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Around Our Town...Outstanding Educators

11/01/2004 - "She's a very special person inside." Olivia Perkins says of her first grade teacher, Schlee Weis, of University Park School.

Jordan Yates, another of Schlee's twenty-two students, tells us, "She's really nice." Many of the students echo Jordan's sentiments.

Schlee has dreamed of being a teacher ever since she was a child. She used to play school by the hour in the basement of her grandparents, John and Shirley Elmore, also Casper residents.

"I would teach my cousin, Jenny Elmore, what I had learned in school that day," Schlee says. Since Schlee is a year older than her cousin, Jenny was always ahead in her own schoolwork.

When asked what inspired this lifelong dream, Schlee credits her third grade teacher, Karen Sue Jones of Westwood Elementary. "She was personally involved and you knew she cared," says Schlee. "Something about the way she taught made learning fun. She used a game called 'Don't Bug Me' to teach multiplication facts. When you make learning fun, it builds lifelong learners."

Schlee did a unit study using a pumpkin theme earlier this fall. "I liked it when she taught us that pumpkin song," says Alicia Smethurst, another of Schlee's students. When we asked Schlee about 'that pumpkin song', she told us it was a song she found on the internet about harvesting pumpkins. "The kids love to sing."

"When I see that the children have learned something, especially something they had struggled with, and knowing that I helped them learn -- that's what I find most rewarding about teaching."

Schlee was born in Casper and attended Westwood Elementary School, CY Junior High School, and Natrona County High School. She went to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley where she was required to teach as an intern for an entire year. "They treated me as an educator and not just someone shadowing someone else in a classroom. They were very good mentors and very supportive."

After she graduated, Schlee was a long term substitute teacher at Crest Hill Elementary School. "The teachers there were very encouraging," she says. She also taught Sunday School and once stayed up all night making Valentine presents for her students.

When asked what challenges her most about teaching, Schlee says, "Every child is at their own level. To meet all twenty-two at the point of their individual needs, and plan class in a way that works for them all can sometimes be difficult."

Schlee's advice to teachers just out of college: "If you don't get a job off your first interview, keep trying. Eventually the right school will call." When Schlee first began interviewing for a job there was a shortage of openings caused by the closing of two Casper schools. She was turned down several times. Of course she shed a few tears of disappointment, but Schlee remained optimistic. "I liked to look at it as another opportunity to perfect my interview skills." Then she received two offers on the same day and had to choose between them. Her perseverance paid off.

Observing Miss Weis with her students, her commitment and genuine caring are obvious. Principal Sally Huber explains, "Schlee is a first year teacher and when she interviewed, she talked about it being her lifelong dream. It is not uncommon to hear applicants say that when they're interviewed, but it was clear from our conversation that it was more than true for Schlee.

It has been fun to watch her grow in this first year and to see the involvement of her family as they've helped decorate her room.

Schlee is an awesome teacher."

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