By Claudia Hewston
The past several weeks have been relatively the same thing every day. I come in, sit down at my computer, turn on my monitor, login, open my email and start sending and responding to questions about the SMART Schools challenge. The month of October is generally reserved for recruiting schools for the challenge and helping teachers file all the necessary paperwork to get their school registered in the correct challenge, Greening, Recycling or Energy Efficiency. While this is a crucial part of my service, I looked forward to the days where I get to run errands and break out of my regular routine.
One day I got off of service and was feeling a bit bogged down. I decided that I would go for a run. Running is always something that I can rely on to lift my spirits. Also, because I am still relatively new in town and haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet new people; running is something I can do on my own that gets me out of the house. I thought that it might be fun to do a track workout that day and after googling track facilities in Butte MT, I ended up at East Middle School, only to find that it was locked. Not ready to give up, I walked around the track looking for a way in. Finding none, I was feeling slightly discouraged but I rounded the last corner to the back of the stadium and found a football game that was coming to an end. I looked around; a woman was walking toward me. She looked nice enough so I took a breath and crossed over toward her. “Mama, I’m new in town, do you happen to know where there might be a track I could run on”? She looked at me with a smile, “absolutely”. She proceeded to direct me step by step to West Elementary explaining that it was not a complete track but that it should fulfill my needs. I told her thank you and as I turned she stopped me and asked what had brought me to Butte, I told her that I was serving as an Energy Corps member with SMART Schools. She lit up with excitement and exclaimed “I’m a teacher” raising her arms in the air and forming jazz hands, “tell me about this SMART Schools thing”. I smiled. It was such a relief to be face to face with someone that had obvious enthusiasm for what I was doing. I told her all about SMART Schools and before we split ways I got her email address to send her additional information on how to register for the challenge. I went back to my car beaming. What a great encounter. I went to the track, ran my workout and returned home. The next morning I woke up with new found enthusiasm and eagerly prepared myself to go to the MFPE Conference in Billings.
Billings was great, I ran into a number of interesting people, all of whom were more than supportive of SMART Schools. Some of the teachers who stopped by had already registered for the challenge and simply wanted to put a face to the name, a gesture I was more than grateful for. It is easy for me to get sucked into an everyday routine, and it becomes difficult for me to envision the end goal. However, after attending the MFPE conference and “running” into the woman at the football game, it doesn’t seem as difficult. I am excited to reach the end of October, not because it means I won’t have to answer emails anymore, because that’s just not true, but because I will get to have these face to face interactions with teachers, students, and faculty across the state of Montana, all of whom are driven to improve their schools and communities one step at a time.