BSSD chalks up eight new staffers

By Bella Butler EBS Contributor

The time has come once again for Ophir schools and Lone Peak High School to open their doors to students for the new academic year. The students’ first day was Aug. 31, but they didn’t walk into the same school that they left in the spring, as the Big Sky School District is undergoing some major alterations.

The implementation of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program seems to be a standout change, but BSSD will also be welcoming a crop of new staff to aid in the transition process. Commenting on the new hires, Principal Alex Ide said it was “more about building resources than filling positions.” Ide expressed excitement for the recently added faculty, as well as the administration’s expectations for the school year.

“We are working towards becoming a flagship school for Montana,” Ide said. “We plan to do this by building culture and building excellence.” The community can expect great things for the future of Big Sky School District as well as the students that it houses.

EiseleDr. Kate Eisele
Position: Middle/High School Science, AP Environmental Science

Eisele comes from Reno, Nevada, with her husband and dog where she previously taught math and science at an independent college preparatory school. She holds a doctorate in biology from the University of Nebraska, a bachelor’s in plant science from Michigan Technological University, and studied teaching at Sierra Nevada College. Eisele joined the BSSD staff, in part, to work in a place with such abundant outdoor resources.

“We were drawn by the amazing recreational opportunities and the proximity to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” she said. “I am thrilled to have a classroom a stone’s throw from the outdoors and access to a great laboratory space.”
Eisele’s passion for the outdoors is evident, as she took an 18-day rafting trip this summer through the Grand Canyon with her husband.

MirandaJames Miranda
Position: Middle/High School Math

Another Nevada resident, Miranda is moving to Big Sky from Las Vegas. Miranda received his bachelor’s in physical science from the U.S. Naval Academy and his master’s in health and human development from Montana State University. He has four children, three of whom are in college and the fourth is a sophomore at Lone Peak High School.

Miranda was an IB educator at his last school and joined the BSSD staff to be part IB again. The math instructor says it will be a challenge teaching grades six through 11, but he remains positive. “I am excited to be teaching all levels of math, as well as being down in Big Sky.”

A sports enthusiast, Miranda has coached many athletic teams, including baseball, basketball and football. He also loves to hike and cook.

GarmerSydney Garmer
Position: Middle/High School Math, AP Statistics

Garmer will be commuting to Big Sky from her current home in Belgrade. A Montana native, she grew up in Conrad and attended Caroll College in Helena, where she received her bachelor’s in math with a minor in biology. She later attended MSU, where she earned her master’s in education.

Garmer believes the BSSD is “going in a good direction [with] IB,” and sees a great opportunity for her to help students in the new environment. “I am excited to get to meet students and be in the community,” she said.

In addition to joining the Big Sky family, Garmer is also a new mom to a 1-month old.

MitchemDr. Marlo Mitchem
Position: International Baccalaureate Curriculum Coordinator

Mitchem joins the Big Sky community after leaving her former home across the Atlantic in Frankfurt, Germany. She received her bachelor’s in liberal arts from the University of Montana, her master’s in “The Art of Teaching” from Pacific University, and has just finished her doctorate’s in education policy and administration from the University of Minnesota.

Mitchem and her husband Brian Squillace, who is also a new teacher in Big Sky, wanted to find a place where they could “continue their commitment to an international education.” Mitchem is very confidant in the IB program. “I believe in the vision of the school,” she said. Her position is a new one at the school, but crucial one, she said. “It is always challenging for students to adopt a new program.” Mitchem has two children, and she’s excited for her family to be back in the U.S. after living overseas.

Sullivan_Tim Sullivan
Position: Music Instructor

Sullivan is moving to Big Sky from Boston, Massachusetts. Sullivan received his bachelor’s degree from Furman University in South Carolina, but also spent a great deal of time educating himself in many positions in the Boston area. The new music teacher liked the art’s appeal in the community of Big Sky, and it was a major part of his decision to join the BSSD staff.

“In many ways, the community of Big Sky represents what I believe to be the product of a successful arts education,” Sullivan said. “Seeing so many people enjoy music and the general support given to the performing arts in this town was definitely part of my decision to move out here. I want to help engage Big Sky’s youngest audiences by expanding the school’s music curriculum and performing opportunities.”

Sullivan describes himself as an outdoor enthusiast, and the mountain landscape was a great welcoming sign when he drove into beautiful Big Sky.

Avila 2Arica Avila
Position: Middle/High School Counselor

This year, Big Sky School District made the decision to add a counselor specifically for Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School, and after an extended search, Avila was offered the position. During the hiring process, the administration was impressed with her instincts, can do attitude and approachable personality.

Having an additional counselor— especially one as sought after as Avila— will improve the counseling program in Big Sky schools tremendously, and it’s an exciting improvement. Avila is making the short move from Bozeman where she received her bachelor’s from MSU in history of arts, which she followed with a year working with Big Sky Youth Empowerment.

It was here that Avila discovered her passion for working with kids. She went back to MSU and earned her master’s in education for school counseling. Avila says she is thrilled to get to work in Big Sky. “I love Montana. I think I would rather be unemployed than to not get to work in this state,” she said.

The new counselor is also a Montana native who enjoys getting outside, and Avila encourages people to come in and introduce themselves. “I want people to drop by and say ‘hi.’ Come by and share your stories!”

ClawsonJackie Clawson
Position: Elementary Counselor

Avila isn’t the only terrific new counselor to be joining the BSSD family this school year. Originally from Ohio, Clawson has a bachelor’s in K-12 Music Education from Marietta College and a master’s in school counseling from Wright State University.

Clawson spent eight years working in student affairs in small, private liberal arts colleges around the country, but eventually came back to her love of teaching younger students. Ophir Elementary’s new counselor also has experience working beyond the borders of America.

“An interesting fact about myself is that I have built a house on six continents as a certified team leader for Habitat for Humanity,” she said. The Big Sky School District is excited to see Clawson carry over her experience and skills as a new team member this year!

SquillaceBrian Squillace
Position: Middle School English and History
Joining the middle school staff this fall to teach English and history is Brian Squillace, husband of IB Coordinator Marlo Mitchem. Squillace has taught for the past five years a fair distance from Big Sky in Germany. Both his outdoor and family oriented personality make Squillace a great fit for the hometown of Lone Peak High School and Ophir schools.

The new staff member was drawn to the newly implemented IB program in Big Sky and Squillace has a great deal of international experience, including getting kidnapped while on a camel! Squillace has two children, one of which will be attending school this year. He is excited to get to meet students and be part of the Big Sky School District staff.


Isabella (Bella) Butler is a senior at Lone Peak High School. The outdoor-oriented community of Big Sky she grew up in has shaped her life, and she loves to snowboard, hike, rock climb, and practice her writing outside. Butler is also a member of many clubs and organizations at her school.