Longtime teachers Smith and Heny retire after 67 years

Posted 6/13/24

At the end of the school year, two Powell High School teachers turned in the keys to their classrooms after a combined 67 years teaching students.

Wendy Smith worked at Powell High School for 35 …

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Longtime teachers Smith and Heny retire after 67 years


At the end of the school year, two Powell High School teachers turned in the keys to their classrooms after a combined 67 years teaching students.

Wendy Smith worked at Powell High School for 35 years as an agriculture and science teacher. Shelley Heny worked for 32 years in Park County School District 1 in a variety of roles before serving as the supervising teacher for the Powell High School Online Learning Center.


Teaching kids to love nature

Smith interviewed with the school district in 1985 after the school year had already begun. A teacher had left and Smith had some area connections through her time swimming and as a member of FFA. She also knew Regan Smith, who she had met at State Fair.

“We kind of started going out and got married and so I never left," she said.

Smith was briefly outside of the district after it reduced staff. When she came back though she stayed and never left. This time she was teaching only science but she had a brand new class to create curriculum for, environmental science.

“I'm pretty proud of getting that one going. And it meets all the Hathaway standards, and it's pretty amazing,” Smith said.

Smith also taught natural resources, which came as a result of the environmental science class. Originally, natural resources was set to be the second environmental class.

“And that's where natural resources came in, and it's just an extension of some of the things that we did,” Smith said.

She added that both classes had some fun field trips. Smith’s knack for planning a good field trip is so well known it was mentioned by the school board when they recognized her time in the district. 

Among her greatest hits were Yellowstone field trips that included pika studies, and research on hot springs. The data was reported to the national park and sometimes park officials would have FaceTime meetings with the class. After a number of years, Smith moved the field trips to the Bighorns where they have done a variety of different things, including looking at fire prevention. 

“[Firefighters] keep coming in and they talk to the kids about fire and what they do and how they do it,” Smith said. “Then they try to get them all to be summertime firefighters for them. I’ve had some kids do it and they really liked it and really enjoyed it but it takes a special person to want to do that kind of stuff.” 

Smith has also taken students on bighorn sheep studies and captures, and through grants she obtained drones and hydroponic towers at the high school for different projects. The list of opportunities through Smith’s class goes on. 

“I just think they need to see all the different things that are out there that are available for them,” she said.  

Smith added that her students needed to have field trips because they can learn more outside.

“It’s pretty amazing some of the things that the kids can actually see here … most kids never get to do these kind of things,” she said. 


Growing up and back to school

Heny was going outside of the box for the benefit of students. 

“I grew up here, I went through the Powell school system from first grade to my graduation and I just always wanted to come back here,” Heny said. “This is just my favorite place to be … I ended up just subbing in the district, and then an English opening came up at the middle school and I got it and the rest is 32 years of district history.”

Heny began her teaching career in Powell as a middle school English teacher in 1992.

As a middle school teacher Heny was involved in interdisciplinary units including one she created around the Iditarod, a sled dog race spanning 975 miles. The unit had students following that year's Iditarod. Students would calculate the racers miles per hour in math class, talk about the trail stops in social studies, discuss the terrain in science, read “Winterdance” by Gary Paulsen in literature on his Iditarod experience and in composition, which Heny taught, they would do news stories.

Once, mushers who knew Smith and her family came and spoke to middle school students. They even brought their dogs, although they couldn’t do much due to the lack of snow. 

At the high school Heny said her biggest career highlight was being involved with the Online Learning Center since its inception 10 years ago.

Originally the center was a place for students to recover credit if they were at risk of not graduating.

“So they would come in and we’d assign them an online class,” Heny said. 

Smith chimed in that “it just kind of blossomed.”

Alongside former Principal Tim Kuhn, then Assistant Principal Tim Wormald and the counseling team, the program was molded into what best fit the students. As dual enrollment developed at the high school the program became more than a credit recovery program. 

“I'd have juniors and seniors who couldn't fit in a required course. And so I would have students coming in, mostly it was seniors, that needed government or they couldn't fit free enterprise. So we put them in an economics class that covered the same standards and all of the online classes were cleared by the Wyoming Department of Education,” Heny said, adding “I would have seniors that needed extra science for the Hathaway so they would come in and take Earth science or environmental science — meteorology was a very popular one. We turned it into what our kids needed at the high school.”

In order to do her job it took about two years to figure out a system that worked to track all her students — this included learning the classes herself.

“I learned alot in the position that I did not know before, so it was interesting. I had a good time in there,” Heny said.

Over 10 years in the program Heny has supported students through a conservative estimate of 1500 credit hours, Wormald said during recognition of Heny’s service at a May school board meeting. 

“I'm pretty proud of the last 10 years or so in my life at the high school. I did have some interesting characters and some kids that needed a lot of credits ... most of the time we made it to the finish line. So I'm really proud of that program,” Heny said. 


Next steps

Smith and Heny have officially left Powell High School but the it hasn’t really set in yet, they agreed. After attending a former student’s wedding, Smith will be busy farming and for Heny it will just feel like summer.

“In August when everybody’s going back and I’m not, I think that’s when it’s going to hit me most,” Heny said.

Until then she will be gardening and enjoying spending time with her parents, and when fall does roll around Heny will still be seen on school grounds working sporting events.

Smith will also still be involved in education down the road. Next summer she will train to be a facilitator with Project Learning Tree, Project Wild and Project Wet. All three are programs she used to use in class. She can also be seen still working with FFA students coaching environmental and natural resources, wool judging and poultry if needed.

“It’s not like it’s ending everything all at once, because we’ll keep going on and keep some of the things that we still love to do,” Smith said.