Teachers new to the Helena School District spent Monday morning riding the tour train, making stops that provided insight to the Helena community.
The 44 new educators and their designated mentors rode the Helena Public Schools’ “orientation express” and learned a little about all the stops, including the Montana Historical Society, the Lewis and Clark Library and the Holter Museum.
Mike Mergenthaler, vice president of the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped the teachers gained a better understanding about the community from the tour.
“Helena is a great place to live and we value children and education,” the Helena High School graduate said. “We have a vibrant business community, and because of that, Helena continues to prosper and grow.”
In prior years this group of new employees would pair up with mentors and cram into a large meeting room to go over necessary new-hire paperwork.
“We found we were presenting too much information to too big of a group,” Assistant Superintendent Keith Meyer said.
This year, district administrators met in small groups with new educators earlier in the summer for paperwork matters. Meyer said the tour train ride was meant to show the group the flavor of Helena and the community support.
Nearly all 1,000 district employees report back to work on Thursday, and school resumes Monday and Tuesday depending on grade level. There are 530 educators, and of the 44 new teachers, about 17 are first-year teachers.
Helena High teachers Kayla Murray and Madeline Levesque are two teachers launching their careers. Murray’s mentor is 35-year veteran teacher Dick Seitz. She once sat in his class as a student, and then worked under his supervision as a student teacher, and now she’s working alongside him as a colleague. Seitz described Murray as “enthusiastic, charming and brilliant.”
“That’s the kind of student you want to become a teacher,” Seitz said.
Murray, 25, admits she’s a little nervous about starting her first school year.
“The biggest thing is being a presence as a teacher and not being mistaken for a student,” she said.
Seitz joked that maybe she should dye her hair gray. Murray didn’t seem all that willing to make the hair color change, but said she did prepare her wardrobe with “grown-up clothes.”
Levesque, 23, is from Seattle and attended Carroll College. She also did her student teaching at Helena High in the English department. Levesque hoped for a job with the district because it pays teachers so well, with a starting base salary of $35,040. She said she also hoped to be teaching at Helena High because the students and staff there are so warm and receptive.
“Teachers really care about students there,” she said.
A little terrified about the first day of school, Levesque says she just wants to do the best job she can.
“Teaching is intense — it requires mental, physical and emotional dedication,” she said.
During the first few days in class, Levesque will focus on goal setting — individual and as a class. Her goal as a teacher is to see 100 percent of her students complete English with at least a “C” and graduate.
Is having every single student graduate possible? Levesque believes it is, but she understands that it’s challenging because young people have so many distractions.
“It’s the (teacher’s) job to make education relevant from the classroom,” she said.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or email@example.com