New language arts teacher Orr builds positive relationships at Rocky Mountain

By Sam Smith

New Rocky Mountain Middle School language arts teacher Kelli Orr’s ambition is building a positive relationship with the students she teaches.

“The kids have a lot of enthusiasm for learning, especially the sixth-graders,” Orr said.

Orr was born and raised in Mossyrock, Wash. “It has the same feel as Rocky does, which is a small town,” she said.

Orr graduated from Mossyrock High School in 1999 and also graduated from Centralia Community College in Centralia, Wash., the day after she graduated high school.

She then attended the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, and graduated from there in 2001 with degrees in English and education.

After that, she got her master’s degree from Walden University in Minneapolis in K-12 reading and literature.

Orr has taught in two school districts in the state of Wyoming before moving to RMMS. She first taught in Powell from 2013-2016 as a Title One reading specialist at Powell Middle School.

After Powell, she taught in Sheridan from 2017-2020 as a seventh-grade English teacher.

“There were six seventh-grade English teachers,” Orr said. “So, it’s really different coming from Sheridan to here because there are so many students there.”

Orr said there were 300 students in the seventh grade alone in
Sheridan at that time, and she only got to teach a few of them.

Orr took over for former RMMS English teacher Ilene Henley, who moved over to be a Title One specialist for Rocky. She is
the only middle school English teacher in the district instead of being one of six in Sheridan.

“It’s best that we learn to get along with each other,” Orr said. “It’s important to me to build those relationships with the kids. For example, with my eighth-grade class, I only have them for one year, but with the sixth- and seventh-grade classes, I have them for two or three years.”

Orr said she likes dystopian literature. One of her favorite books is “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Orr said her elementary school teachers are who inspired her to be a teacher.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I can’t pinpoint one teacher because there were so many great teachers. I remember being in first, second and third grade and wanting to help out the teachers like decorating their bulletin board or helping out with seating arrangements, etc.”

Orr has two kids. Emily is an eighth-grader at Powell Middle School, and Jacob is a sophomore at Powell High School.

Orr continues to work on building a bond with the kids while at Rocky Mountain.

“I just try to build a mutual respect with the kids,” she said, “because if they trust me to teach them, they will learn from me. I’m always reading educational textbooks to make my teaching better.

“You never stop learning. Teaching is everywhere. Everything is a teachable moment.”

Orr said she is glad to be teaching in Cowley. “I’m glad the community has accepted me with open arms,” she said.

Orr said her eighth-grade class currently is going over argument and logical fallacies and her seventh- and sixth-grade classes are going over informal writing and problems and solutions with teens and sleep.