Steven Durtsche enjoying teaching in his hometown

David Peck

Growing up in Lovell, Steven Durtsche had a good idea he might become a teacher. He liked people, he liked working with kids and he liked sports, respecting a number of teachers and coaches along the way.

The 2009 graduate of Lovell High School is now working in the school system that educated him, teaching sixth grade social studies at Lovell Middle School and working as a success coach at LHS.

The son of Aletha and the late Mike Durtsche, Steven Durtsche served a two-year LDS mission in the San Fernando area of California after his graduation, then played baseball at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus, Okla., for two years and after completing his associate’s degree moved on to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he completed a teaching degree in social studies in the spring of 2017. He did his student teaching at Dean Morgan Middle School in Casper.

Meanwhile, he met Stephany Sessions of Sheridan, who has family in the Lovell area including grandfather Larry Sessions. The two were married in July of 2017 and moved to Phoenix to start their teaching careers, both in social studies.

Durtsche taught middle school social studies at Discovery Elementary School, a K-8 school, for two years and was the head football, boys basketball and baseball coach at the school.

“We needed to get some experience so we could return to Wyoming,” Durtsche said, noting that the job market for teachers is extremely competitive in Wyoming. “We had always planned on coming back to Wyoming.”

During their second year in Arizona, longtime Lovell Middle School social studies teacher Bob Geiser retired, and both Steven and Stephany applied for the position.

“Lovell needed a volleyball coach, so Stephany got the job (seventh and eighth grade social studies),” Durtsche said with a laugh. “I subbed last year and worked one on one with a student as a para.”

An outstanding athlete at Lovell High School in football and basketball, plus summertime baseball, Durtsche also started his school coaching career, though he had already served as coach of the Lovell Mustangs American Legion Baseball team for several summers. He was an assistant football coach at Rocky Mountain High School and the seventh-grade boys basketball coach at Rocky Mountain Middle School.

With Stephany at the middle school in Lovell and Caleb and Joshua Sanders at the high school, Durtsche figured his future would be at Rocky Mountain, but when Jane Bushnell announced her retirement he jumped at the opportunity to return to his home district. Bushnell had taught sixth grade social studies and eighth grade English, but the district switched some things around, hiring Durtsche as the sixth grade social studies teacher and as the success coach at LHS, working with at risk students to help them on a path to graduation.

He is also an assistant football coach for the Lovell Bulldogs and hopes to coach middle school basketball this winter.

It has all come together for the Lovell native who thought teaching might be in his future.

“I’ve always enjoyed talking with people and socializing,” he said. “Mr. (Gus) Gerhardt and Mr. (Bob) Geiser inspired me to be a teacher and coach. I enjoy both and being around the kids. With Mr. Gerhardt it was his presence. You just knew walking into his class that you would be respectful.

“In high school the Sanders brothers are two of the best social studies teachers you could find. They were my favorite classes to go to.”

In the sports area, Geiser was his Little League Baseball, seventh grade football and eighth grade basketball coach, Gerhardt was his eighth grade football coach and Joshua Sanders was his high school assistant coach.

Durtsche said he’s always been able to connect with kids.

“I feel like I’m a person who’s not hard to get along with,” he said, adding that his job in Phoenix well prepared him for his position as the success coach.

“In Phoenix we had a 99 percent poverty school district,” he said. “What I do with the high school I was doing with all of my students there. That opened my eyes quite a bit.”

As for social studies, Durtsche said his interests align perfectly with the subject matter he teaches.

“I love the history aspect of social studies. It really is like a story book,” he said. “I’m a big geography buff. I like knowing places. We switched some things up. The sixth-graders are doing geography now. Kids are coming in not knowing their states. We also teach Wyoming history second semester.”

All in all, Durtsche said he’s thrilled to be teaching in his hometown and in Wyoming.

“You can’t beat teaching in Wyoming, you just can’t,” he said, “kids-wise and money-wise. And the quality of the school district here. In Arizona we had 40 kids in the classroom, no paras, no subs. We didn’t have enough desks.

“We’re happy to be back. It’s a good place to be and raise a family.”