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One Class at a Time: Swan Valley Elementary's Lori McCleerey

OCAT Lori McCleerey
Posted at 11:37 AM, Sep 19, 2023

CONDON — Now that school is back in session, KPAX is helping teachers One Class at a Time. This week's winner is a fairly new teacher, but she is no stranger to the classroom.

Out of necessity, Lori McCleery became a homeschool teacher for he two sons for over 20 years. Once they graduated, so did she.

But after caring for a sick family member and feeling a little lost, Lori feels like she is now in a new season of life.

“I feel like after some rough years after my kids graduated and just kind of feeling a lost sense of myself, I feel like I am right where I belong," McCleerey shared. "And when I walk in here everyday, I feel like I have a meaningful purpose.”

She currently teaches kindergarten, first and second grade students in a combined classroom at Swan Valley Elementary School in Condon.

She is also working hard on a Master’s in Teaching through Montana State University.

“So it’s been a really exciting journey and an adventure to just now have an idea of what my second season of life looks like," said McCleerey.

As this week’s One Class at a Time winner, McCleerey received $250 to use in her classroom, and she knew exactly how to spend it.

“A really important thing for me is to get - especially at this age - to get the kids out of their desks," explained McCleerey. "They need movement, I want the classroom to feel like a structured, home-y community.”

So, McCleerey has purchased a cozy, plush rug for students to enjoy during storytime or quiet time. It has bright colors and is big enough for all of her 14 students.

“I should have videotaped it — did not even think of it — because when the kids came in the next morning and saw it they were literally rolling around on it and could not get off from it and during their quiet time they were laying on it and just loving it - so, it’s a hit.”

McCleery’s story is a good reminder that just like the fall leaves in this season, it is never too late to welcome a change that can bring wonderful color into your life.