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Kathy House has been at Ophir and LPHS for 30 years and she started the Big Sky Community Library in 2000. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

Kathy House retires after 34 years of teaching

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Twenty years ago, Kathy House placed an ad in the paper inviting the Big Sky community to a meeting about creating a community library. About seven people showed up and by the end of the meeting, each participant had pitched in $20, marking the creation of the Big Sky Community Library. 

House joined the team at Big Sky School District in 1991, initially as a combination classroom teacher. In the school’s early days, the library was a single small room with one bin of picture books and a couple shelves with books for older children.  

Today, after House’s 30 years of hard work, a school library now occupies the Ophir Elementary School building, and the Big Sky Community Library lives in the middle and high school building. 

“Kathy was the person that saw the possibilities,” said Sally Moskol, former library aide and volunteer with Friends of the Library, the group of community members who are instrumental in maintaining basic operations of the library. “So, if somebody suggested something and she thought it was a great idea, she would do it.”

From starting the community library to organizing Read Across America festivities in 1997 and spreading a love of books to Big Sky children, House was a beloved fixture in the school and in the library throughout her career.

“I think one of my favorite memories of being the librarian is really turning kids on to reading and the love of literature,” House said. “Watching them come in after you’ve suggested a book and they’re so excited and can hardly wait to talk to you about it, that’s been such a special thing for me.”

House made reading fun for the kids at Ophir through various different programs that were creative and engaging. Read Across America Day otherwise known as Dr. Seuss Day has been a much-anticipated fixture at the school for 24 years. Each year on March 2, House has organized a celebration of the children’s author and reading. 

To mark the occasion, House set up a rotation of activities through each teacher’s classroom, where kids would read some of Dr. Seuss’ work, participate in arts and crafts, and, of course, have cake and “Seuss Juice.” House, along with her colleagues, always sported Cat in the Hat outfits sewn by a Friends of the Library volunteer featuring the iconic red-and-white-striped hat. 

“I will certainly miss her positive attitude and her love for the kids who visit the library,” said Kay Reeves, president of FOL. “Her biggest achievement in 20 years is turning a bunch of kids who got to know her as their library teacher into lifelong readers because she made reading so engaging and fun.”

House certainly made the library into an inviting space with her creative arts and crafts projects. Big Sky students recall memories of the library’s various programs she organized, her incredible reading voice and infectious laugh. 

Most recently in the new elementary building, House created a maker’s space dubbed the “House of Imagination” by her colleagues who surprised her with a dedication and sign. The space features cubbies with materials that kids can check out and let their imaginations run wild. 

House’s 30-year tenure at BSSD has been marked by substantial growth in the library along with broader community connection and involvement. Known as the “fearless leader,” according to Moskol, of the school and community libraries, House was balancing a big load, working hard and raising three children. 

“It was amazing what she could do,” Moskol said. “She’s just such a quick thinker and really intuitive, a good person and also very fun to know as a friend.” 

House said she’ll miss the children the most. She explained that if you asked her students what her favorite books are, without hesitation they would reply: “Biographies.” 

While her personal reading tastes fall more in the fiction realm, House said sharing and teaching biographies give her the most pleasure because through them the kids can gain insights into the struggles and triumphs of others.

House’s last day as librarian will be the last day of school on June 11 and her retirement party will take place on June 12 in the Big Sky Community Park. 

Danielle Kabisch, former assistant librarian and House’s former aide is taking over the community library and began her role on June 1. Kabisch has worked with house since 2008 and was inspired through her library work to pursue higher education.

“Kathy always went above and beyond what you would think a teacher or librarian would do for her kids,” Kabisch said. “She loved books and loved reading to [the students] and loved teaching them about literature. In that, she inspired me to go back to school and become a librarian myself.”

Ashley Jenks, the current first-grade teacher will step in to fill the role of school librarian. Kabisch and Jenks say they’re up to the challenge, but that House’s shoes will be tough to fill.

“I’ll miss Kathy,” Kabisch said. “I’ll miss how funny she is and her stories and being able to sit and have a conversation with her on a regular basis. She has become a dear mentor and friend to me, and I will miss her greatly.”

BSSD technology teacher Jeremy Harder also spoke of House’s mentorship over his 21-year tenure.

“She still inspires me and guides me through difficult situations,” Harder wrote in an email to EBS. “Her positive energy and … contagious laugh will still be heard in the hallways even after she has left the building.” 

“I have always loved listening to Kathy tell stories,” wrote Stephanie Kissell, secretary of the Morningstar Learning Center board of directors, and former coworker of House’s in an email to EBS. “She has this way of highlighting details in the most humorous way possible that gives a larger-than-life feel. She is wickedly funny, and I always anticipated her voice increasing an octave or so in pitch because I knew her punchline was coming … I respect and admire Kathy as a teacher, colleague and community member, and I look forward to being captivated by her stories in her next life chapter.”

After her retirement, House is taking a 14-day trip to Zermatt, Switzerland, where she and some friends will hike the Haute Trail to Chamonix, France.

“I felt like I’m I ready and I feel like I had a very fulfilling career,” she said. “Walking away feels very positive knowing what’s all here for everyone because of what came of the Friends of the Library.”

“The different people that I’ve crossed paths with was because of being here in this community and being in the library world,” House added. “The friendships that you make are just so precious. I think of the Friends of the Library and how they supported me and everything that I did. I feel like I couldn’t ever have done what I did without them and the support of the administration.”

House said she’ll miss the friends and coworkers she has met along the way but is also excited for the next chapter.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I can hardly wait to go on to something new but yet feel like I’m leaving a whole piece of me. It’s a new journey.”

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