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Moving to Jackson Hole: 1977

January 7, 2013

After working 12 summers at Lost Trail Camp in Montana with after-camp vacations, hiking, fishing, rafting mountain rivers and climbing many mountains, we decided it was time for a huge lifestyle change. We began our search for a place to settle in Montana or Wyoming. We looked everywhere and finally found one acre of open land on the southern border of Grand Teton National Park. Jackson Hole had a lot going for it; good schools, a summer music festival, great fishing, hiking, climbing, many artists and writers and plenty of winter recreation.

After building our home with the valuable help of Bobbi’s father, a retired builder, our plan was to move to Jackson Hole in 1977, get teaching jobs, and in my spare time, follow my childhood dream of becoming an author. Both Bobbi and I having masters’ degrees and years of experience, we were confident we would be able to get teaching jobs. We would start exploring the teaching openings each of the three summers we were building our home. After returning to Michigan each summer, we thought things would work out and that we would both be hired. Little did we know the struggle for jobs would be so difficult and that summer of 1977, our first living in Jackson Hole full time, would see neither of us with teaching jobs.

All summer I attended every school board meeting hoping to hear about an opening for a teaching position. By August, with no success, I decided to apply for a job driving a school bus. It would provide an hourly wage and health insurance. After the morning bus run, I would work in Fred’s Market grocery store. I would drive the bus taking kids home in the afternoon and then return to the market to get in some more hours.

At a school board meeting in the middle of August two weeks before school started, I heard the big news. The superintendent of schools announced an opening at the middle school. The teacher of eighth grade English classes was being assigned to the high school. Applications were being accepted for his replacement. With many students entering our schools from all over the U.S., the superintendent said he would like to hire a teacher able to teach some remedial reading to eighth graders needing improved reading abilities.

I had never taught eighth grade English, but I knew how to teach reading. Also, in my job as a media specialist in Michigan, I had done public relations work. The Grand Rapids Public School’s leadership had me do a slide program about all the latest methods used to teach reading. I studied all the programs available for individual instruction using reading lab materials by such companies as SRA and ESS. In my application for the eighth grade English position, I included all that I had learned and stated that I could and would institute a program to improve all the eighth grade students’ reading abilities. Of the 27 people applying, I was chosen to be hired. It was time to raise a glass of champagne.

A teaching job, no one knowing me, and availability of time to write: I was sure I had it made! Wrong! Soon my past would lead to a plunge into school and community politics. Don’t miss the next chapter!

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