TFHS welcomes new teachers for new year
September 15, 2022
School is back in session for Thompson Falls High School (TFHS) with some new and exciting additions for the students. With current enrollment standing at 202, the school was able to add a second full-time English teacher and a full-time business teacher. The school's GEAR UP liaison is now serving in the position full time rather than splitting time with her other teaching responsibilities. The school's art teacher is now offering one more art class at the high school this year.
"Adding additional staff has allowed us to offer more courses for our students as well as decrease class sizes in most of our English classes," said TFHS principal Jodi Morgan. "We are also offering four sections of academic support class at the end of the day for students to have time to work on homework and receive help from teachers."
Morgan says the GEAR UP-sponsored learning lab is also new this year. "Students who are on the academic eligibility list or who would like extra support after school can attend the learning lab Monday through Thursday."
The school is welcoming three new teachers to the district this year. Music teacher Brittany Nichols received both her Bachelors and Masters in music education from the University of Montana. "I loved music all throughout high school and I enjoyed the school's music program," Nichols said. "I wanted to be able to do music for a living so I got my education degree and while I was student teaching, I found that I really enjoyed teaching band and choir." Alongside band and high school choir, Nichols will also be teaching a guitar class and a ukulele class, which is a new addition to the school's curriculum.
Nichols has lived in Thompson Falls for the last nine years and previously taught in Plains. However, with her children attending school in Thompson Falls, she made the decision to be closer to them. "I wanted to work closer to home and I wanted to get more involved with the school and the community," she said. "I also just wanted to be more invested with the school where my kids attend."
Nichols says she enjoys seeing where her students start and watching them progress and the growth they make. "I also enjoy learning about the individual areas they are interested in and seeing them take off from there," she said. "In music class, students get a chance to lead, where they may not have that chance in other areas of school."
Mary Buzzell comes from St. Cloud State in Minnesota and has been slowly making the transition to Thompson Falls over the last several years to be closer to family. "I just love it here," Buzzell said. "I had no plans to teach but I saw an opening and the timing was right."
Buzzell received her literature degree as well as her communications in arts from St. Cloud State. I've always loved literature," she said. "I wanted to be a writer and teaching just fit with that." There are 17 students currently enrolled in Buzzell's journalism class this semester. Right now, the students are working on the merits of interviewing and reporting and what it takes to make a newspaper. "We are going through our second round of in-person interviewing," Buzzell said. "The person the students are interviewing didn't want to answer questions, they had fun with it."
Buzzell says so far, the school year is off to a good start. "Thompson Falls students are really polite," she said. "I've been enjoying getting to know them."
Business teacher Madi Wheeler is a graduate of TFHS and has come back to her old stomping grounds to teach. Wheeler did her undergraduate studies at Montana State University where she received a degree in marketing and received her Masters in education while in Arizona. While Wheeler said she had college athletics picked out as a career choice, she decided to go a different route and combined her background in marketing with her background in education.
"The goal was always to get back here to Thompson Falls," Wheeler said. "Both of my parents are teachers and looking at that lifestyle they gave me as a kid helped persuade me to teach so I can give that to my family one day."
Wheeler says on top of heading up the yearbook and teaching business, she will also be teaching a course in graphic design, one of her favorite courses from college. "I want to get these guys exposed to that early on," she said. "Giving them the opportunity to explore different things is something I'm excited about and I like giving them a break from their core classes."
Right now, Wheeler is just trying to find a rhythm with all her students and seeing where they are at in school. "A lot of my classes are discussion based, so I've been working on getting them confident enough to talk in class," she said. "I'm already seeing a difference after the first week."
Wheeler says it's a different transition coming back to teach at the school she graduated from. "There are teachers still here who taught me, but everyone is super supportive and they look after you, it's very comforting."