2022 Governor’s Mental Health Summit

Wyoming Department of Education > Superintendent's Update > 2022 Governor’s Mental Health Summit

When in the role of a classroom teacher, there were times that I would wrestle with the following question: “Is education about putting it on the bottom shelf where they can reach it, or on the top shelf where they have to stretch for it?” On some days, I concluded it was the former; other days, it was clearly the latter. Eventually, I decided it was a both/and proposition rather than either/or, depending on where the student was at and what he/she needed on any given day. Though we can fall off either side of the horse as teachers, the trick was to stay on the horse. This seemed a sensible stance to take.

With more time and growth, however, I realized it could be argued that while a balanced approach is usually safest, it is not always best. So when in teaching mode these days, if I am going to error on one side or the other, I more often now choose to error on the side of placing it on the top shelf, i.e., making them stretch. Though agonizing at times (for both student and teacher!), long-term it generally produces better fruit. This is not only consistent with education’s historic tendencies, but also with its ultimate objective, the foundation of its abiding vision.

Vision & Focus

If education’s timeless purpose really is teaching thinking, then it is only logical that this would be rooted in the teaching of logic, because logic is simply the systematic “rules of thinking.”

But the discipline of logic is not easy, because thinking is not easy. In fact, as Henry Ford said,  “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” Thomas Edison agreed: “There is no expedient,” he said, “to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.”

Nevertheless, learning to think is the singular transcendent purpose of a real education as it relates to our students, and we best serve our students by making them stretch.

The Primary Priority

The Wyoming Teacher Apprenticeship Initiative work continues at a quick pace. The Work Group is concentrating on completing the application to the US Department of Labor for the WDE to become authorized as a sponsor for the initiative, supporting our school districts in Wyoming. Once this step is complete, the pilot districts will be able to officially accept applications for apprentices. More to come soon.

In the Spotlight

Which brings us to two very special people here at the WDE: Shelley Hamel and Dr. Laurel Ballard.

The WDE most certainly could not function without either one of them and their teams. Shelley brings a love for special education and dedication to the work of literacy that edifies us all. Laurel has brought an expertise and joy to the process of building the Teacher Apprenticeship program that has made it move along at a rate many outsiders thought impossible. Together, these two ladies are titans in the Wyoming education world and, for good reason, have earned the respect of their peers in both the department and in the districts.

So this week, for their incredible and meaningful service, we put Shelley Hamel and Laurel Ballard ‘In the Spotlight’! Thank you both for all you do.

Mark Your Calendars


2022 Governor’s Mental Health Summit, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. on October 11, 2022

Join Governor Mark Gordon, alongside members of the Legislative and Judicial branches, to discuss the state of mental health in Wyoming. Discussions will focus on current efforts related to mental health and substance abuse, the continuum of care, expectations of the system from various perspectives, and the development of a common agenda for Wyoming. In addition, Dr. Rob Anda, developer of the Adverse Childhood Experiences research and founder of ACE Interface, will connect leadership conversations related to mental health and substance abuse support with the importance of establishing trauma-responsive communities using panel discussions of current efforts. The event will also include opportunities for networking with state leaders and community partners across Wyoming. Register here.

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