Montana high school teacher shares her favorite memory and inspirational stories about life at a country school.
Story by Shelly Turk
A favorite memory from my years as a teacher at a country school started simply enough. I had gone home for lunch, and when I started out the front door, a large male moose was lying on the lawn between my car and me.
I’d rather face a bear than take on a moose, so I called the school secretary and asked her to cover my class until I could get there. Here’s the beauty of working in a country school: She believed me.
Teaching at a country school in rural Montana for the past 14 years has exposed me to a lifestyle most teachers will never know. I teach my students how to use grammar; they teach me how to rope things, tune snowmobile engines and call in an elk. I teach them how to speak in front of a group; they teach me how and where to find the best fishing holes.
In most schools, sleeping in class is strongly discouraged. When it’s late February or early March, however, I turn a blind eye to a few drooping eyelids. I know the kids have been up all night calving or lambing on their farms. We can get caught up later.
The parking lot outside our country school is always lined with pickup trucks and a few four-wheelers. Once a year, however, the seniors ride their horses to school, because there’s still a law on the books in Montana that requires schools to feed and water the animals while students are in class.
We average 135 students in our country school. Instead of cliques, we have a big dysfunctional family. There may be disagreements, but everyone comes running when someone needs help.
As an example, an inspirational story I experienced first hand came one spring not too long ago. My husband, Brice, and I were called away during a play rehearsal because a flooding creek threatened our home. Not 15 minutes later, our actors appeared, still in stage makeup, with shovels. They stayed until they were sure our house was safe.
Teaching in a country school gives me an identity and makes me accountable. No one is ignored or anonymous in our school. Teachers and students are a part of one another’s lives here. I’ve danced at their weddings, held their babies, and, sadly, attended some of their funerals. Together we laugh, cry and learn about life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.