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Coming Back: The Students Who Returned

These three teachers were students in these very halls just a few years ago

As time goes on, people age, graduate, are hired, retire, and make way for a new generation to go through a similar process. As people mature into new jobs and roles in life, there is nothing quite as surreal as returning to the place where it all began.

Teachers are a vital resource that is often in short supply, so when a new teacher joins the workforce, they become incredibly valuable. Adding the valuable experience of being a student at that school gives these teachers an interesting perspective.

Multiple Canyon Ridge alumni have returned to the school as teachers and have shared about their time in school as both teachers and students. These alumni are the Earth Science teacher, Michael Easterling, his older brother, and IDLA site coordinator Gabe Easterling, and finally Anna Rill, an English teacher and the oldest of these teachers.

These three teachers all had different paths that led them to their return to Canyon Ridge.

Their Return to CRHS
After graduating from CRHS in 2017 M. Easterling got a scholarship to wrestle in Wyoming after winning state in back-to-back years. Eventually, he quit wrestling, came back to Idaho, and finished his bachelor’s degree at Boise State. “When this job opened up in 2021, [other teachers] said I should apply for it,” M. Easterling said. He continued with how teachers knew he was a good student and thought he was a good fit for the position. He enjoys “being in the environment where people knew [he was] a good person and want [him] to come back,” M. Easterling said, “[It’s] One of the nicest things coming back.”

G. Easterling’s story starts a few years after his highschool graduation in 2016 with him being a single father. He needed a proper and stable job to secure his family. Before he was hired, G. Easterling was reintroduced to the school as a wrestling coach. He was offered a position as an IDLA site coordinator by former principal Dr. Kasey Teske.

Similar to G.Easterling, Rill needed a steady job. However, she never graduated from Canyon Ridge. She dropped out her senior year. After leaving high school she was “lost” and at 20 years old a “single mother.” After a suggestion from her mother about the stability of teaching, she decided to go to Idaho State University and receive a degree. After that, she was offered a student teaching position by a teacher, Mrs. Reichenbach. She student taught with Mrs. Gardner another English teacher. “While I contemplated my final semester of college, the idea of student teaching at Canyon Ridge was so loud, I could no longer ignore it,” Rill said. “Once I began student teaching, I recognized a difference in the atmosphere in the school, and I felt like, more than anywhere else, I belonged here.”

These teachers aren’t just here for their jobs. They are putting in the effort to pay forward what they were given.

Paying It Forward
When M. Easterling went to Canyon Ridge, a teacher, Mr. Pehrson, was his wrestling coach, and now M. Easterling is coaching kids. This was an important part of what inspired him to come back. “It helps me keep kids from doing dumb stuff,” he explained, his ability to be a positive role model like the teachers he’s had and keep kids out of trouble through sports.

Like his brother, G. Easterling also has a passion for wrestling and coaching. He explained that he loves to coach the kids and felt like he was needed in the position to keep the kids straight.

While Rill doesn’t coach a sport, her impact on the students she’s around is no less significant. She has been known for keeping her room a safe place for all her students and being a shoulder to lean on in kid’s times of need. She also created the Horticulture Club to add more green around the school.

The Rewards and Struggles of Teaching
These relationships with their students don’t go unrewarded. While all three had different answers and paths when it came to being a teacher, one thing that was universal was what they found most rewarding about teaching: “It’s rewarding because I get to make an impact on your life and…I also get to see an insane amount of growth,” said Mrs. Rill. G. Easterling said something similar about how amazing it is to see kids go from troubled youths and grow and become better people. M. Easterling is in the same boat describing how he loves interacting with and coaching the kids and how their growth is so impressive.

While there are plenty of amazing experiences, being a teacher isn’t all fun and games. It is a stressful job, and it can take a while to find your groove. M. Easterling tells us about his first year being a teacher. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, so he tried to copy the cadence of the teachers he had and was around. Due to that he felt fake and realized the kids didn’t respond well to the illegitimate teaching style. As he found his style, M. Easterling used his age to make the class more fun. Experimenting with goofy activities and moving around the classroom.

Rill had a similar experience. Her first year was full of trials. She acknowledged that her first year was not the best or most mature. “I am more of an adult now than I was then when I might have behaved more like a student,” she explained. She also talked about some of the hardest parts of teaching such as grading, dealing with bad behavior, and feeling like the bad guy.

The amount of effort these teachers put into their profession has shown them the importance of schooling. “When I was a student here, I didn’t understand that going to high school wasn’t just about learning how to write an essay,” Mrs. Rill said “I have recognized the value of attending public high school.” She goes on to explain how hard teaching is. When she was a student, she didn’t realize how much went into the lesson plans. M.Easterling has a similar experience. He told about how as a student he didn’t get the point of the lessons he was taught or why he and his peers would do certain things, but now he sees the value in teaching and making effective lesson plans.

Advice from our Teachers
These three are all fairly new to teaching, but in the few years they’ve been here, they have made important connections and changed students’ lives. So as these teachers set up the path for their students’ futures, they leave us with some words of advice.

“I know you want to grow up right now and you feel grown compared to everyone else around you, but take a breath and slow down; you’re going to want these memories.” Mrs. Rill says, “I would tell students who are unsure of their future to relax; not everyone knows what they’re doing after school and that’s OKAY. I have friends who are in their upper 20s (and even 30s) who don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives, and they’re doing just fine. Being a teacher is not for the weak, but even on the hard days, it’s worth it; you don’t find a lot of jobs like that.”

“I would say with hard work and dedication anything is possible as well as follow your dreams!” said Michael Easterling.

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About the Contributor
Nathan Akwenuke
Nathan Akwenuke, Staff Reporter
I'm Nathan Akwenuke, a staff reporter for The Riverhawk Review. This is my first year with the newspaper, and I plan to bring big-hitting stories and factual data to inform the readers about things they didn't know.

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