New 6th grade teacher, Bridey Short, poses with her two sons, Atlas (age 5) and Wilder (age 4).

Nine teachers in Petersburg are in new positions with the Petersburg School District this year to help create smaller class sizes for COVID requirements.  In the second of a two-part series, we’ll look at the three new teachers at the Mitkof Middle School. Two of them are permanent hires and one is a temporary, one-year contract. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

There are two new 6th grade teachers at the Mitkof Middle School this year. Bridey Short is a permanent hire and Casey Gates is a temporary hire for the year.

Short has spent most of her life in Petersburg. For the last two years she’s been doing practicum classes and student teaching for her Master’s Degree in Education focusing on kindergarten through 8th grade. Prior to that she taught for years at the Good Beginnings preschool and worked at the Kinderskog outdoor afterschool program.

Short student taught in Dan Sullivan’s 5th grade class last spring so she’s teaching some of the same students this year.

“I’m loving 6th grade.  I think because it’s the students I already had, I already have those positive relationships with them so I got to just jumpstart the year, which is just really especially great given the circumstances that they’re on line half the time,” Short said. “They’re just at a really unique developmental level. You know, their brains are growing extremely fast in sixth grade, there’s just all those hormonal and brain changes.”

Short says sixth graders already know the basics and are a very capable age. She says she wants to help them discover what their learning styles are to set themselves up for success.

“You start to see their interest and their uniqueness and the different ways they’re able to handle more choices and really take ownership and initiative of their own learning, which is a really exciting thing to watch,” Short said.

Short is thrilled to be part of the permanent staffing at the middle school. She says the school district has consistency when it comes to quality teachers.

“You really can’t go wrong, we have such a great district, which is just so much of why I want to teach here and be involved in it,” Short said. “I feel like there are so many positive experiences that I had as a kid growing up here.”

Casey Gates is a temporary sixth grade teacher for the year, teaching language arts and life science.

He is originally from Oregon and moved to Petersburg two years ago to be with his wife, Emma Gates–formerly Emma Engell. Before that Gates had been living in central Oregon, in Redmond.

“It’s literally the polar opposite,” Gates said. “You know, we live in a rain forest here and Redmond is in a high desert. So, it’s flat and hot and dry.”

Gates had heard that there would be a temporary opening at the middle school so he decided to apply.

“Because I’ve always had the plans of becoming a teacher,” he said. “So my plan was to get my bachelor’s degree in English, which is what I wanted to teach and then once I was done with that I was going to go into a master’s program to get my teaching certificate.”

Casey Gates is a new 6th grade teacher this year at Mitkof Middle School. He’s on a temporary one-year contract. (Photo courtesy of Casey Gates)

Gates says he was drawn to teaching because he wants to share knowledge with the youth. He also wants to build relationships with the students so they have a positive influence as they are going through school.

He says starting teaching off in the year that COVID protocols began, has had its positives for him as a teacher and the students.

“It’s all a new thing for me, which makes me feel kind of good because the other teachers are trying to figure out how to manage this as well so we’re all kind of in it together,” Gates said. “The students were very excited to be in school and to be participating, which I think is maybe a little bit unique for this year. Normally, coming off summer vacation, not everyone is excited to be in school but I think every student here is excited to just be back together with everybody.”

Tyler Thain has been hired at the middle school as a permanent special education teacher. He is originally from Craig on Prince of Wales Island. He moved here about three years ago with his wife, Lauren Thain—formerly Lauren Bryner– and they now have a two-year-old daughter.

Thain has a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and is now finishing up his Master’s Degree in Special Education.

“It’s really fun. I love this job, I love the students,” Thain said. “I think I really found my calling with this position.”

Thain has an emergency teaching license to cover him until he gets his degree. For the past few years, he has been a paraprofessional in special education at the middle school.

“So, I know these kids really well,” he said. “And it’s been an awesome experience. So, I’ve watched them grow the last couple of years and now I get to actually teach them at the front of the class.”

Thain says he likes that special education has a different approach than regular classroom teaching.

“It’s alternative learning so you get to really individualize what you do in the classroom to meet the needs of a few individuals as opposed to the entire classroom,” Thain said. “So you really get to focus on interventions and you have the means to record data and record their progress. And there’s a lot more contact with parents so you’re ultimately a lot more involved in individual students as opposed to the entire classroom.”

Thain was also the head wrestling coach at the high school last year and coached track and field the year before that. He’s coaching wrestling again this year but the details of the season are still being worked out.

Tyler Thain poses with his family, Lauren Thain, and 2-year-old daughter, Libby. Thain is a new Special Education teacher at Mitkof Middle School. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Thain)

The middle school will be moving to a green, low-risk status on September 28. That means middle school students will be on campus, in-person learning Monday through Friday with early release at 1:15 p.m. on Fridays.

This is the second of a two-part series on new teachers in Petersburg. The first story is about the five new teachers at the Stedman Elementary School.