Helena Magazine

School Q&A: Lindsey Rigdon talks about her career and thoughts about the classroom

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Lindsey Rigdon, Helena High School English Teacher and Helena High School’s Teacher of the Year, talks about her career and thoughts about the classroom.

 

How long have you been teaching at Helena High School, is this your first teaching position?

I have been teaching at Helena High School since the school opened. Before Helena, I taught at my alma mater, Pelham High School.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

Teaching was not my first career, and I never would have dreamed it was the profession for me until I realized my passion for helping others achieve their potential. While working at my high school and college job at Ragtime Cafe, I realized my love for training new hires. After deciding to go back to school to receive my graduate degree, I took my passion for leading people to their potential and chose to receive a Masters in Secondary Education.

How do you build meaningful relationships with your students?

Building relationships with my students starts on day one and beyond. I dedicate the first few weeks around getting to know one another and not just being in an environment to learn, but to grow and have fun together. What I love most about teaching sophomores is that I am able to continue relationships with them for the next two years. One of the favorite parts of my day is to greet them while they are passing by in the halls, and I love when they come by to say hello and tell me of their future plans after graduation or what they have been up to lately.

What teaching methods do you find most effective with today’s students?

A question I always ask myself while planning a lesson is, would I enjoy doing this? I strive to plan engaging and interactive lessons where students are active participants in their learning and one way of doing that is giving students choice in their learning, whether it be the book they read during our literature circle unit or the topic for their argumentative essay. I have also started placing students in groups and have even been to professional developments on how to best organize students to interact with one another in the classroom setting. Students learn so much from one another and this classroom setting leads to more active participants and purposeful, interactive discussions.

What is your opinion on the incorporation of technology and modern tools in your classroom?

Technology is always a great tool to incorporate in the classroom, but it is not the only tool. Technology is engaging and it is ever-present in today’s world; however, there is still merit to putting pen to paper and not looking at a screen.

How do you handle challenges in the classroom and turn them into learning opportunities?

Every day of teaching provides a challenge, especially when you are dealing with so many different personalities in one room. I have learned countless lessons on respect from my students, and I have found that respect is a two way street. I am one to meet my students in the middle by modeling respect towards them and often see it reciprocated when you approach interactions this way.

How does it feel to have been named Helena High School’s teacher of the year?

The teacher of the year was announced during our Homecoming pep rally while teachers who have been at Helena since its opening were being recognized. Mrs. Bahr stated that the teacher of the year was one of about a dozen of us being recognized, and I began looking around at all the wonderful teachers standing beside me. I was taken aback when they announced my name and felt so humbled and honored at the same time. I had so many colleagues and students come up to me to congratulate me after the announcement and the weeks to follow and the outpouring of support has been one of the highlights of my career.

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities or clubs at Helena High School?

Alongside teaching PreAP English, I am the debate team sponsor as well as the sponsor for National English Honor Society (NEHS). One of my favorite times of the week is having our weekly debate club meetings where we debate fun topics with activities such as debate tennis or when we go to debate tournaments, and they are able to put their debate skills to the test. I am also excited this year with our NEHS chapter officers being proactive in expanding our community involvement beyond our book drive that benefits the Helena Public Library to other initiatives, such as NEHS members providing hand-decorated bookmarks to Helena Elementary and Intermediate School students.

What changes have you observed in the education field during your tenure?

The focus on not just the academics but also on the mental health of students and faculty has been a change I have noticed since my first years as a teacher. Mental health is no longer such a stigma and understanding that if an individual’s basic needs are not met, then they will not easily achieve their learning goals.

What are your goals for the next academic year and the future moving forward?

I would love to continue to foster the love of reading with my students and finding new and innovative ways to do so. Over the past few years, I have encouraged reading by creating a reading nook in my classroom, being able to add to my classroom library through the help of the City of Helena’s TAG Team Grant, and incorporating opportunities for students to read books of their choice.

If you could give one piece of advice to new educators, what would it be?

My best advice to new educators is to not try to do it all alone. Rely on those around you to keep you going when the going gets tough and to celebrate accomplishments. Helena High School is a family, and I would not be able to do what I do without the support of my colleagues.

What message would you like to convey to your students and their parents through this feature? 

I truly feel it is an honor to be able to teach your child. It is not that I have to go to school and teach, but I get to go to school and teach our future leaders. And what an amazing group of rising leaders we have!