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New OOTM coaches ready to shake things up

Grant High School’s Biology Teacher Kyle McDaniel, pictured, will co-coach Bear River’s Odyssey of the Mind team with Theater Manager and Technical Theater Teacher Erin Beatie. Courtesy photo

Odyssey of the Mind, a program involving on-the-spot thinking and long-term problem solving, will have new leadership at Bear River for the 2018-19 school year.

During the past two years, Jim Ronka has coached BR’OMers (Odyssey of the Mind participants attending Bear River), influencing these students to reach beyond their personal boundaries and think outside the box, creating a fun, carefree environment for many to “let their freak flag fly,” according to incoming Sophomore Maddie Pratt.

According to Bear River’s former principal Dr. Amy Besler, Coach Ronka has retired his position this year. Biology Teacher at Grant High School Kyle McDaniel and Bear River’s Theater Manager and Technical Theater Teacher Erin Beatie will serve as coach and co-coach, respectively.

Dr. Besler explained what she was looking for when hiring for Mr. Ronka’s position.

“We were looking for a coach who would connect well with our students, demonstrate integrity, professionalism, the ability to organize, and who has a passion for this program and desire to help our students meet their fullest potential,” she said. “Mr. McDaniel is a former Odyssey of the Mind participant himself, lives in our community, and is very excited to support and mentor our students in this wonderful program. Mr. McDaniel is passionate, creative, and highly knowledgeable in many aspects of Odyssey of the Mind, including technology.”

According to Dr. Besler, he will be assisted by Mrs. Beatie during school hours, allowing him to continue his teaching assignment at Grant High School as a Biology teacher.

Mr. McDaniel showed his excitement for coaching Odyssey of the Mind.

“I feel truly privileged to have the opportunity to serve the Bear River community as an OOTM coach and to uphold the same pursuit of excellence I observed so long ago,” he said as he, too, was an Odyssey student in his school career.

He also added what he hopes to accomplish this year as the coach.

“Bear River students have a proud history of success in past OOTM competitions,” he said. “However, what’s wonderful about OOTM is that each season brings new unique challenges to new teams, even for OOTM veterans. Even with two fresh coaches, I’m confident that Bear River’s OOTM teams will bring with them the talent, creativity, and problem solving skills necessary to be successful in this year’s competitions.”

He explained what he believes is most important lesson Odyssey of the Mind teaches students.

“OOTM really doesn’t prioritize any special talents, experiences, or skill sets,” he said. “I believe the strongest OOTM teams are those who are able to freely share each member’s strengths so that everyone is able to contribute to their fullest.”

Arieal Swindell, a junior who is a long-time Odyssey of the Mind member, shared her opinion on the team’s new leadership.

“I’m very excited and very sad to be getting a new coach,” she said. “Coach Ronka has been there with us since eighth grade — since sixth and seventh grade as a parent — and really has helped us pave the way towards Worlds twice, so it will be sad to not have him as our coach anymore. However, I am excited to see what the new coach has in store for us and what different perspectives he can give us compared to Coach Ronka.”

Junior Jacob Knox added to the idea of gaining new leadership.

“I’m interested to meet him, because how he approaches his job will affect our year pretty greatly,” he said. “I hope that we’re able to work well with him so we can build our performance efficiently while not having to use up all of our time scheduling fundraisers and paperwork (which we’re not good at).”

Swindell explained how she believes Coach Ronka and Mr. McDaniel’s methods will differ from one another.

“I believe the greatest difference between Coach Ronka and the new coach will be their experience,” she said. “Both coaches have been involved in Odyssey in two different ways. Coach Ronka has been a parent whereas the new coach has participated as a team member in Odyssey. Because of this, their outlooks will be completely different.”

Dominque Peter, a junior, spoke of what she believes is most important when it comes to coaching.

“I think the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to coaching Odyssey of the Mind is that there is definitely a creative process that must happen,” she said. “Our coach should help guide us through it. Have fun! All of us love Odyssey, and we have so much fun and laughter when we participate together.”

Knox added a special piece of advice for Mr. McDaniel.

“[One thing to keep in mind is] there’s a very subtle difference between us goofing off while getting work done, and us goofing off instead of getting work done,” he said.

Mr. McDaniel mentioned some fun facts about himself, and about what he did prior to becoming a high school teacher. 

“Before becoming a teacher and coach I worked as a researcher and marine biologist,” he said. “[I also] worked for two years in Chile, where I studied the effects of climate change on corals and algae on Easter Island. … Beyond being an avid free diver, I enjoy spear fishing, snowboarding and working with my fish in my aquaponics system.”

On a final note, Dr. Besler explained her confidence in the new coaches’ abilities.

Mr. McDaniel and Mrs. Beatie are going to benefit our Odyssey of the Mind program in many ways as both of them are dedicated, enthusiastic, skilled educators who care about kids and love Odyssey of the Mind and what it does for young people,” she said. “We are confident that they will do an outstanding job and will inspire our students to reach new heights with Odyssey of the Mind, while developing skills related to problem solving, communication, collaboration, performance, creativity, and teamwork.”

To support Odyssey of the Mind, attend their E-Waste Recycle Drive on Saturday, September 15 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bear River High School.

“The E-Waste fundraiser provides many benefits to both our community and the Bear River Odyssey of the Mind club,” Mr. McDaniel said. “Many outdated electronics are still valuable to recyclers, who not only find a new purpose for our e-waste but also remove it from the landfill in pipelines where many e-waste refuge with their heavy metals and pesky pollutants. Not only will the E-waste fundraiser reduce waste to the environment, but it will also help support BR OotM financially throughout our extensive annual expenditures.”

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New OOTM coaches ready to shake things up