Article reposted from Great Falls Tribune
Author: Sarah Dettmer
Judi Rowe is dedicated to her students on and off the field.
The Anaconda native began her career as a teacher and assistant athletic trainer at Butte High School. But after four years, Rowe made the move to Great Falls and has been with GFH for nearly 17 years.
Now, she teaches health enhancement, intro to health occupations and intro to athletic training. On top of her involvement in the medical prep department, Rowe is also the athletic trainer a GFH.
Rowe’s job is special. On top of working with students in the classroom, she gets to break the barriers that limit her interactions when she heads to the field to work with student-athletes. This opportunity affords her the ability to make deeper connections and build a stronger base with her students.
“On the athletic training side, I get to spend a lot of time with the kids,” Rowe said. “Sometimes it’s one-on-one, so they tell me lots of information about things going on in their lives that they probably don’t share with a lot of other teaching staff here because it’s in a more comfortable environment. It’s relaxed.”
Rowe uses her love of sports to forge connections with her students, even if they’re aren’t her student-athletes. She spends her evenings and summers attending baseball games, music performances and theater productions to support all of her students.
“I think the biggest thing is just showing kids you care what happens to them and that you’re interested in activities other than what’s happening in your classroom,” Rowe said. “Many of them do have parents who care, but some of them don’t have that support at home. Even the kids that do have great home support, I think they engage better in your classroom when they know you care what’s happening to them or what kind of interests they have.”
All of these connections are genuine. Rowe devotes her free time to her students to let them know she cares and to foster better connections in her classroom, but she also does it because she really does care.
“The most difficult part of the job is wanting the kids to succeed so bad and some, they just can’t,” Rowe said. “Sometimes they just don’t put in the same effort you think they should. For me that’s the hardest part — seeing that potential that’s just not reached.”
But there is great support available from her fellow teachers and administration, Rowe continued.
The collective team at GFH is trained to recognize students in need and consistently check in with them. She said she finds peace in knowing that all of the teachers are trying to make connections with their students. If someone in Rowe’s class isn’t opening up to her, Rowe said chances are they’ve found that trust and support in another teacher.
As Rowe prepares for the new year, she said she would like to work on reaching more students in her class. Rather than building relationships with the most forthcoming students, she said she would like to improve on building those connections with her quieter students and incoming freshmen.
“It’s great to see the change from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Rowe said. “By Christmastime, we’re lucky to get through the real task we need to do that day because they’re willing to open up and share things that happened to them and how it relates to what we’re talking about in class. When they feel comfortable, class is more comfortable, and we have better discussions.”