PINEDALE – It’s not often you find a person willing to walk away from a full professor position within a major university’s system to take a job in a small town, but that is exactly what John Anderson, the director at Sublette County BOCES, did a year and a half ago.
Anderson was teaching in the University of Nebraska system when the lure of Wyoming, and his wife, caused him to leave his position, a position that takes a lot of years and work to achieve, and he moved to Pinedale where she was already the pastor.
Anderson said he and his wife grew up in Wyoming and the wild places drew them home.
“I was born and raised in Thermopolis and received my PhD in political science from Washington State University,” said Anderson.” “Then I taught in the Nebraska State University system. We wanted to come home, though. My wife took a position as an Episcopal priest in Pinedale, so I left a full professor’s job and followed her here. That will tell you how much we love Wyoming.”
The move has not been disappointing, according to Anderson. He took the position as director at Sublette County BOCES and is very happy with his decision.
“The job is wonderful,” he said. “The previous director put a lot of good things in place and so we just are keeping the good things going and making improvements when needed. First, and foremost, we are educators. I think our motto should be BOCES — we educate.”
While the job at BOCES is to educate, they also work to help others improve education. BOCES provides about 10 grants each year to programs such as the museum and preschools, and they help to provide backpacks for children.
Anderson gives a lot of credit to the BOCES board of directors, saying, “They don’t make decision that hurt people.”
“We have a well-educated community,” said Anderson, “and the board works hard to ensure we continue to improve education in the county. They have been great to work with and deserve so much credit.”
He also credits his staff for their continued hard work and openness to new ideas, contributing concepts and working to make certain the right programs are implemented.
“The BOCES concept was started back East,” said Anderson. “Wyoming is very different from the ones in the East, which is probably due to the distances between communities. We help our schools do more. We provide online classes and help fund distance learning. We help buy books, pay tuition and fees, and sometimes we pay for tests. We are truly a community BOCES.”
None of these program could be successful without our teachers, said Anderson.
“I’m behind the scenes,” he said. “The teachers are the ones who make it all happen. They are the stars. We just try to provide them the tools to do their jobs well. I want the community to know that we are here to benefit education.”
Their preschool program, known as BOCES Early Education Program (BEEP), is a licensed childcare center that works to support a child’s growth and development. Children have an opportunity to learn through play and enjoy a creative curriculum that prepares the child to enter school.
“We keep it fun but help children prepare for school by assisting them in the development their social skills,” said Anderson.
BOCES is supported by a half-mill property tax that comes from the gas fields. While they are strictly audited, they do not have the same regulations as public schools. They are able to have money in reserve and currently have about $6 million saved up.
“We are always looking for ways to save money,” said Anderson. “Money we save today is money we can use later for needed programs for children and adults. We are careful to spend our money wisely. The board does a great job of working to spend money where it best serves the community. We are considering adding more vocational training, such as welding classes. If we move forward with such a program we have the money to equip the classes with the necessary tools.”
So what causes a person to walk away from a full professorship in the system of a major university?
The chance to help others, implement programs that educate and prepare children for their academic careers, to work with a committed staff and board — all are good reasons. But, it goes deeper than that for John Anderson.
“We love the mountains,” Anderson said. “We like the diversity of Wyoming people. We believe Pinedale is a special place. We enjoy cross-country skiing and where else can you find ranchers cross-country skiing in a pair of jeans. And we love that so much of this great state is still wild. Wyoming is our home.”