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A cart through a herd of cattle

Nicole Frey
Kira Horvath/Vail DailySpanish teacher Kelly Tissier maneuvers her cart through a crowded hallway as she changes classes along with the Battle Mountain High School students on Tuesday. Tissier does not have a classroom of her own and must change rooms four times a day.
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EAGLE-VAIL ” Laptop? Check.

Dictionaries? Check.

Water bottle? Check.

A final inventory of the stuff on her black, plastic cart, and Spanish teacher Kelly Tissier was off.

“I always ask myself, ‘What do you need, because you’re not coming back,'” Tissier said. “Anything I need has to be here.”

As a teacher on a cart, it would be hours before Tissier made it back to her home base, a desk and bookshelf at the back of Spanish teacher Jose Alfredo Velazquez’s classroom, so she needs to be prepared. Forgetting a book or tape could mean running across the school, instead of crossing the room, to get it.

Wheeling her cart into math teacher Robin Gersten’s classroom, Tissier shoved desks out of the way to make it to the front of the room. Gersten has a message for Tissier ” call the front office.

“Can I use your phone to call down?” Tissier asked.

At the whiteboard covered in diagrams of triangles, Tissier again turned to Gersten.

“Can I erase this?” she said.

“Well, if you can do without … but if you need it, go ahead,” Gersten said.

Such is the life of a teacher on a cart ” constantly feeling like a visitor in someone else’s classroom, she said.

Coming into Battle Mountain High School as a first-year Spanish teacher, Tissier didn’t know she would be bound for a cart instead of a classroom.

“They told me it might happen, and then I got here the first day, and I was told I wouldn’t have a room,” Tissier said. “There just are not enough classrooms for teachers. But it was taken in stride.”

Having been a teacher on a cart at the Eagle County Charter Academy, Tissier said she was looking forward to having a classroom, but she also knew how to deal with her mobile position.

At about three feet high, bearing three shelves, Tissier’s tweaked her cart to suit her needs. A previous teacher used a shopping cart, but Tissier said she needed more organization.

A small CD player was duct-taped to the top shelf, which was also the home to her laptop and a couple small speakers. Other teaching materials and a box of six dictionaries filled the rest of the cart. Tissier found some pliable pieces of metal and rigged up four hooks, which held a small dry-erase board.

“You’ve got to get creative,” she said. “I don’t even remember where I found them.”

One poster declaring “Why learn Spanish?” was taped to the other side of the cart and served as Tissier’s only decoration.

Getting through Battle Mountain’s hallways is tough when it’s just one kid and one backpack among the 720 students. Add a cart to it, and it becomes an endurance test.

Squeezing through the crowded hallways, Tissier inched herself and her cart along, trying to keep all of her stuff on board as kids bumped into the cart.

“It’s like trying to push a cart through a herd of cattle,” Tissier said.

Science teacher Lauren Wilson has an even more precarious trip. The Battle Mountain teacher of four years, has test tubes and other fragile equipment on her cart. Whenever possible, Wilson said moves her cart before or after the kids pass through the halls, “so I don’t expose kids to the danger of breaking glass.”

“But then I’m late for class,” said Wilson, who admitted more often than not, she’s tardy.

It takes Tissier the entire five-minute passing period to get to her next class, leaving her little to no time to prep for the class ahead and eating into time that could be used for teaching, she said.

Because Tissier doesn’t have use of a desk in most classrooms, she stands during the entirety of every class.

“But I don’t mind that part,” she said. “It keeps me active and engaged with the kids.”

Math and science teacher Miles McGeehan takes 15 to 20 minutes of his 25-minute lunch to organize the boxes and briefcases he hauls around to each class. Deviating from the standards black cart, McGeehan has opted for a luggage carrier.

Boxes and plastic bins are strapped to the dolly, briefcase and laptop slung over his shoulder and he’s a traveling man.

“It’s a unique working environment,” he said. “It’s a pain in the butt. I tell my friends, and they’re shocked. They’re like, ‘You teach in Vail, and the high school doesn’t have equipment, and you don’t have a classroom?'”

Not only is it cumbersome, but it’s also taking away from the teaching kids, the teachers said.

“The most difficult part is the organization and the set up,” Wilson said. “I try to use a lot of visuals, but moving diminishes that.”

She had just two laminated posters taped to the chalkboard to illustrate cellular respiration. Tissier lamented her students can’t find her when they have questions or need extra help.

“We tell her she needs to have a teepee out back,” 16-year-old Pearl Burkham said. “Or a horn to get through the hallways faster.”

And without a classroom of resources of fall back on, if one lesson flops, there’s nothing to fall back on, Tissier said.

But there is light at the end of the classroom-less tunnel, McGeehan said.

A school bond for $128 million would help build a new high school ” a high school where all teachers would have classrooms. Right now, about 75 percent of teachers have to share a classroom at Battle Mountain, forcing teachers to camp out in the library or teacher’s lounge to plan classes.

Whether or not the bond passes in November, the teachers still have dreams for a classroom of their own.

Tissier said she like more space to do more creative projects and to display student work.

“It’s already a transient valley, so it’d be nice to have a place,” Tissier said.

Wilson said she’d love to leave experiments set up, so from day to day, students could continue where they left off instead of starting from scratch every day.

“It would be a much better learning-based environment for kids,” Wilson said. “As it is, I’m constantly setting up or breaking down experiments.

“We make do with what we can, but the kids are not learning as effectively as they could be,” Wilson said. “Are they learning? Yes. But they could learn more and better. The people in the community want and expect better for their kids.”

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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