Plains High school has been around for nearly 100 years and for as long as recent memory holds, has had some of the most excellent teachers. Many of them are returning students inspired by previous instructors to bring that same energy, excitement and encouragement to future generations.
One such person is Tyrell Allen. He grew up in Kalispell, though his father had come from Plains. From the time he was 5 years old he had always wanted to become a Plains Horsman. His father had told him stories of the team and, since they were both big basketball fans, they often went to the Plains’ games and watched them in tournaments.
“The team was, and still is, really good in their conference,” he says.
He had not done well in school at that time and so used this to leverage his father into letting him move to Plains to live with another family member so that he could attend High school there. He promised better grades and after his father reluctantly agreed, then sure enough, Tyrell’s grades improved. He even became one of the horsemen he had so dreamed of becoming since youth. He graduated Plains High in 1998.
After that he went on to college, though found it wasn’t truly for him. He bounced around between Dillon, Bozeman, and Missoula returning to Dillon three times before he finally ended up with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. At that point he started a job with the DNRC and worked two summers while also starting as a teaching aid at Plains High. There he worked with one of his mentors from when he attended school. She was the school counselor, Betty Taylor.
While working with her she told him that that year would be her last and that Tyrell should apply for her position. Tyrell was unsure about the prospect, for he had no degree in the field, however Mrs. Taylor convinced him that there were ways around it and that he could work on the degree while simultaneously fulfilling the job. He applied and got it.
For the next two years he was the counselor during the week and would drive to attend school in Havre, Montana, Friday through Saturday, to get his master’s in education, focusing in counseling.
Now Tyrell is the head basketball coach at the high school; coaching the sport he loved as a kid, and still does to this day. He is also the senior adviser and has four kids of his own. He goes hunting every year and tries to spend as much time as he can in the outdoors with his family.
Another returnee to Plains High is Toby Anderson, the school custodian. Toby was born in Hot Springs and graduated in 1988. After that he went into the National Guard right. He served first working with mortars, then moved to be a tank mechanic when the Guard moved the mortar teams to Libby. He switched so that he could stay in the area. One of his main jobs was driving the big “88s” which were basically big tank tow trucks. He graduated college in 1998 and went to work in a welding shop in Helena for four years. There he would have stayed, however the old guy he worked for was a WWII veteran and the future of the shop was unknown. He was looking for a more secure position when one opened up at the High School for a custodian. Toby took the job and has been there for 17 years. He was able to return to the town he loved and the area he grew up in.
Finally, Marie Errecart, another former student turned teacher, decided to bring her career to Plains. Marie is a Fifth-grade teacher for Plains as well as the Junior High track coach. She went to Plains from first through twelfth grade and graduated there in 2003. She was originally born in St. Maries, Idaho.
After graduation she attended school in Moscow, Idaho and studied for seven years. She spent some time studying abroad in Pau, France. Once she was close to getting a teaching degree, she was required by the state of Idaho to do a year of student teaching to finish the degree. She came back to Plains to fulfill this requirement for K-8 and took one semester in the lower grades and one in the higher grades.
She decided to stay because by then she had been married and her husband was from Plains, and both of their families were living there. She has now been a teacher with the Plains School for 10 years. She taught kindergarten for six years and has been teaching fifth grade for four.
Marie has now also graduated with her master’s online in Movement and Leisure Sciences in Physical education with a recreation background. She also works for the forest service during the summer as a YCC (Youth Conservation Corp) leader. They take local students, age 15-18, out into the forest to do and learn jobs relevant to the Forest service. It is an eight-week program, during which the participants spend time learning about one focus per week. Some of these focuses include fisheries, trails and fire and fuels.
This opens the youth up, as Marie says, “To the world of Forest Service.” They have eight kids participate each summer and the participants work just as if they had a normal job; going in to start every day, Monday through Friday, 8am to 4:30 pm.