What do you get when you cross a former Army counterintelligence officer, an MIT grad with an aerospace engineering degree who used to design professional baseball equipment and a former Montana State University Billings student of the year?
A new batch of teachers, if you’re part of Billings Catholic Schools.
With the new school year starting today, Billings’ largest private school system is dealing with change it hasn’t seen in several years — five new educators coming into the fold and a few current ones shuffling duties.
But even with the unusually high number of new faces — there was just one new teacher at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year — school officials are looking forward to what they can bring to the table.
“We have a passionate group of educators that, I think, they want to maximize the potential of each and every kid they see each day,” said Billings Catholic Schools President Harold Olson. “We’ve hired an exceptional group of teachers this year, and we were very fortunate.”
The new teachers bring a wide range of experience and will tackle many subjects.
Almost all of them will be at Central High, with the exception of a new counselor at St. Francis Upper School and a new orchestra teacher who will help with the system’s general music program.
Greg Williams is a first-year educator and will teach geometry at Central. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an aerospace engineering degree and spent the past four years as a field engineer designing professional baseball equipment for Rawlings Sports.
A Montana native, Williams has been studying for the past two years in Montana State University’s Northern Plains Transition to Teaching program, a distance-education program that prepares industry professionals for education jobs.
“I’m hoping to show students that what they’re learning in the classroom is relevant in the real world,” Williams said. “Just look at my last job. There’s an awful lot of math and physics in sports.”
Another new teacher, Tim Lowe, also took part in the transition program. He taught science at Bishop Blanchette, a private Catholic high school in Seattle, for the past nine years. Prior to that, he spent several years as an Army counterintelligence officer and earned a master’s degree in physics from the University of Washington.
Lowe was hired to fill a new position as a hybrid math and science teacher at Central. It was created because of rising enrollment in those subjects at Central. He said he’s looking forward to settling in with Billings Catholic Schools and watching students progress through the grades.
“In Seattle, every private school is its own little world,” said Lowe, whose wife is from Billings. “But here, with the Billings schools, it’s all one system (from kindergarten through high school).”
The rest of the new teachers are religion teacher Katie Hogan, who has been teaching at the St. Joseph School in Missoula; English teacher Danielle Barton, a Montana State University Billings graduate; and orchestra teacher Codie Wahrman, MSUB’s 2009 Student Employee of the Year.
Angela Hirt, who coaches track for the system and taught there from 2004 to 2007, will be a counselor at the Upper School. English teacher Bob Keenum will also take on the role of Central’s college adviser.
Central Principal Shel Hanser said the new hires should help continue what he described as “record-breaking” school years since 2008. For example, 95 percent of last year’s Central seniors took the ACT college entrance exam, with a composite score of 24.3, which is the highest in school history. Billings School District 2 students posted a composite score of 22.6.
“Every one of them brings something new to us,” Hanser said. “But it’s important to remember that we have a great staff already and they’ve done so much good work here. You can’t take away from what they do.”
With almost 95 percent of last school year’s graduating seniors accepted to a college or university, Hanser said the new and old teachers alike have their work cut out for them.
“I think we’ve continued to grow every year that way,” he said. “We really have the mindset of being determined to keep that trend going.”