HOT SPRINGS –Meet Bart Granlund, fifth grade teacher and the hottest thing at Hot Springs Elementary School. Granlund is a Montana native who has had the unique opportunity to travel all over the world and teach.
“I’m a Montana boy at heart,” Granlund said. “I was born and raised in Montana then went to school at Western Washington and began teaching at Issaquah near Seattle.”
Granlund became tiresome of teaching public school and was ready for a change.
“After seven years I got pretty restless and was looking for a change,” Granlund said. “I took a job at the Seoul International School where I was principal.”
Granlund then planned to make his way into Cambodia and teach at a new school there when he received a phone call from one of the most prestigious international schools, the Cairo American College.
“At the time it was one of the top five international schools in the world, everyone had talked about it,” Granlund said. “It meant something, this door was opening and hadn’t even looked for it. I spent five great years there.”
While in Cairo, Granlund had the unfortunate opportunity to be in the city during the revolution.
“There were only three really intense days where I kept a bat in my apartment,” Granlund said, “but it was a good place to teach and the people there were great.”
After teaching in Cairo, Granlund traveled with his sister to see his parents in Montana, where he found the little town of Hot Springs.
“We had always passed Hot Springs on the way to see my parents with my sister,” Granlund said. “I wanted to stop and check it out.”
Within minutes of arriving in town Granlund knew he had found his new summer home. He made it to the first stop sign in town and knew he would call Hot Springs his American home.
“I knew almost immediately this was the place for me,” Granlund said. “Originally I thought it would be a summer home and continue to do the international thing during the school year.”
Granlund never thought he would be in Hot Springs for on a full time basis. He had fallen for the town and hoped to spend his summers in western Montana.
Granlund then took a job working in Mongolia at a newly created school. After a year abroad in Mongolia those tiresome feelings came back. He was headed home to Montana.
Western Montana provided him with all the things he liked to do in his personal life as well as his professional life.
“I’ve always been into hiking and being out doors,” Granlund said. “Coming home to Montana was perfect for that.”
Before he landed the job teaching, Granlund had been a substitute in Hot Springs. He had lived there for a short time before going to Mongolia and knew some members of the community. It just so happened that when he returned home the school had an opening for a fifth grade teacher - an opportunity Granlund jumped at.
“It was another right place, right time thing,” Granlund said. “Kevin (Meredith) told me there was an immediate opening for a teacher and I applied and got the job.”
Granlund hopes to employ his parent involvement model in Hot Springs. The school was able to start a parent involvement program last year with the help of the Parent-Teacher Organization and Superintendent Meredith. Granlund employs the help of parents in his classroom to help teach or assist the class in activities. Parents have several jobs they can volunteer for in the classroom.
“It’s always been one of those things that I think is a misconception,” Granlund said, “It’s not that parents don’t want to be involved, they just don’t know how to be involved.”
He hopes to initiate more parental jobs in his classroom and build more community involvement at the school.
“Parents don’t want to come in and sharpen pencils, they want to be involved,” said Granlund. “Teachers don’t know everything and its better to allow someone to help out in the classroom who knows more than me.”
So far Granlund has been able to fill several volunteer positions in his classroom and hopes to get more involvement throughout the whole school.
“These programs usually take a good five years to get right,” Granlund said. “It’s been very similar to my time in Korea but in a different way. When I was an administrator I would end up giving impromptu workshops on how to get parent involvement.”
Granlund knows it will take time to get everyone onboard. He wrote his dissertation on parent/teacher involvement and the fear parents have of being thrown into a classroom expected to be able to help 25 students with no formal training.
“The hardest thing for teachers is how to ask parents for help,” he said. “I’ve found that parents want to help but they just don’t know how or they are afraid of being put in the situation where they are intimidated by the classroom.”
Granlund knows that the classroom works best for students when everyone is involved. He hopes the participation from parents continues in his classroom and hopefully throughout the entire school.