"Why would we care about that right now?" Asked a girl in the front row of Lorrie Gomez’s fourth-grade class to the group’s guest speaker on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 28.
The visitor, who happened to be Montana Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau, was presented with the question from the young student after sharing with the class the importance of not only finishing high school, but also of continuing on and getting a college degree as well.
Her answer to the girl: "You need to care about that now because you need to learn about reading, math, science, history, writing and everything else so that you are prepared for the future."
It was clear though that the students in Gomez’s class already had big goals for their future careers and secondary educations.
When asked how many planned to graduate high school they all raised their hands, and they were particularly excited when they realized that they will be the graduating class of 2020. Hands were also raised across the room when the question of who plans to attend college was posed by Juneau. Another big hand-raiser came later when Juneau asked the students "Who is proud of being smart?"
Juneau shared her background with the students and then turned the floor over to them giving the fourth-graders a chance to share with her a few things about themselves. Then there was the joke session that followed, in which Juneau asked the students to share their favorites with her.
After hearing a few of the jokes and subsequent punch lines, it was easy for Juneau to give the kids a quick answer when they asked her what her favorite part of her day is — "visiting schools like this one."
Juneau has been doing a lot of that lately with a state-wide tour promoting the Office of Public Instruction initiative "Graduation Matters."
Although spreading messages like this are part of her job, Juneau is also passionate about it.
"I like what education does," she told the class. "It helps students like you learn and make dreams for yourselves."