Stop for a moment and think about your time as a child. Other than your parents, who would you say was an influential person in your life? For many, a teacher, coach or school counselor has played a large part in our lives. Maybe it was the teacher who put in extra time with you when you were struggling. Or perhaps it was a coach who taught you more than your chosen sport; they taught you the importance of perseverance and teamwork. The fact is that children spend a majority of their time in school, and educators and staff have a unique opportunity to shape the lives of the children with whom they come in contact each day.
Recently, Boundary County School District Superintendent Gary Pflueger addressed the students and staff of Bonners Ferry High School and delivered a message he hopes will have students thinking about whether a career in education is appropriate for them. He also talked about the atmosphere he and his staff strive for in the school setting.
“We, the community, school district and staff, are here for one reason—to help you succeed,” said Pflueger in his address. “Our job and goal is to make your high school experience positive and applicable toward your success in the future.”
He went on to say that the school district strives for the students’ experience to be safe, civil and productive.
“Imagine if our country and the world lived under these simple measures. Things would be much better for all of us,” said Pflueger. “Maybe we in Badger Nation can set the tone. It is all about making good choices.”
Pflueger talked about two aspects of safety—physical and emotional. He defined physical safety as the elimination of violence. Emotional safety, on the other hand, is determined by what people say and do to one another.
“This is commonly and far too often referred to as ‘bullying.’ This is one of the most overused words in schools. Conflict will happen; we are humans. Not all conflict is bullying. You are not being bullied when you don’t get your way,” said Pflueger. “True bullying does happen, and it is a powerful and hateful thing. Bullying takes conflictto an illegal level. If you find yourself in a bullying or harassment situation, simply say, ‘Please stop,’ then turn and walk away. Don’t get involved in the banter; it changes the situation. Find help and push back in a legal manner.”
Next, Pflueger talked about civil behavior. “It is what runs a relaxed society,” he said, citing the common theme of the Golden Rule—treat others as you want to be treated.
“Simply said, it is having manners, saying please and thank you often, and helping others when you can. Showing empathy, tolerance, compassion and respect are all civil behaviors. These must be exercised by all of us or our community will fail. Intelligence is shown through civil acts. Hopefully, these were just reminders of stuff you already know. How we can help you become more productive is mostly what I am heading for.”
In his talk to the students, Pflueger emphasized that each person is different and are not expected to possess the same skills. There are many avenues to follow in life, and it is up to each individual to decide what path he or she chooses. And those choices are becoming more abundant.
“Advanced opportunities and college credits are available to you. If college is not what you want, the Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are willing to help: welding, FFA, cabinet making, technology skills, auto shop and drafting are available,” said Pflueger. “I am working to expand these programs. We have sports, dance, drama and robotics that can all lead to greater options. These are what we offer, but the choice is up to you. Just getting by is not going to be good enough.”
Then, Pflueger invited each student to consider the profession he loves—education.
The statistics he provided show that there is a significant decline in the number of people who enter the teaching profession.
“More than five years ago, Idaho could draw upon one-and-a-half newly certified teachers for every one that left the classroom. Now the state is losing teachers twice as fast as it is replacing them,” said Pflueger. Some of the statistics include the following:
• During the 2009-2010 school year, 1,380 teachers left while 2,001 new teachers were certified.
• By the 2011-2012 school year, 2,401 teachers quit, retired or left the state while only 1,883 replacements had been certified.
• In 2013-2014, Idaho lost 1,979 teachers and gained only 934.
• The flow of people into Idaho’s teacher training programs dropped from 8,393 in 2009 to 5,397 in 2013.
“Think about the best teacher you ever had; you can be the next best or favorite teacher. Think of the worst teacher you have ever had—can you do better? One of the most influential principals I ever worked with was not very good. I learned quickly and clearly what not to do,” said Pflueger.
But Pflueger did not limit his talk to just teachers and administration. “Working for the district is not just classroom teaching. For example, Darrell Chapman in maintenance at the high school is one of the best. Do you like to coach or mentor? Robotics, band, theatre, physical education or early childhood all offer career opportunities in schools. Even driving a school bus and working in the middle school is available—if you’re tough enough! Think about your options in the field of education.
Pflueger is in the process of forming a partnership with the University of Idaho, one he hopes will positively affect tuition for those entering into the profession of education.
“It is a great profession; it pays well, it opens up job opportunities almost anywhere. It took me to three beautiful locations in Idaho and to the San Juan Islands. It took your principal [Kevin Dinning] to Dubai … and you get most of the summer off. Believe me, after a whole school year you will need it.”
In closing, Pflueger stated that one’s success and happiness in life is up to only one person: “That is you and you alone, and we are here to help.“
And one more thing to remember … you are never too old to pursue your passion!