Hellgate Welcomes New Teachers as the 2022 School Year Begins

Ila Bell, Reporter

Hellgate’s new teachers are bringing a fresh energy to classrooms and the Knight community. This year Hellgate has brought in six new teachers who are prepared to add their own contributions to everything from English to Health. Previous teachers, Melissa Henthorn and Leon Slater recently retired and others took positions elsewhere. Consequently, many positions have shifted and changed for this year. We have gained new science, English, math, health, and band teachers. With a range of backgrounds, these teachers are excited about the new year and what they will bring to their departments. 

In room 291 Sage Bryden is taking on new challenges as the only new science teacher this year. While teaching prior to Hellgate at three other schools in different states, she emphasized how she can already tell she enjoys the environment of Hellgate. The focus on students and mental health was something Bryden was thrilled to see was at the forefront of Hellgate as a whole. “It’s been a steep learning curve in learning how things work here,” said Bryden, but she is excited to see the students excel and to bring an outside perspective on the way science is taught.

Down a floor is Hellgate’s new addition to the math team, Liz Stuker. After 15 years of teaching in Alberton, Stuker made her way to Hellgate, and she is ecstatic to be working here. “I feel so incredibly fortunate,” said Stuker, going on to say everyone has been extremely welcoming and kind during her first few weeks teaching. Coming from Alberton to Missoula with a vastly different number of students, it is nice in a larger school to be able to converse with other teachers who teach the same subjects, said Stuker. Stuker is committed as a math teacher to be a positive addition to the school. “I want to contribute to the environment, I want to contribute to the math knowledge,” said Stuker. 

Michael Larsen is one of our two new English teachers this year. He previously taught for ten years, however never at the high school level. His most recent teaching experience was at Frenchtown Middle School. Larsen said the biggest adjustment so far has been learning the new material that will be taught in his classroom, “For me, coming from ten years in middle school, I’m learning two new curriculums, curriculums I’ve never taught before.” Larsen said he’s excited to bring “energy and excitement” and that he hopes to “challenge students to think, and to see different perspectives.” 

This year Anna Bacon is joining the English department alongside Larsen. Bacon taught last year for a period of time at Hellgate as a substitute English teacher, but this year she has her own classroom as the teacher of IB English 12 and English 11. Bacon is already in love with Hellgate and its atmosphere. “I love how everyone is open and allowed to be themselves,” said Bacon. Community is a big priority for Bacon, so in her first year she is dedicated to establishing connections with the students and fellow teachers. Bacon said she feels incredibly lucky to be a Hellgate teacher, and after teaching at two schools and landing at Hellgate, she “feels at home”.

Jesse Dochnal, is a well-seasoned addition to the band room, teaching at five different schools in the past, two being the University of Montana and Lawrence University. Dochnahl said, “The Hellgate name kept cropping up when I’d meet musicians across the country that had a cool connection with Hellgate.” Once returning to Missoula he worked with the Hellgate band a number of times, and this year he is officially working as the new band teacher. Dochnahl said everyone has been extremely welcoming and he is already excited about the new year. “It’s been a delight to witness the upbeat, compassionate, and positive leadership from the band students,” said Dochnahl. Dochnahl said he is thrilled about the new opportunities for band students this year and helping further Hellgate’s tradition of “excellence and comprehensive musicianship.”

Ryne Nelson has been teaching P.E. for 13 years with a range of ages. Originally Nelson was planning on joining Mick Morris as football staff, however since Morris began working in Helena, Nelson took up as head coach at Hellgate. Along with coaching, Nelson is teaching half time at Hellgate and half time at Willard as a Health Enhancement teacher. He teaches the Perform Better P.E. class during 5th and 7th periods. Nelson said he has had a very positive experience at Hellgate so far. “Everyone was very welcoming and supportive during day one.” Nelson is working on getting to know the Hellgate community and establishing relationships with both staff and students. Nelson said he is looking forward to the school year and what’s to come. “I truly enjoy what I do and I hope my students can see that every day.”

All six of the new teachers joining Hellgate in the upcoming year are enthusiastic about what this school year will bring. They are nothing but dedicated to helping students and creating a positive environment for the school and in their classrooms. We can’t wait to hear what’s to come and what these new teachers will bring to our school as the year moves forward.