan jumped in as the Hinsdale math teacher in 2018. Sarah Schmidt joined the Hinsdale teacher team filling a vacant science position at the start of this school year. Both women bring energy and new perspectives to the district.

Lacey’s original college degree, human services, fits her patient, empathetic demeanor. But, she claims she did not have the patience needed for her first position in mental health in a western Montana school setting. Ms. Mogan feels she more effectively put these traits to use teaching mathematics in the familiar walls of HHS.

Sarah made a short move to Hinsdale from Glasgow, where she most recently served as an AmeriCorps member. With a background in biology and scientific research, Ms. Schmidt settled into the science classroom quickly. In addition to teaching 7-12 science, Sarah offers the first in-person Spanish class to HHS students in decades. As a former college track athlete, she brings knowledge and experience in sports and weight training. We are excited to have Sarah on our teaching team.

Thankfully, Sarah finds that exercise and music offer stress relief, because preparing for effective teaching and successful schooling are stressful. Lacey finds solace in music also when she plays the piano. She enjoys time with family when not correcting math papers or writing papers for college classes.

Lacey’s mother, Connie Mogan (a veteran teacher of HHS), thought Lacey would be a great fit for the math position because not too many college students take calculus for fun. Similarly, Sarah’s parents encouraged her to consider a new direction when she was not satisfied with her summer research jobs. Katrena Palmer, a former HHS student and friend, suggested Sarah look into the science opening because she recognized the joy Sarah experienced when working with youth. We are grateful that both women seriously considered the advice of those close to them, and now offer our students quality education.

Education is a challenge. The women speak of the general negative attitude towards education, as well as the difficulty motivating some students. Both women have full schedules, so they quickly learned how time intensive it is to prepare for six different classes in a small school. Fortunately, when we keep the positive aspects of a small school and supportive community within view, they will overshadow the negative.

Sarah finds joy in sharing the excitement of learning, and loves the energy her students bring. She also gets plenty of laughs from the funny things they say. Lacey enjoys hearing the kids’ perspectives. Helping students be less intimidated by complicated concepts is also satisfying for Ms. Mogan. When I see these women at the end of most days, when the halls are empty and few classroom lights shine bright, Lacey and Sarah continue to smile. They have discovered the true joys of teaching!

If you have ever considered the field of education, now is a great time to look into the possibilities. If you believe you can inspire others to learn and enjoy kids, Ms. Schmidt says, “Give it a try.” Commit to a year. Try substitute teaching. Ms. Mogan suggests that you talk to teachers who are teaching in your area of interest. Kids want real-life applications that some people are able to offer from previous job experiences. Education may be your perfect career. What do you have to offer the next generation of learners and future leaders.

Kristine Bowman is an educator at Hinsdale Public Schools.


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