SHERIDAN — Sheridan County school districts welcome to the staff new teachers who once walked the same halls as students.
Three local teachers have returned to Sheridan County to teach in their hometown. Sheridan County boasts a competitive market in education careers, and the teachers recognized the task ahead of them in obtaining a coveted position immediately after finishing their educational tracks compared to applicants with years of experience under them.
“It can be tough comparing a college professor letter of recommendation letter to say, the principal of the building they just taught, because a professor probably has limited experience watching that person,” said Jeff Jones, principal of Tongue River Middle School. “It’s a lot easier to get an ‘A’ in a class than it is to be a really good teacher in a classroom.”
Eryn Aksamit-Edens, Jess Edens and Kayla Woodward all returned home to complete their student teaching. After a year of hard work and showcasing their dedication to the classroom, they were each offered a job back at home.
“After leaving and seeing other schools around the state and even in other states, you hear people talk about how amazing the education is in this county alone,” said Eryn Aksamit-Edens, Tongue River’s newest special education teacher. “So with that and growing up here, on top of having our families here, this is the only place I wanted to be.”
For some, returning home has come with hidden familiarities they weren’t expecting.
“I’m starting at Meadowlark, which is where I went, and the staff is about nearly 50% the same since I was a kid,” Edens, Meadowlark’s newest kindergarten teacher, said. “It’s a special dynamic working with teachers that taught you.”
Edens said it can be hard to weigh the pros and cons between deciding in which school district he wanted to apply.
Wages, commutes, coaching and even his integrity toward the rivalry he once grew up with all affected his choices when he knew he would be coming back to teach after graduating from Black Hills State.
Woodward attended the University of Wyoming as an all-star basketball player and continued her game playing professionally in Spain and Luxembourg.
“When I left, my education wasn’t quite wrapped up but after my time abroad I realized how important it was to me to finish my education,” Woodward said. “I’ve always thought Sheridan was a place to raise kids, so at the time I was leaning more towards Colorado. But when the time came, I did everything I could to be back with my family.”
Woodward completed her student teaching at Coffeen Elementary and then submitted applications all over northeastern Wyoming trying to make her way back to her old stomping grounds.
She is currently gearing up for her third year as a kindergarten teacher at Big Horn Elementary. One of her favorite aspects of the job is being able to work in the same school district has her mom.
“We work together almost every Friday, which has been fun,” Woodward said. “Sometimes school is all we talk about, and then we talk some more. But it’s been really helpful having her in my corner.”
A growing concern in Wyoming is having the youth able to engage their degrees in the state and towns in which they were raised.
Having young teachers return to build the foundations of a new life is a testament to the possibility for a culture shift.
“My goal was to go somewhere new for a long time,” Edens said. “But when the opportunity arose, it just seemed right to come back after the community gave Eryn and I so much.”