For the past 35 years, Venus Dodson has either been in a classroom or in charge of all the classrooms. But at the end of this school year, you will not find her in the school at all. Instead, you might see her kayaking on a lazy river somewhere or hiking through Glacier National Park or maybe working in her garden. After 35 years of being an educator, Venus is headed for retirement.
Venus was born in Cut Bank but is originally from Browning and grew up in Browning as a Blackfeet descendant. She went to junior high and high school in Cut Bank, graduating from Cut Bank High School.
She went to MSU-Bozeman, graduating in 1986 with a double major in English and Physical Education-Health. Her first teaching job was at Cut Bank High School where she taught English to freshman through senior classes. She was also an assistant coach for the girls basketball team and was the assistant coach for the speech and debate team.
When she married Arleigh Dodson in 1988, they moved to Hollister, Idaho and both were teachers in that school system there. They moved to Durango, Mexico to teach English at an American school, but returned back to Cut Bank a year later to help take care of Venus’s dad.
She did some work for Curriculum Consortium in Glasgow developing curriculum, then taught English at Browning Middle School and went to graduate school at the University of Missoula so she could become a principal, which she did in December of 1995 at Napi Elementary School.
In 1999, she took the job in Cut Bank as the Elementary Principal. All in all, Venus was in the classroom teaching for nine years and a principal for 26 years.
“The principal job is one of the most diverse. Every day and every year are a little different, with different challenges, tasks to accomplish, problems to solve and goals to reach. That is what I enjoy most,” she admits. “I’ve learned to break down challenges to find solutions and work with others to attack problems from several perspectives. Working as a team brings more possibilities to solve problems. Students are amazing at coming up with great solutions and ideas!”
As the principal, Venus said her main focus is “supporting teachers and staff to be successful. I have enjoyed the challenge of collaborating with staff to create a common vision and work toward goals together each year. Then also supporting students and parents to ensure every child’s needs are met and they are learning and progressing.”
All that and the simple fact she wanted to make the work environment a fun and enjoyable one, made her want to come to work each day. “We still get the serious work of learning done, but can also learn, work and have fun and appreciate what we’ve accomplished,” she added.
What will she miss when she retires?
“There is no question I will miss the kids and the daily interaction with them. I have loved being a part of their lives,” she shared. “I have always loved working with kids. They all have unlimited potential. Seeing them learn, grow and turn into successful adults is an amazingly rewarding experience. And they are just fun!”
She will also miss those she has worked side-by-side with for so many years. “I have been very lucky to work with so many amazing teachers and staff through the years and have made some great friends. I will miss seeing and working with them regularly. We have accomplished so much in the past 22 years as a staff. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Venus, and her hubby Arleigh of 32 and a half years, have two children. Brannon is 26 lives in the Cut Bank area. Madison is 24 and just graduated from Montana State University last spring. She now lives and works in Portland. Arleigh will continue his teaching career in Cut Bank, staying on as the sixth-grade teacher at Cut Bank Middle School.
Venus looks forward to retirement offering her additional time with her family and friends, traveling a little when it is safe to do so and “once the summer and fall winds down, I will be looking for something part-time to keep me busy,” she said. “I am looking forward to this next stage of my life.”
Not only will Venus miss the people and students of the Cut Bank School system, but she too, will be missed for all she has brought to the schools, the classrooms and to those she has spent a few decades working with each and every day.
“I have learned so much from kids, parents and the staff I have worked with,” offered Venus. “I feel extremely fortunate to be part of the Cut Bank community and our schools. The District has always had a consistent commitment to providing a quality education for all students. I am proud to have been a part of that all these years.”
Venus believes, “The world and our society have changed in the last 20 years. But I firmly believe a quality education is still important. It can never be taken away once you have it and is a basic necessity to continued success in whatever future a person pursues. In some ways, teaching and education is the most important profession there is.”