An inside look on the effort some PHS staff members put into getting to work

Natalie Dillivan

More stories from Natalie Dillivan

October 31, 2019

Brandon Praetor

A sunset taken on the Highway 295 between Powell and Greybull while Mr. Brandon Preator drives his family home to Burlington.

An alarm begins to blare at 7 a.m. and the sleeping soul hits the snooze bar times. Before long, the clock beings blaring again at 7:35, and the warm sheets are removed. Slight movement occurs.

But with 20 minutes before the start of school, 10 minutes to get ready and at least 8 minutes to get to the school parking lot, is it possible to slip in before you’re considered tardy?

For a few members of Powell High School’s staff, morning stress isn’t even an option; they live too far away.

Several employees of Park County School District 1 have a commute of at least 25 miles, and a few work at PHS. Included among them are Spanish teacher Mr. Brandon Preator, Attendance Secretary Mrs. Kathy Ackley and Health teacher Mrs. Kandi Bennett.

“Every summer for 13 years I’ve worked in Burlington, but this August was when we actually moved to Burlington,” Mr. Preator said. “I’m very familiar with the road.”

Mr. Preator and his children wake up at 5:20 in order to be out of the house by 6:15.

“My boys have seminary at 6:50, so I’m at the school by 7 every morning,” Mr. Preator said. “It’s about 35 minutes door to door.”

Waking up at 5:20 in order to get to school on time each day might seem excessive, but there are Powell High School staff members who have to drive even farther.

Mrs. Kathy Ackely lives in Clark, roughly 40-minute drive.

“The road is pretty quiet and easy,” Mrs. Ackley said. “But it can be a doozy in a snowstorm.”

Mrs.  Ackley has only missed one day of school and also went home early because of weather.

“Once when I got caught in a ground blizzard and I got stuck in snowbank trying to turn around and go home,” Mrs. Ackley said. “I had to wait awhile to be rescued. Then one day, I was allowed to leave early because there was a bad storm coming through and my windshield wiper broke off because it was frozen and three boys rescued me.

“The gas is fairly expensive but the drive gives me time to listen to the radio and have some quiet time to myself.”

A 35-minute drive and a 40-minute drive, however, don’t beat Mrs. Bennett’s trek. She lives in Meeteetse, some 53 miles away. This equals an estimated hour’s drive.

“I wake up at 4:45 and try to be out of the house between 6 and 6:15,” Mrs. Bennett said.

But Mrs. Bennett has never missed a day of school because of dangerous roads.

“The roads have never been closed, and they do a good job plowing it,” Mrs. Bennett said. “There have been a few times when I’ve been walking in with the rest of the student body, but I haven’t had to miss school.”

Mrs. Bennett keeps herself awake by listening to NPR and calling her grown children she doesn’t see every day.

“Commuting gives you a chance to get organized and ready for your day,” Mrs. Bennett said.

All three staff members found only positives about commuting to work.

“I love driving in Wyoming; we live in a beautiful place and we get to see some beautiful sunsets and sunrises,” Mr. Preator said. “I also have great company, my boys with their headphones on.”

Added Mrs. Bennett: “You kinda get wrapped up with life and things, but this gives me time to touch base with people I normally wouldn’t have had time for before. Besides, I get to go to the grocery store at 6 o’clock when my children text me saying, ‘Mom are you going to Walmart. I forgot that I’m out of shampoo.’”