A visit with staff and teachers
at Seeley Lake Elementary

May 3, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

Meet the Staff of the Seeley Lake Elementary School


By Donna Love

Currently twenty-eight employees work hard each day at the Seeley Lake Elementary School to provide a quality education for our children. Join me on a tour of the school to meet the staff.




The first person we meet is School Secretary Suzie Teafoe. She is busy taking care of attendance by calling the parents of the children who are absent to make sure that each child is safely in someone's care.

Suzie Teafoe

Bill Hyde

Sally Johnson

The next stop is the superintendent's office. Superintendent Bill Hyde is in his first year with the school.

He is welcoming a new family to the school. Later he will meet with a parent and teacher about a parent concern. Then he will meet the County Superintendent of Schools who is arriving to speak at the evening school board meeting.

Mr. Hyde is concerned about giving students the best learning opportunities possible. He knows that a school can survive difficult economic times by "making do", but eventually big-ticket items, such as textbooks have to be replaced.

The next stop is the Business Office, where District Clerk Sally Johnson is preparing for the County Superintendent's visit and the evening's mill levy meeting.

Her concern is the passage of the levy. She knows the levy is necessary to operate the school next year..

The principal's office is the last stop in the administration office. Principal Tom Larson evaluates teachers, reviews the curriculum, develops new curriculum, and schedules school assemblies.

As part-time principal he also spends time on parental concerns and deals with discipline when Mr. Hyde is out of the building. He sees an important part of his job as promoting "a positive school climate for the students and staff."

His concern is funding education in Montana, which he feels "is neither adequate nor wise in its formula for dispersion."

His job is being cut even if the mill levy passes, but he is philosophical about it, saying, "I see it as a double edge sword. There may be great opportunities out there for me, but I will miss the students here dearly."

What he worries about is the high school music program because his move will not only effect the grade school, but the high school, too.


Primary Wings


The Elementary Wing of the Grade School houses the primary grades, but first some "itty-bitty" children pass in the hall

Sheila Devins

They are attending Pre-school. Their teacher, Sheila Devins, is a private contractor who rents a room in the school. The parents pay a fee for their children to attend.

Moving down the hall to the Primary Wing we meet John Devins, the Maintenance Engineer in the Mechanical Room. Devins keeps the building in good working condition and maintains the grounds.

John Devins

Chris Johnson

Zelda Haines

Next door, Kris Johnson is teaching a morning class of 19 kindergarten children. It is her job to teach "sound recognition" of the ABC's and "number recognition" of the 1,2,3's, up to twenty.

Her concern for the teaching profession is that "teaching professionals" are required to do more and more with less and less.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Johnson manages the school library, which includes ordering and cataloging books and teaching library skills. Half a day hardly gives that enough time.

Across the hall, Zelda Haines is busy with 22 first graders who are learning to read. It's not easy when vowel sounds don't follow the same rule all the time. They just learned the short vowel sound in "sit" and "kit." Now they have to learn that "I" is pronounced a different way in the words "kind and mind."

Kathleen Thompson

Melissa McCoy

Linda Bowers

Next door in second grade, Kathleen Thompson is reinforcing reading skills to 22 children. It is her job to take children that are learning to read and make them into children that read to learn. That's a big task.

She will also take the children a step further in math, adding and subtracting two and three digit numbers such as 103 plus 8 or 125 minus 32.

She wishes parents had more time to spend with their children. She believes that children need strong families to be successful.

Mrs. Thompson is being helped by student teacher, Melissa McCoy.

Across the hall Linda Bowers is teaching a multi-age class of 12 first and second graders. Her classroom is here because at one time the number of children in both the 1st and 2nd grade exceeded the State's recommended number of children in a primary class.

This is the class that is being cut next year. That doesn't mean Mrs. Bowers is being laid off. It means that this particular class is no longer necessary.

Across the hall from Mrs. Bowers, Kathy Davis is teaching 22 children how to transfer tactile (hand's on) activities into written concepts. It is also her job to maintain the skills learned in 1st and 2nd grade and to "provide a chance for mastery of math and language art skills that are necessary for success in the middle grades."

Mrs. Davis feels that it is "apparent" that the way the state funds the schools is obsolete, "especially for small communities like ours."

Kathy Davis

Gayle Gordon

Dave Spence


Secondary Wings

Leaving the Primary Wing we return to the Middle School where Gayle Gordon is teaching a class of 18 fourth graders.

At this level the children encounter "more content material in the areas of science and social studies," therefore she teaches "reading for content" and methods of studying independently.

Math also gets harder and it is "imperative that the students know their times tables."

Mrs. Gordon is concerned with "the decrease in communication within the family" that contributes to a "lack of readiness to begin school."

In 5th Grade, Dave Spence is teaching 27 students further skills in reading, writing, math and science.

Mr. Spence "loops" (spending two years with the same class) with the sixth grade class. Next year he and his class will move up to sixth grade and the sixth grade teacher will move down to fifth.

Lisa Pena, the sixth grade teacher this year, has had her class for two years. Both Mr. Spence and Mrs. Pena like the continuity of spending two years with the same students. At the start of the second year they can pick up right where they left off.

Lisa Pena

Kay Mahoney

Kathy Teague

This year Mrs. Pena teaches 17 children. Math skills taught include "variables in number seat, review of multiplying and dividing, decimals, fractions, percents, problem solving and measurements."

If that sounds hard, try science. There they cover geology, astronomy, chemistry, weather and living classifications. In English they do creative and formal writing, and grammar. Of course, spelling is taught in every grade.

Mrs. Pena's concerns are in the areas of science and social studies, which are "paramount to developing competitive young people."

She is grateful for various grant sources "that provide peripheral materials" because the state only provides for the "basic infrastructure of the school to educate the populace" for "adequate employment."

The last classroom in the Middle School Wing is the Multi-age 4-6 class taught by Kaye Mahoney. She teaches 21 students a similar curriculum as the regular 4-6, but because most of the students remain with her for three years, they can accelerate at their own pace.

Her goal is for all students to "feel good about themselves" and "know they have many talents."

Special Needs

Housed in the middle school wing are a number of offices and classrooms that help with a variety of special needs. They include Title I, the Resource Room, the school counselor's office and speech.

Kathy Teague heads the Title I program, which is funded by a federal grant to help students who need just a little extra help with reading, language and math. She currently sees 43 children.

Formerly the District Clerk for over 11 years she sees a teacher's job as "getting students ready for life."

Laurel Deninger

Sherry Foti

Toni Sexton

An instructional aide, Laurel Deniger, who also helps with the recess supervision, assists Mrs. Teague. Mrs. Deniger feels that "helping students become positive, contributing members of our community" is the underlying goal of her work.

Sherry Foti, the Special Education Teacher, heads the Resource Room. She sees 33 children from 1st to 8th grade. It is her job to help the children achieve the highest level possible for their ability.

Seeley Lake currently has 14.8% of its school age children in Special Education. That is slightly higher than the state average of 12.1%.

Steve Thompson

Cyd Kats

Tim Sanders

Ms. Foti works closely with the school psychologist, Tim Sanders, from Missoula. Special Education is funded with a blend of federal, state and local money.

Ms. Foti's instructional aide is Cyd Kats. Cyd helps children on an individual or small group bases, and also monitors the noon recess.

The school's Speech Therapist is Steve Thompson, who serves four schools including Seeley, Potomic, Swan Valley and Sunset.

Mr. Thompson works with students from preschool to 8th grade who have "some degree of communication difficulties that adversely effects their success in school."

He is concerned with the "increasing number of external factors" that impedes a student's ability to not reach their "maximum potential."

He is also concerned the "exodus" of teachers and specialist's from Montana's schools.

Toni Sexton is the part-time school counselor. She sees each classroom once a week. In Kindergarten she teaches "friendship skills." In the older grades she adds "character," "conflict resolution," and "problem solving." In eighth grade she teaches "career exploration."

Along with the classroom visits she also sees about 20 children on a one on one basis, handles crisis as they arise and serves as an advisor for student government, cheerleading and runs the Career Resource Room for the community.

On half-time status she is frustrated that she doesn't have more time to do her job "correctly."



Lunch Is Served


Between 180 and 200 nutritious hot lunches are served each day in the school lunchroom in the Multipurpose Room. About 40% of the children in Seeley Lake receive free or reduced meals. Compare this to Missoula school's 30%.

Sandra Dellwo, head cook has arrived at the school around 5:00 a.m. each day for the past 11 years to begin baking bread. Once when she bought hamburger buns instead of making them a little girl was happy because they were getting "real buns."

Sandra Dellwo

Pearl Hawkins

Joy Clemens

Pearl Hawkins, is the assistant cook. Her day begins around 7:00 a.m. She assists with anything that is needed and after lunch she washes "lots of dishes."

Joy Clemens (AKA, "the Lunch Lady") is the lunchroom aide. (In the morning before her duties in the lunchroom begin she is an instructional aide for the Kindergarten.) In the lunchroom her job is to teach the children that squeeze ketchup bottles are only for "dispensing ketchup onto food."

The kitchen staff knows their work is very important because the hot lunches they serve are the first meal of the day for some children.




Tucked away in the back of the Multi-purpose room where they can be as loud as they need to be, Bev Evans teaches music. It is from here that the wonderful Christmas and Spring concerts take shape.

Bev Evans

Sharon Teague

Becky Gehrke

Mrs. Evans, the part-time music teacher, teaches music to every grade from 1-6th grade and 7th and 8th grade choir. (7th and 8th grade goes to the high school for band.)

Physical Education (P.E.) is handled by two teachers. Becky Gehrke teaches P.E and health in the morning to the upper grades. In the afternoon she teaches computer skills.

Mrs. Gehrke is concerned that the students "have the skills to make wise healthy decisions" for the rest of their lives.

She is concerned that budget cuts will cause shortages in materials, extra curricular activities and safety. She knows that sports play a "vital role" in building community and school pride.

Sharon Teague, teaches P.E. in the afternoons to 1st to 4th graders. She also teaches Art and Spanish in the Junior High in alternating semesters.

In P.E., Mrs. Teague's focus is on physical fitness, teamwork and sportsmanship.

In art she exposes the students to a variety of art media and encourages them to explore their own talent.

In Spanish she teaches the basic conversational Spanish as an introduction to high school Spanish.

She worries about the student finding positive activities to do in their spare time outside of school. She knows that is hard to do in a small community with limited resources.


Flight Feathers


The two teachers in the Junior High complete the school.

Unfortunately, the cut in staff (one teacher if the levy passes, but two if it doesn't pass) will occur at the Junior High level because high teacher turnover for the past few years leaves these teachers without tenure.

Unfortunately, a small school doesn't have the luxury of letting cuts occur through retirements or personal moves. If cuts happen they cut to the quick.

Mary Johnson

Jenny Rammell

Mary Johnson, a Master Teacher, instructs 28 7th grade and and 27 8th grade students in Math and Science. Her curriculum includes pre-algebra, chemistry, and plant and animal biology. Along with those duties she also teaches Analytical Reading.

She is concerned that the schools in Montana maintain "high education standards despite budget shortfalls." She feels that "attracting and keeping qualified educators" is something Montana definitely needs to work on.

Jenny Rammell, teaches the same number of children History, Literature and English. History classes include World History, Montana History and 20th Century America.

In English she covers grammar, vocabulary, mechanics, usage and effective communication. In Literature she covers literary elements, comprehension and interpretation of various forms.

Mrs. Rammell's main concern in education is the students. She knows that a quality education is essential for the success and well being of every student. "Successful, productive" students enrich the community and state with positive contributions.

It is to this end that all the staff and teachers at Seeley Lake Elementary strive.