RANCHESTER — Tongue River Elementary School second-grade teacher and IT director Jesse HInkhouse came to Ranchester from Correctionville, Iowa.
He got his degree in education and while going to school, he worked as the assistant director for housing at Sheridan College.
“Jesse started in a leadership role really early on,” TRE principal Deb Hofmeier said. “He is very service oriented, he is our go-to guy. Whether you need help getting your computer to work, you are redecorating your living room and need design ideas or you forgot your purse at home, just ask Jesse.”
Hinkhouse was hired by Sheridan County School District 1 as a technology integration specialist.
“When they asked me to take the tech integration position, I was over my head,” Hinkhouse said. “I had never used a smartboard or anything remotely like that before, and they expected me to teach others how to use technology. I thought OK, I can do this for a year until a classroom position opens in District 1, which is where I wanted to be.”
After a year, a classroom position opened up at Tongue River Elementary, so he taught fifth grade for a while before moving to second grade.
“Jesse has done a lot of work out in Clearmont helping them get their technology up and running, and he still goes out pro-bono for them whenever they need help,” Hofmeier said.
Hinkhouse joined forces with three teachers in Big Horn, learning about technology from them and meeting with them once every other month to collaborate, plan and figure out what sort of things can be done in their classrooms. He listens to what they have tried and applies those things to his class.
While the new school was being built, Hinkhouse took a year off from teaching to focus on getting the technology up and running. Now that Tongue River Elementary has moved into its new building and everything is running smoothly from a technological perspective, he is transitioning back into the classroom and will split his time between teaching and IT this year.
“I have grown so much over the past year, switching to tech,” Hinkhouse said. “This year will be a great trial run to see how overwhelmed I get doing both jobs. I have such a passion for both that it is hard to say no to one or the other. I can go home and grade papers for an hour or two and then I grab a computer and work on the tech stuff, like uploading programs for my students. I love it, so it’s not necessarily work.”
Hinkhouse maintains the balance between the two positions thanks to Hofmeier and Samantha Jensen, who teaches second grade in the classroom next to his.
“Most people get their fingers in that many pies and it’s very difficult to keep them all stirring,” Hofmeier said. “Jesse is one of those really unusual people that can keep everything together and kind of organized.
He has been able to figure out ways to be able to separate and sort out both jobs and does it well.”
In addition to teaching and working as the IT director for the school district, Hinkhouse has been serving on the Ranchester Town Council for the past two years.
“Jesse is selfless to a fault,” Hofmeier said. “When we nominated him for town council, he said ‘Oh, OK, I’ll do that. That will be great.’ He had no time to do it probably, but he did it anyway.”
According to Mayor Peter Clark, Hinkhouse is very conscientious about what he does and looks critically at everything the town does. He is really concerned about what is available for kids in town. He wants to improve the parks and make more user-friendly play areas for children, and has contributed quite a lot in that way.
Also, Clark said that Hinkhouse assisted the town in updating its technology and website.
“He’s not afraid to challenge decisions or question decisions, he’s very good at that,” Clark said. “Because of that, I wish he would contribute more in the discussions. His input has been valuable.”
Hinkhouse’s term expires in January. He will not be running for another term because “doing a tech director’s job and teaching full time is quite a lot.” He will remain on the Tongue River Child’s Place board, and hopes to get back on the board at the Tonge River Valley Community Center, which he used to serve on until his schedule clashed with the town council meetings. Also, Hinkhouse is planning to begin work on earning a master’s degree.