Many first days of school for Mike Wilde

Mike Wilde in the comfy environs of Glenwood Springs High School where he will celebrate his 56th first day of school today, including 25 years as a science teacher at GSHS and more recently as a teaching coach.
John Stroud | Post Independent

After 56 years, you might think the novelty associated with the first day of school would wear off. Not so for longtime Glenwood Springs High School teacher and now teacher coach Mike Wilde.

“There’s just an intrinsic excitement surrounding the first day of school,” Wilde said Tuesday as he prepared for what indeed is his 56th first day of school, including as a student and an educator, as classes begin today for Roaring Fork District schools.

“You can always feel the energy and the nervousness,” he said. “For the teachers, it’s their first best shot at the kids, and I think the kids look at it that way too.”

Wilde, now 61, taught science at GSHS for 25 years before “retiring” in 2007. He did miss his one and only first day of school that fall, but was back at Glenwood High by the second semester as a teaching specialist.

“You can always feel the energy and the nervousness. For the teachers, it’s their first best shot at the kids, and I think the kids look at it that way too.”Mike Wilde

He now works as a half-time instructional facilitator, or teacher coach, working with the younger teachers and those new to the school to get them up to speed quicker.

Wilde remembers the name of his kindergarten teacher on the very first, first day of school in 1960 in Grants, New Mexico ­– Mrs. McNeil.

All of his primary and secondary school first days were in Grants, though his family moved to Washington, D.C. in the middle of his senior year of high school.

“By moving from New Mexico I had many different choices for paying out-of-state tuition for college, because we hadn’t been in D.C. long enough to establish residency,” Wilde mused.

With relatives scattered along the Interstate 25 corridor from New Mexico to Colorado, he opted for Colorado State University, where he spent the next series of first days of class earning his teaching degree.

From there, it was on to his first teaching assignment in the eastern plains town of Julesburg, where he spent five years worth of first days before coming to Glenwood Springs and continuing the succession.

These days, his first days of school are less about getting students prepared for a long school year, and more about making sure the teachers themselves are prepared.

Because GSHS is the largest of all the Roaring Fork District schools with roughly 900 students, it’s the only school that has its own teacher coach.

There’s also been a steady transition in recent years from the Baby Boomers, who have made up the teaching corps for many years, to more of the millennial generation that is now entering the profession.

Wilde said he was asked by GSHS Principal Paul Freeman to come back and share his knowledge and mentor the younger teachers and those who are just joining the local school district.

“When I entered the profession we were kind of like independent contractors where we were handed the materials and expected to figure it out ourselves,” he said. “It can take several years to really get used to it and hit your stride, so my job is to help the teachers along and try to compress that learning curve.”

In the “if I only knew then what I know now” department, Wilde says he feels like he would have been a better teacher himself if he had that kind of support early on.

“Working with young teachers is a little like working with students,” he said. “They keep you young, and make you feel old all at the same time.”

Wilde cites three qualities that define good teaching: The quality of the teacher, the quality of the content and how successful a teacher is in engaging the students.

“That’s how you measure the gains when kids walk out of a classroom,” he said.

His current job also keeps him connected to the school community he’s come to love and enjoy going back to his days teaching science and the ever-popular River Watch Colorado program that he led for many years, but has since handed off to Rob Norville.

Wilde still does contract work in water education through River Watch and the Colorado River District.

“I still like getting kids out in the river and getting them wet,” he said.

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