by: Jade Thoemke
Photos: Jade Thoemke, Nick Seiler
Wyoming’s’ wild landscapes have a way of teaching us lessons we may or may not be seeking. As a school teacher and avid outdoorswoman based in Sheridan, Jade shares some words around these lessons learned.
Five years ago I stepped into a classroom as a teacher for the first time. I chose Wyoming wholeheartedly and without reserve as my future and the place I wanted to enter into the field of education. It was the wildness about this state that drew me in. When I first arrived in Sheridan, Wyoming, it took my breath away. The eastern slopes of the Bighorns were painted in white, the sky a crisp blue, and every individual I passed on the road waved as if I were their neighbor. It was easy to immediately fall in love with my new home.
Moving to a different town, let alone another state, is an intimidating undertaking; one that requires bravery and often leaping – rather than stepping – out of one’s comfort zone. In addition to learning an unknown cityscape and beginning my first career, I had to navigate an entirely new lay of landscape within and outside the borders of the National Forest.
The Bighorns, when compared to the Black Hills where I’d come from, seemed daunting. My eyes were opened to miles upon miles of new trail, rock, and river to discover. It was through this learning process that I came to profoundly appreciate the individuals and communities who have fought for our public lands and the wildlife that lives among them. Those first few years in Sheridan were formative for me, as it was during that time that I became irrevocably captivated by fly fishing.
If you’ve ever spent time with a fly rod in hand, you’ll agree with the necessity of patience and a growth mindset in the endeavor of trout fishing. I recall countless times standing on a riverbank changing my flies for the umpteenth time, watching as fish and my blood pressure rose. In those moments, I’m made acutely aware of the lessons I reiterate day in and day out in my own classroom of the power of, “not yet” and “I’ll try,”.
Nature is a powerful teacher and the big beautiful landscape of Wyoming is the best classroom I could possibly imagine. Fly fishing provides me with the peace and connection to the natural world that helps me recharge my batteries and function at a high level for my students.
The most noteworthy thing I’ve learned about my position as a special educator is that I will forever continue to be a learner. There is an intrinsic connection between standing in a river and being in a classroom. No matter how much you already know, there is always more to learn. When I am fishing, I am constantly in pursuit of new understanding of the dynamic ecosystem I am interacting with, including the entomology, the fish, and other wildlife that claim the water and its banks as home.
Some of my favorite days have been spent on the water with my dog, Kirby, appreciating the landscape, meeting amazing people, learning patience, and experiencing the highs, lows, and frustration that come with fly fishing. In the end, I try to pass along that same experience to my students in the hopes that they learn as I have, that these lessons are to be cherished, instead of feared and these public lands and waters are life’s classrooms where the learning happens.
The Wyoming Wildlife Federation works to conserve Wyoming’s wildlife, habitat and outdoor opportunities.