SHERIDAN — What makes a quality teacher? According to Sheridan County School District 1 superintendent Marty Kobza, a teacher should be “hard-working, a team player, willing to learn, enthusiastic, love children and have a real passion” for the job.
“We want the best there is to find,” Kobza said, noting that the district recruits candidates from across the country.
Kathleen Severson is a new English teacher and yearbook advisor at Tongue River High School, her first teaching job after graduating from the University of Montana. She grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and comes from “a teacher family,” as her mother and younger sister are also educators.
Kayla Woodward is a new kindergarten teacher at Big Horn Elementary. It is her first teaching job but, like Severson, she is familiar with the subject. Woodward remembered her and her brother as kids helping their mother, Pam, set up her classroom at Tongue River Elementary.
“We’d come in and always stop by McDonald’s and have their fries, so that was our little tradition,” she said.
Her mother is one of Woodward’s teaching role models.
Woodward said the move back to the area allows her to be around family again. After a standout basketball career at the University of Wyoming, Woodward played professionally for a short time in Europe, first in the the Canary Islands in Spain and then in Luxembourg, before coming home.
There are 14 students in Woodward’s class, which allows her to “focus on one kid at a time in certain moments.” Woodward set a simple yet important goal for her students: have fun.
“I want to make sure they love school and that they want to be there,” she said.
Severson fondly remembers teachers who pushed her to become a better student and thinker in a caring way.
“(It) made me think positively about education, and made me want to do for students what some of these teachers had done for me,” she said.
Teaching kindergartners can be uniquely challenging, as it forces Woodward to constantly have new activities planned.
“You have to make sure you change your lesson about every 10 to 15 minutes to get them moving,” she said. “I feel bad for them because they’re getting pretty tired at the end of the day. It’s a long day for the little ones.”
Severson said her biggest frustration stems from not successfully teaching a topic.
“You can tell when the kids are really having trouble or really not getting it, so, you know, you feel disappointed in yourself for not doing better,” she said. “I always feel bad when I end up re-teaching because I didn’t do a good job, because it’s hard for the kids.”
Like most new teachers, Woodward and Severson receive plenty of tips from other instructors. “I have so many questions all the time,” Woodward said. “I feel bad sometimes because I just feel like I’m asking constantly, but they don’t mind. They always want to help and they just want you to succeed and have a good year.”
Severson and Woodward are among the nine new teachers in SCSD1. Others include Tongue River Elementary teachers Mary Hayward, Russell Wilde, Rachel Carlson and Hannah Gallagher; Tongue River High School teachers Emily Crick and Rosana Henderson; and Big Horn Elementary teacher Kip Butler.