When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I participated in a leadership exercise for a board I served on. Each of us was asked to review a long list of qualities, like family, responsibility, dependability, independence, and on and on. From this list, which contained like 50-odd words, we were to circle the two we value the most. Not an easy task for anyone. How could anyone limit their core values to just two?
I circled “learning” and “nature” after taking time to reflect upon what I valued my whole life leading up to this moment and what I wanted to continue to uphold. Being the English major that I am, I took wide, generous interpretations of the qualities. Nature was the environment, home, a source of place in my life, a source of nourishment, and a love of nature that connected me to my family and the family that I was creating with my spouse. Learning encompassed more than education or attendance in a classroom. I was learning all the time: and at that time, learning how to run a small business, how to become a mother, among the various big and small tasks that are asked of adults. Of course, I valued my time in school – I’ve always loved school, but learning is a daily practice, whether it is learning a new hobby or developing a long interest. I was also, in that same moment, learning how a group of people came together in support of their community, actively seeking ways to improve the quality of life for all who called Kalispell home.
Learning is, however, deeply connected to education. For most people, our longest-lasting learning opportunities are through school and the types of education we seek after we complete high school. My parents placed great value on how my brother and I performed in school. And while grades and participation were very important, it was also a place that deserved our respect and attention. It was at school where we played sports, made friends, and figured out how to navigate relationships, deadlines, and all the other stuff of life that transpires between teachers and students during the school day. Growing up in a rural, blue-collar town, school was also the one place where many of my classmates felt safe, fed, and nurtured.
Strong schools make strong communities, and a shared appreciation and dedication by an entire community go a long way to ensuring that students can thrive, no matter where education may fall on their core value lists. Kalispell Public Schools are once again on the ballot and they need taxpayer funds to support the wide range of learning environments, from elementary schools to high schools. Both levies will support essential school operations. Voters haven’t approved a levy for the high school in 16 years and, without financial support, students begin to suffer. As the fastest-growing county in the state of Montana, it’s time for Kalispell voters to approve the two levies on the May 2 ballot.
Our students and educators are invaluable. Show your support by voting for the school levies.
Maggie Doherty is a writer and book reviewer who lives in Kalispell with her family.
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