If you have lived in Sandpoint for any length of time, you know there is simply no other place like it. The beauty, the friendliness of the people and the true sense of community are just a few reasons people choose to call this town home.
In Lake Pend Oreille School District (LPOSD), there are several educators and staff who graduated from Sandpoint High School (SHS), went off to college and careers in other parts of the country, eventually returning to this small North Idaho town to teach or work in the school system that holds so many fond memories for them.
Jeralyn Mire, SHS’s post secondary transition counselor, worked in Los Angeles, Arizona and Spokane before returning to her hometown in 1994. “I could not be happier, but I am also very happy I went away and experienced other things,” she said.
Jeralyn recognizes that people choose to teach in Sandpoint because they appreciate what our community offers. “Many of our teachers who graduated from here have gone off to do a variety of things before returning. They bring a lot of perspective and wealth of experiences,” she said, adding that she appreciates the fact the administration is supportive and innovative.
Erin Roos graduated from SHS in 1993 and has been with the school district for 12 years. In addition to coaching varsity girls’ volleyball, Erin teaches the mentoring program, Real Life101 and 301 and Happy on Purpose.
She traveled around the U.S. playing college volleyball, and it was then that she discovered that Sandpoint was where she wanted to live. “This community, the SHS staff and my coaches were all integral in becoming the person I am today. I’m extremely grateful and I’m paying it forward,” said Erin.
One of the newer teachers at SHS is Kevin Hutchens. A 2012 graduate of SHS, Kevin graduated from the University of Idaho in 2016. He taught for a year in Minnesota before returning to Sandpoint to teach business and marketing courses this year, something he has known he wanted to do since he was in the 10th grade.
“I wanted to come back to Sandpoint because of how great this community is. Even when I was a little kid growing up, I knew the love around the community here was unique, and I wanted to come back and be a part of that,” said Kevin.
Having experienced one year at a small school district in the Midwest gives him an even greater appreciation of the administration and staff in our district; something not always visible when one is a student.
“Everyone throughout the district has been so welcoming. They are not only willing to help and answer my questions but also seek out ways to help make me a better teacher,” said Kevin. “It’s that kind of support system that makes coming to work every day incredible.”
Kendall Stratton also graduated in 2012 and returned to work at SHS this year. She attended college in Oregon, but in her heart she always knew she would end up back in Sandpoint. “I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world,” said Kendall. “This place is truly one of a kind.”
Kendall is in the post secondary counseling department and is working on her master’s degree in counseling education. “Our school district is an amazing one,” said Kendall, adding that she is enjoying getting to know her former teachers as co-workers.
“The people and the sense of family and community radiates throughout this town,” she said. “There is endless support no matter what you do or where you go.
Dalton Hawkins, a 2009 graduate of SHS, also returned to his alma mater this year and teaches Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. His last teaching job was on the western side of Alaska in the bush, where the number of students in his classroom was never more than 12 and the school had only 22 students.
“I always knew I would end up back in Sandpoint, however, I thought I would be gone for a longer period of time before coming back,” said Dalton. “I have deep roots in the community. That was a big factor [in returning here]. Also, after my time in remote Alaska, I was ready for some civilization.”
In addition to teaching, Dalton is helping coach the cross-country team with his former coaches, Matt and Angie Brass. “It’s been amazing for me as I’ve been able to work with some of my students outside of the classroom,” he said. “I’ve always believed that getting interaction with students outside the school setting creates a stronger student.”
Malia Meschko is a 1982 graduate of SHS and has been with LPOSD since 1994 and teaches computer aided design (CAD). She knew that wherever she settled, she wanted to have a ski hill and a lake. “I had traveled across the U.S. with family and had a lot of understanding of areas I did not want to settle in,” said Malia.
Malia shares that she appreciates the fact that LPOSD is progressing with not only technology but is also trying to eliminate the “trendy” methods and curriculum while focusing on what is best for kids and how kids learn best. “[The focus is on] how can we get them to love learning and become successful citizens,” she said.
Will Love returned to teach in his hometown of Sandpoint nine years ago and teaches journalism technology. It was not the path he thought his career would take him, but he is extremely grateful it did. As an assistant sports editor in the Treasure Valley, he did not think returning to Sandpoint was an option. After he learned of the journalism job at SHS, he spoke with his wife and decided to apply. “I know it can be hard for young people to make a career in Sandpoint. Debbie and I are really lucky that it has worked out so well,” said Will.
Will shared that LPOSD is unique in the many opportunities available to students, including the electives, the AP classes and the dual-credit classes. “This, among other things, provides students, who are willing to put in the work, a great education and experience,” he said. “In addition, LPOSD has embraced technology. It has really enhanced my abilities as an educator and offered tremendous opportunities for students.”
Brian Smith teaches American Government and is a 1995 graduate of SHS. His wife is also a teacher in the district, and after going to other places, they knew Sandpoint was where they really wanted to be. “It was a chance to make a meaningful contribution to the community I love. The people here are dedicated professionals who sincerely want to make a difference in the lives of children,” said Brian, who adds that the way the community supports the students and athletes is just one thing that makes LPOSD so exceptional.
SHS Principal Tom Albertson, a 1982 graduate of Sandpoint High School, shared that at the high school alone there are approximately 27 teachers or staff who are graduates of the school where they now work; and that does not include many more throughout the district.
“Sandpoint is a nice place to live, and people like to come back when an opportunity arises,” said Tom. “Sandpoint held a special place in their heart, and they feel vested into the youth of our community and want to give back to students the experience received by them.”