Natalie Littlefield, known to all as Mishie, can’t stay out of her classroom. She is where she has wanted to be for a long time, teaching in a room she could call her own. All summer long, Mishie has been preparing, making the floor, the walls, the ceiling and the windows friendly and personal; making it a part of her.
Now all she needs is the students. The Gold Hill School is entering its 140th year of educating the unique students that make up its enrollment. For most of that time, the school, with the picturesque bell tower, was a one-room schoolhouse. Now, they have two teachers and visiting music and art teachers.
“How can you not love being here?” asked Mishie, spreading her arms and dancing around the room. She is effervescent with anticipation.
After growing up in New York City, the Queens and Long Island, she decided that skyscrapers and concrete weren’t her thing. When she graduated from high school, she attended Northern Arizona University where she studied hospitality courses, managing restaurants, hotels, bars and spas. Mishi ran a small business for eight years where she worked as a cook and massage therapist in San Francisco and a venue in Los Angeles.
When it came time to discuss having children, she and her husband decided they couldn’t afford to live there and have children, so they moved to Colorado which was more doable. They immediately bought a 137-year-old cabin in Sunshine Canyon, which has been rebuilt for modern times.
In 2008, Mishie realized that the last thing she wanted to do was start or manage another business; however, she also realized that she had enjoyed the training part of the work, educating the employees. So she began her trek toward the classroom.
After applying with the Boulder Valley School District, she was hired with SAC, the after school program, working for the office manager. Being bilingual, her parents are from Puerto Rico and Argentina, she was an asset in the district. Mishie fell in love with working with children on a social and cultural level.
“How can you not love working with kids?” she asked. During her work with SAC, she taught children at Douglass Elementary School, working with five-year-olds. It was then she decided to go for her master’s degree and get herself into the classroom.
“I loved being with kids all day, seeing them grow and learn. I loved the scientific aspect of measuring their growth,” Mishie said.
She applied all over the state while she finished graduate school. She also took an emergency medical rescue course and volunteers with the Sunshine Fire Department. Her husband is the trail boss of the Fourmile Fire Crew. During the EMR course she met a parent of a Gold Hill student who told her about an opening at the school. Brian Schueller was not coming back and the K-2 position needed to be filled.
Knowing that was exactly what she wanted, Mishie began ‘harassing’ the BVSD board, the principal and the other teachers, trying to convince them she was a match for the job. She totally agreed with the multi-age philosophy and also with the fact that the students related to where they lived, hiking, skating, skiing and using the outdoors as their classroom.
“There are more great minds produced in Gold Hill than any other school,” claimed Mishie. “You do things one on one, and the younger students look up to the older students.”
Mishie was hired in May and has been in the classroom ever since. As she works, members of the community drop in to say hello, to bring food, to pick up out-of-date books and to begin the networking that teachers and parents engage in all year long.
Chrissy McCaul, the 3 to 5-year-old-teacher, and Mishie have already formed a working and friendship bond, knowing they will be a great team in this small school in this small town.
They look forward to the new school year and new faces. Now all they need is the students.