School might not be in session yet, but that doesn’t mean the halls of the local learning institutions are empty. Teachers awaiting the new school year were setting up their rooms and preparing lesson plans Thursday as they begin to shift into gear.

“It shows they’re dedicated to the students,” said Trish Klock, a social studies teacher at Helena High. “They want their classrooms ready when the students come in.

“We definitely don’t have summers off; that’s a joke.”

A group of faculty and staff had collected in Helena High’s lounge, sharing stories and eating lunch, much like they would during a normal school day. School begins Tuesday for first- through sixth-graders and ninth-graders at Helena and Capital High. PAL students will also begin Tuesday, while the rest of the students start the following day.

Klock was among the faculty who had taken a break to chat, but said she’s spent the past two days at work, hanging and updating bulletin boards, putting together files for new students and checking out class lists.

She has placed everything in its spot, including the soft lounge chair tucked under the blackboard at the front of the room.

“I’m definitely OCD organized,” she said. “It’s very important for me because then I feel like I’m not running around like a chicken with my head cut off.”

Entering her fifth year of teaching — fourth at the high school — the part-time cheer coach said she’s learned how to be more efficient with her time. She knows when to give herself more time teaching one assignment versus another. She’s also learning how to deal with the growing amount of students and budget crunches every school deals with today.

“I think class size is a big concern, especially since Helena High is at its max,” she said. “We can’t fit any more.”

Certain subjects will be stretching their resources, sharing textbooks or passwords for online lessons. It’s something every teacher is learning to deal with.

“Teachers are getting more creative with the lessons,” she said.

They’re also known for spending their own money to help with their goals.

Clay Burkett is nearing 20 years at Helena High, which makes it easier when he needs to drop a couple of hundred dollars per year on supplies.

“I make more money than I used to,” he said.

For now, that will go into sprucing up his classroom, which he had hoped to have painted by Thursday. When he walked in and saw the bits of bare wall where chips of white paint had fallen off, he knew he would have to wait a little longer to hang up some of his favorite posters.

“We’ll send another email to the person in charge,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “There’s nothing I can do now.”

He wants to be able to hang his collection of Beatles CD covers, which have been framed in glass. He has a number of other items, photos of his family, outdoors posters or sports memorabilia — items that express his interests and can help the kids relate to him.

“You want a good workspace, not just for you but for the students,” he said.

After all, teachers aren’t just there to teach. Sometimes, they’re the first person a student will go to when in trouble or dealing with problems at home.

“I think I’ve had every scenario thrown at me as possible,” Klock said.

She’s learned that with some students the comfy chair in the room acts as bit of positive reinforcement. Do well in your work and do your studying from a comfortable seat instead of the plastic and steel students are given. Sometimes, it will help an antsy student to sit still.

The students’ learning is the most important thing, after all.

“Contrary to what some people think, you actually want kids to do well and succeed,” Burkett said as he sifted through the materials.

He pulled out the photo of his family, including a daughter who will be attending the school, and another favorite item — a magnet with John Wayne’s mug on it.

It’s Burkett’s version of a motivational poster and has the quote often credited to The Duke as saying: “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

Teachers know that all too well.

Jeff Windmueller: 447-4005 or

(3) comments


In this story a teachers says: “We definitely don’t have summers off; that’s a joke.”

Someone tell me why they have to lie about this. I know many teachers who take full time jobs over the summer. I have two neighbors (both Helena teachers) who travel for two months over the summer. I know many who work in Yellowstone over the summer. I know one who does carpentry over the summer.

Yet every year I have to hear this crap from some teacher about how teachers don't actually get off over the summer. Yes, I know there are a select few who will work over SOME of the summer, but telling lies about this should cause everyone to question all the other crud they spout. That’s the REAL JOKE! And to have this said in a story specifically about how the teachers are BACK in school from their summer break. You would think a teacher would be a little brighter than that although that may explain some things.

Next we can hear more lies about Helena teachers making $18,000 a year and working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, giving our children the best education in the world.

Teachers have an important job, which I don’t want, but if they have to be dishonest about it maybe that says allot about you and it’s not good.

I think I need to point out that this crud was only promoted by a single teacher in this story. I just get tired of hearing it every year from some teacher trying to convince me how hard their life is.


Justdafacts: Do you know exactly what every teacher does during the summer months? Do you know what this teacher has or hasnt done? I know a lot of teachers from the Helena and East Helena schools and I know a lot of them do bring home a lot of work even through the summer months. I know teachers who buy school supplies for students, teachers who students call them needing helping with College applications, teachers who not only help current students but also former students and not just during school hours but also after school and on weekends and during summer months. This teacher is very involved and just because she isnt teaching during these months does not mean she isnt working. You do not know exactly what anyone else does so you have not place to say whether she has lied or not.


[quote]Mommaof1 said: "Justdafacts: Do you know exactly what every teacher does during the summer months? Do you know what this teacher has or hasnt done? I know a lot of teachers from the Helena and East Helena schools and I know a lot of them do bring home a lot of work even through the summer months. [/quote]

I knew someone would pop in here with the same old BS and try to point out some exception to the rule. Welcome to the English language. I guess you needed a better teacher. The implication of the teacher who made the offending comment was that all or most teachers have to work over the summer and work year round. She indicated this was the norm...not the exception. She did not say: “I WORK YEAR ROUND”. She said: “We definitely don’t have summers off; that’s a joke.” This broad brush statement IS FALSE! End of story. If you like, we can examine the Helena district contract as we did last year. We can ask why, if ALL these teachers are supposedly "required to work" over the summer months, have those who I know, who did not go in to work, are not fired? I have answered a work related question while on vacation many does not mean I did not go on vacation and just like with teachers, to say otherwise is simply a LIE! Words mean something and we can take her words as stated and declare them false or we can take another approach and claim she did not mean (or understand) the wording SHE utilized. Then, I hope she is a P.E. teacher. lol

As for your comments about teachers purchasing supplies and helping student in and out of are correct but if your teacher had properly educated you on basic reading comprehension you would have realized that I commented on a different subject.

Honestly...if you know a whole bunch of teachers who claim they were at the schools working every day over the summer, then somebody is lying to someone. Now if they claim they chose to use a little of their time off from work over the summer to do personal development or to prepare for their return to work, that makes sense...but they did get time off over the summer...PERIOD.

And by the way, my references to last year's conversations were about people who claimed they had teacher friends in HELENA who only made $18 /yr. though the starting wage was closer to $32k. How about the teacher who claimed to have attended the equivalent of 6 days per week over the summer attending required continuing education and then had to apologize when I pointed out the math? (we did go on to have a great conversation though)

There are allot of GREAT teachers around Helena and E. Helena. They are not lying to the public about how hard they work, how they get no time off, how they work all night slaving over student papers. THEY work hard enough they do not have to lie about it.

Once make comments about how the teachers were at school working the whole time, in a story about them coming back from the summer vacation this one teacher (and seemingly you) claim they never had, is a little silly. Don't you think?

Thank the good teachers folks…it IS a tough job but, as a general statement, they DO get time off over the summer.

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