The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Darlington has worn many hats teaching in Big Sandy


October 14, 2020

Last year, my fifth grader came home and told us about how his teacher had create a point system for students to earn privileges. Many of the requirements of the students, like that they call her "Queen Shelbi," made my wife and I laugh. As our student navigated through the point system, we figured out that it was related to the lessons on the causes of the American Revolution and the idea of "taxation without representation." The creative teacher who came up with this unique method of illustrating American History was Shelbi Darlington, who is in her fourth year of teaching at FE Miley Elementary School.

Shelbi was originally hired as the Gifted and Talented teacher, though she also filled in as the pre-school teacher and teaching junior high math for a year. After two years in Big Sandy, she was given the opportunity to take over as the fifth grade teacher. Though she really enjoyed running the Gifted and Talented classroom, particularly doing projects with students that focused on critical thinking, she jumped at the opportunity to teach in a regular classroom again. "I liked fifth grade when I was in school. I like that they're old enough to do things on their own, but they're not old enough to hate everything that you tell them to do. They still have a little bit of wanting to have fun learning things."

Shelbi loves teaching in Big Sandy. "I love the small setting, which has been really nice with Covid. Everybody is super nice, and I like the small town community feel. I love fifth grade." In particular she says her favorite aspect of teaching at FE Miley Elementary is the staff. "They're awesome. Everybody is so helpful. They care about each other. It's an easy place to work."

As a teacher, Shelbi looks for the interests of individual students in an effort to draw them into focus on the curriculum. Though she does bring her own personality and interests into the classroom. For example, as a student Shelbi loved English classes, particularly the writing components. In her fifth grade class this year, she has begun to incorporate more writing into the various subjects. In addition, she has always enjoyed being creative and has applied that tendency into lesson planning a well as adding artsy elements to the classroom.

Shelbi had always wanted to be a teacher, since her early childhood. "Since I was little, every little assignment they'd give you that asked 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' It was teacher. Then my senior year of High School, I kind of changed my mind randomly and said: 'I'm going to do graphic design' So that's what I started out doing in Bozeman. Then I would do classes, and I didn't enjoy it. I slowly started changing my classes, and it led me right back to teaching." Her interest in graphic design grew primarily from her interest in art and creativity. She took art classes throughout her educational career and still sketches in her free time.

She earned her teaching degree with a concentration in math from MSU Bozeman. Math was always her favorite subject in school. Though Big Sandy is her first teaching job, Shelbi did her student teaching with fourth graders in Bozeman. She also worked as a substitute teacher in Bozeman and Helena before taking a position in Big Sandy. "I was looking for jobs on the Montana website, I saw Big Sandy. I knew my dad was from there, and it's close to Havre, which my mom's family is from Havre, too. So I thought, that would be close to family." Family is a big deal to Shelbi and much of her activities outside of school are related to her family.

Shelbi spent most of last summer learning to play golf, which is a major interest of her family in Havre. In fact, they own one of the two golf courses in the city. Though she's just beginning to play, she describes the game as a lifetime sport. She enjoys outdoor activities, like hiking. She also enjoys reading when she has time to invest in a book. She particularly enjoys self-improvement books and mystery novels. Her favorite book is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which she read as a student and has always loved.

Shelbi has done some traveling around the country with her extended family, who often plan large trips around weddings or reunions. They also go to Denver several times a year to watch hockey games. Shelbi comes from a family of Colorado Avalanche fans. She grew up watching hockey and traveling the state for her brother's hockey games. She also cooks for fun and is a fan of the Food Network, particularly "The Kitchen" and "Pioneer Woman." She also subscribes to a service that sends her ingredients and recipes so that she can learn to prepare new dishes. "It's kind of relaxing. Takes your mind off things."

Shelbi enjoys sushi and is a quarter Japanese. Her grandfather is full-blooded Japanese. He was born in the United States after his family immigrated to the US to work on the railroad, eventually settling in Havre. Growing up, many of her family members cooked Japanese-style food, and she describes their family reunions as traditional Japanese get-togethers.


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