(Reporter’s preface: This is the fourth in a monthly series called “Feature a Teacher,” which introduces one teacher from a Kamiah, Clearwater Valley or Elk City School. We learn about the teacher as a person, what motivates them, and what they are doing differently in their classrooms this year in the time of COVID-19.)
“The students at this age just crack me up. You never know what to expect,” said Jim Engledow, a Kamiah Middle School teacher. “I look forward to coming to school every day.”
Although he has taught different age groups, Engledow (known as Mr. E. to the kids) said he particularly likes the middle school students. Engledow has been a full-time teacher since the 1999-2000 school year after spending a year teaching English in Mexico. He teaches two classes of social studies at both the 7th and 8th grade level, plus 7th grade reading and a Native American studies class.
He said for kids “starting 7th grade, it is the biggest change they have had since kindergarten. It is the hardest transition from a self-contained classroom to seven different teachers.” He added that some of the students really struggle to learn this and it is important to be patient and help them through this change.
From his own school days, Engledow remembers a high school English teacher, Pat St. Tourangeau, “who was out of this world.” She motivated me to always do better. “Besides being a great teacher of English, she was also someone whom I could talk to about anything.”
“My high school coaches also made a huge impact on my life and inspired me to teach and coach.” Of his basketball coach, Fred Mercer, Engledow said, “He really toughened me up and instilled in me how to do a lot with a little.” Track coach Bob Squires “could motivate me for a big race by simply winking at me and giving me a thumbs up. He was somebody you did not want to let down,” said Engledow. His experience coaching inspired him to get into the teaching profession.
He has spoken at both eighth-grade graduation and at high school graduations. Engledow’s basic advice is, “be on time; showing up is half the battle. Don’t be afraid to risk failure. You don’t fail, you learn how to not do things.” He said of his students, “I hope they remember me for not just teaching history. I hope they remember conversations we had about life and being a good person. I hope they remember me as a motivator and someone they could go to for any advice.”
Engledow describes this year with COVID-19 concerns as “the most difficult year being a teacher,” adding, “We are learning a completely different way to teach. I am a firm believer that the best way to deliver instruction is to do it in person.” He said, “I am used to walking around the classroom interacting with students. Something gets lost with watching videos.” He is hopeful that the district will continue to offer in-person school for the rest of the school year if the teachers can stay healthy or find subs when they are not.
He worries that kids who miss in-person school, because they are sick or in quarantine, will fall behind.
“We are doing some online things for some students and sending some packets homes for others,” he said. “Many students are struggling with their Internet connection at home or don’t have the proper device to get work done. The school district will soon provide devices for all students, but Internet accessibility will continue to be an issue for many.”
“My biggest fear is the gap we are going to see in students’ test scores” concluded Engledow.
He has noticed more kids coming to Friday school this year. After the school district shifted to four day a week school a couple of years ago, KMS teachers take turns on Fridays, offering kids a chance to catch up on homework if they have been absent or just need some extra help.
Engledow said his family moved to Kamiah from San Diego in 1979 when he was in fourth grade.
“I have loved this town since the day we arrived,” he said.
After graduating from KHS in 1989, he married a local girl, Shannon Moffett, who is the head teacher at KES. He describes her as “an incredible wife, mom and teacher.” Their three children have all attended Kamiah school. The oldest, Marlee, is a sophomore nursing major at Washington State University. Maya and Jack attend KHS and KMS respectively. He is thankful to his parents, Clint and Linda (Engledow), for moving him to Kamiah saying “they play a huge role in all that we do.”
He said of his family, “We also spend many summers in Mexico. We all love the culture and the people are so genuine and friendly.” Engledow, who worked as a river guide before he began teaching, also enjoys “running some of the greatest whitewater in the county on the upper Selway and Lochsa rivers.”