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Ophir Elementary School welcomes four new staff members

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Students at Ophir Elementary School returned to classes on Aug. 30 to 100 percent in-person learning. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – On Aug. 30, students and staff returned to school with 100 percent in-person learning. Students came back to the same classrooms but with some new faces including both incoming students as well as four new Ophir Elementary School staff members.

Kinsey Carney

First Grade Teacher

Kinsey Carney is originally from sunny San Diego, California, where she and her husband split their time between the city and Mammoth Lakes.

She worked for Mammoth Unified and the Town of Mammoth Lakes as a substitute teacher and a recreational gymnastics instructor. 

Carney says she hopes to bring the open mind and creative attitude that she developed while teaching abroad in Asia to her new position at Ophir.

Backpacking, hiking, skiing, gardening and yoga are just a few of Carney’s many hobbies. She is new to Big Sky and looks forward to becoming more involved in the community and other organizations.

Mariel Elleman

Fourth Grade Teacher

Mariel Elleman hails from the Dayton, Ohio area and she graduated last spring from Wright State University where she studied elementary education. 

“In my new position as a fourth-grade teacher, I hope to build on the foundation of Ophir Elementary School’s commitment to inquiry based learning and outdoor education,” she wrote in an email to EBS.

Some of her hobbies include hiking, skiing and reading mystery/survival novels. Her favorites are by the author Kristin Hannah, who wrote “The Great Alone.”

Elleman said two life dreams of hers are to work with kids and to live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. She expressed immense gratitude to be able to live and work in Big Sky.

Jackson Bollard

Fifth Grade Teacher

A Montana native, Jackson Bollard is from Helena, Montana, and he lives in Bozeman. Before coming to teach at Ophir, Bollard worked as a paraprofessional in Bozeman.

Bollard says he hopes to bring creativity and a desire to learn to his new position.

His hobbies include hunting, fishing and exploring Montana. Bollard said he enjoys any time spent outdoors.

“I couldn’t be any more excited to be at Ophir Elementary!” he wrote in an email to EBS.

Mary Jo Thompson-Butler

K-5 Music, Art and HE Lead Learner

When the Big Sky School District called former substitute Mary Jo Thompson-Butler to offer her a job, she was happy to say yes to Ophir without hesitation. 

Thompson-Butler brings years of education and experience to the positions she now fills including a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Masters of Education, ORFF certification, and AMS I/T & EC Full Certifications.

Growing up in a musical family, Thompson-Butler said she morphed from an athlete and musician into a dancer who sings. She is looking forward using her years of experience performing, choreographing, and directing to work on Ophir’s winter performance with the WMPAC team slated for Dec. 10.

Hiking and horseback riding are two of Thompson-Butler’s favorite hobbies. Currently, she is dedicated to building the school’s Specials Program by providing Ophir’s students with enriching ARTS and HE connections to their Units of Inquiry as designed in the IB Transdisciplinary Curriculum, as well as the Montana State Standards, and the National Center for the Arts Standards.

“I hope my students develop confidence in their artistry and the perspective that they can stretch their creative spirits as far as they can imagine,” Thompson-Butler wrote in an email to EBS.

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