Anderson missing working with special ed kids

Jerry Anderson poses in front of the bell tower at the Lovell Elementary School, the final school he taught at during his 18-year career. David Peck photo
Jerry Anderson poses in front of the bell tower at the Lovell Elementary School, the final school he taught at during his 18-year career.
David Peck photo

There was something very special about working with special education students for Jerry Anderson.

The veteran of 18 years teaching in both School Districts One and Two who retired this spring said he’s glad he chose to go into special education because of the unique and wonderful nature of the students he worked with.

“I kind of go for the underdog,” Anderson said. “Special ed kids are misunderstood. People need to realize that, even though they learn differently, they have no less ability than anyone else.

“They grow up with an inferiority complex and feel that they can’t learn, and when they figure out that they can learn it gives them confidence to move on. They have as much ability and talent as others; they just learn differently.”

Anderson said he enjoyed the challenge of the severely disabled students because the challenge was to “see how far you could take them,” adding, “I’ve always been surprised by how much they can accomplish.”

He said he would love to see a time when every student is on an IEP – individual education program – because there’s a high level of accountability built into the programs, which fits the current era of increasing educational accountability.

But one-on-one achievement is what Anderson enjoyed.

“That’s what it’s all about, to see the light come on in a kid’s eyes and lean over to his neighbor and explain how it’s done,” Anderson said. “You have to have your quiver full of strategies, and you have to be ready to pull one out quickly. Eventually, it’s going to be a combination of strategies, not a standard way of teaching all kids. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen during my career is the standardization of education.”

Anderson is a 1971 graduate of Lovell High School, and he played one year of football as a linebacker at Snow College in Utah, playing with fellow Lovellites Scott Dillon and Stan Asay.

After serving a two-year LDS mission in Tulsa, Okla., Anderson enrolled at BYU in Provo and earned a bachelor’s degree in outdoor education in 1978. He then started post-graduate work in recreation management with an emphasis in community education and landed an internship back in his hometown with Lovell Community Education in 1979-80.

Anderson was hired as the Lovell Community Education director in 1980, adding responsibilities with the construction of the new pool, which led to the formation of a recreation district. He directed Lovell Community Ed until 1994.

In the meantime, Anderson joined and was active in the Wyoming Army National Guard, serving from 1983 through 2006.

He met the former Terri Garrick at BYU and the two were married on Aug. 24, 1978. The Andersons have five children: Kim Cutler of Rock Springs, Lindsay Lindsay of Lovell, Matt of Salisbury, Md., Nick of Billings and Tyler, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

In 1994 Anderson went back to school at MSU-Billings to obtain certification as a special ed teacher and after student teaching at Rocky Mountain High School in the fall of 1995, he was hired as an aide for the spring semester of ’96, then hired fulltime in the fall of that year, working at RMHS for four years.

“I had a great job where I was,” Anderson said, “but it was hard coaching against my own kids. I had an opportunity to come to Lovell in 2000.”

Anderson was hired as a special education teacher at Lovell Middle School, moved to the high school in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq with the National Guard in 2004. He returned in 2005 and continued teaching, moving to Lovell Elementary in 2010.

Anderson has done a lot of coaching over the years, especially football. He was on Coach Ben Smith’s staff at RMHS, helping the Grizzlies win three of their titles as a line and defensive coach. When he moved into the Lovell school system, he joined the staff of Coach Roy Strom and coached for another five years.

Having taught at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, Anderson said he enjoyed all three but admitted, “I fear elementary school the most because I’m not really artsy, making bulletin boards and artsy-crafty stuff. But my fears were not really founded. Elementary kids are very loving, and it was a pretty special time.

Anderson said he is missing the day-to-day interaction with students as the new school year begins, noting, “They keep you young. They keep you going.

“But I’ve always lived by the philosophy that if you get to the point to where you think your shoes can’t be filled, put your hand in a bucket of water and swish it around and the hole you leave is the hole you leave with your job. No one is irreplaceable. Another person will step up and do a good job.

“There are a lot of great educators in the world today.”

by David Peck