Walk into Kirste Macintyre’s classroom at the Upper Campus Learning Center and you immediately get a good idea of the kind of teacher she is.
Bright colors abound, from the neatly organized collections of markers and pens to the inspirational posters and mottos that adorn the walls reminding students that failure can be a path to success and that no whining is allowed.
There is the outline of a graceful tree on one wall, with photos on the end of each branch of students and classes she has taught in her 14 years at Ojai Valley School. On most days, Jack the Cat sits curled in a box, immune to the hustle and bustle of the classroom.
And every day, there are students hard at work, reading or typing or discussing homework or preparing for upcoming exams. And every day, Ms. Macintyre is by their sides every step of the way.
Now in her fourth year at the Upper Campus, Ms. Macintyre is widely known for her devoted work with her students and her unflinching advocacy on their behalf. But what few people know is that she has taught in all three divisions – elementary, middle school and high school – and is one of the few classroom teachers to do so.
“She’s amazing at what she does,” said Tracy Wilson, the school’s director of advancement and admission. “She’s just so knowledgeable, organized and compassionate – and an amazing advocate for our students.”
Ms. Macintyre began working at the lower campus in 1995, subbing for the fourth-grade teacher for four months and then teaching second grade for three years. She was also a dorm parent, working closely with the eighth graders. After a break, she came back and took over the third grade for four years and then taught middle school English.
After one more break, she was hired at the Upper Campus in 2013 to head the Learning Center, where she provides one-on-one learning support for a handful of students.
While she has seen waves of students come and go, the one thing that has remained unchanged is her love of teaching and of the OVS community, which she says is special because of the way it accommodates everyone.
“Every student can be themselves and are accepted for who they are,” Ms. Macintyre said. “It doesn’t matter where their strengths are, if they want to be here, they are allowed to be here.”
Even though her time at the Upper Campus has been relatively short, compared to her time at Lower, she has made a lasting impact. Assistant Head of School Laurel Colborn, who attends to academic affairs, said Ms. Macintyre brings an impressive diligence to her work.
“She’s is the utmost professional. She is organized, makes deadlines, she’s enthusiastic, she cares about her students, she communicates with parents,” Mrs. Colborn said. “Basically, she is the epitome of a professional teacher.”
It’s not only the staff that recognizes her hard work.
Sophomore Conway Gilbreth benefits from her one-on-one attention within her class and how relaxed she is, even when he’s under pressure.
“She always makes class a second home, a place where you can be relaxed,” Conway said. “She’s a really nice person to be around.”
Added senior Josh Han, who has benefitted from Ms. Macintyre’s tutelage the past three years: “She is not only patient, but also caring in a sense that she gives me a feeling that she really does care about how I do in school and how I could be better in the future.”
Ms. Macintyre’s dedication to the classroom is as obvious as it is natural. Looking at the tree in her classroom that holds photos of students she has taught, she recalls each with tremendous fondness.
One of those students was particularly special. Longtime OVS student Cole Zellner was one of Ms. Macintyre’s students in third grade, and then again in middle school at the Lower Campus, and then finally during his years at the high school campus.
Cole, who graduated from the Upper Campus year and now attends the University of Utah, credits Ms. Macintyre for a much of the progress he made as a student inside and outside of the classroom.
“Ms. Macintyre is an amazing teacher who goes beyond helping students with papers,” Cole said. “She gives her students the tools they need to achieve academic success.”
So now in her third tour of duty at OVS, why does Ms. Macintyre keep returning? What is so special about this place that keeps her coming back?
“I keep coming back because of the people – the staff and the students,” Ms. Macintyre said. “Over the years, I have taught so many students and I still keep in touch with them. It’s like a big family.”