Back to the future: Community members spend time in schools

2012-11-15T21:00:00Z 2014-08-25T06:39:17Z Back to the future: Community members spend time in schoolsBy SUSAN OLP solp@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Jeremy Morgret got a bit of an education at Alkali Creek Elementary School on Thursday.

Morgret, branch manager of the downtown Stockman Bank, spent the morning at the Heights school, learning how it runs. He also got a chance to talk about banking with a class of fifth-graders.

Morgret was one of more than 120 community members who visited Billings Public Schools’ elementary, middle and high schools as part of the Educator for the Day program. The event is organized by Billings Partners in Education.

Afterward, participants gathered for lunch at the Big Horn Resort and Convention Center to discuss their experiences with Superintendent Terry Bouck.

The day was designed to give business and community leaders the opportunity to learn more about public schools, and to get a look at the decisions and responsibilities that educators handle daily.

Morgret has more than a passing interest in Alkali Creek. His 10-year-old daughter, Analyse, is in fifth grade there.

Morgret was joined at Alkali Creek by Billings Police Chief Rich St. John and Hannah Miller, a prevention health specialist with RiverStone Health. Principal Greg Sennite accompanied the trio to share information and answer questions.

Sennite spent a few minutes at the start of the day in his office talking about the school, where he is new this year. He explained that Alkali Creek is home to four contained classrooms for children with special needs, academic or personal.

The group stopped at one of them, the ELL class, or English language learning. Teacher Amelia Nicolaus introduced her students, who have come from Ethiopia, Russia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Haiti and Mexico.

“When the five students came from Indonesia, they didn’t know any English,” Nicolaus said. “So they’re obviously doing very well.”

Sixth-graders Madi Lundvall and Kinsey Frost gave the three community members a tour.

Madi pointed out one room that it is used for band, orchestra and general music, among other things. By sixth grade, students have the option to take part in one of the three, she said.

“I chose orchestra,” Madi said. “I play violin.”

After the tour, the visitors got to interact with the students. Miller and St. John read to students, while Morgret went to his daughter’s classroom and gave the students a quick lesson in saving money.

“I’m a banker,” he told the students. “I’m curious — raise your hand if you want to tell me what a banker does.”

“People give you money so you can put it in their account,” one boy said.

That’s exactly right, Morgret said.

Another guessed that the bank gives out loans, which Morgret agreed was another important job of the bank. When he asked who had savings accounts, most students raised their hands.

Morgret talked about banking and managing money. He got a quick hug from his daughter and moved on.

That included watching the three fifth-grade classes each work on a reading lesson. Morgret noted that even though every class focused on the same vocabulary words, the teachers used different styles to get the information across.

This was Morgret’s second year taking part in Educator for a Day.

“I think it’s a great way for folks like myself to get into the schools and see what’s happening,” he said.

Asked what he learned at Alkali Creek, Morgret said he didn’t know so many children from different countries were part of the school. And he was pleased to see students in the different classes so engaged.

With the challenges that the school district faces, it’s crucial for the district to reach out to the community with such events as Educator for a Day, Morgret said.

“It’s going to take community support to overcome those issues,” he said.

Sennite agreed that there's a lot of value in bringing in local leaders to see exactly what the schools are doing.

“Our kids are our future, and we need everybody in our community to get behind our schools,” he said. “Keeping that dialogue open between the community and the schools is so important.”

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