ONTARIO SCHOOL DISTRICT

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It's our way of telling a story of the many
successes that are deserving of Ontario's pride.
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Meet Tom Asbill at May Roberts

Many students graduate from Ontario High School wanting to travel and find new adventure. After Tom Asbill graduated from OHS in 1988, he headed just a little north -- to Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande. This decision, however, would soon provide an opportunity for Tom to really travel.

After earning his bachelor's, he taught at Ackerman Elementary in La Grande. The District closed the school, and within a week, there was an announcement in Tom's mailbox about a teaching opportunity in Finland. The chairman of a kindergarten there had been an exchange student in La Grande so looked there for a new teacher. Before he knew it, Tom was teaching in Finland!

Tom returned to the U.S. after four years because he wanted to get his Master's Degree and for some reason thought it would be easier to get in English, rather than in Finnish. But, he returned with a wife! (And a pretty good grasp of the Finnish language, too!)

"I was teaching at an international school and she was an assistant in a Finnish school within the same building," Tom says of how he and Katja met. "A friend of mine basically helped play matchmaker."

Today, Katja is also a teacher. Having this common interest helps when it comes to talking to one another about their work, according to Tom. "It is also very helpful in the idea and implementation process when it comes to lesson plans and classroom activities."

Tom has been teaching in the Ontario School District since 2001. Today, he teaches fourth grade at May Roberts Elementary School, but his first teaching assignment in the district was in a kindergarten classroom.

"I like working with elementary students. I enjoy watching them when they finally get something that they had to work for," Tom says. "The sheer expression of joy and accomplishment lights up their face.

"But, I absolutely loved kindergarten! It is my favorite age to teach! The challenge is that as a teacher, you are setting the entire foundation for a student. You are helping to establish routines, study habits, and social norms within a school setting."

Tom says the most rewarding thing about working with 5-year-olds is "watching them grow and blossom right before your eyes. So many of the things about school are new for them that each day brings new challenges and successes."

Like all good teachers, Tom is a lifelong learner. He enjoys fishing, camping, and traveling, but his latest interest is computer technology and where it is going. What is he into right now? "My latest venture is into the realm of clay animation."

The OHS Class of 2005 is preparing for its graduation. Does Tom have any words of advice? "Keep an open mind and be prepared for the unexpected."

Thanks, Tom! Good advice. And, lucky for us the 'unexpected' for you included returning to Ontario to teach!