Aug 30, 2011 7:20 PM by Kay Rossi (Great Falls)

New teacher embraces new life in Great Falls

Students and teachers around Great Falls are preparing for the first day of classes on Wednesday.

For educator Michael Gelling, the start of school means not only a new classroom but an entirely new life.

Gelling couldn't have picked a worse time to change careers. Shortly after he made the switch from retail to education, the economic crisis of 2008 hit and finding a job was a nightmare.

Gelling said, "It was very scary. I mean, it got to the point where an interview was like getting a job."

He went on to say, "The minute that I finished my masters program with the high hopes that I'm going to hit schools and there's going to be 10 jobs waiting for me, I got there, those 10 jobs had 600 people applying for each one of them."

Still, he was determined to do something more fulfilling with his life.

"I just had this feeling that I was kind of, late in life, feeling like I was kind of born to help kids out," he said.

After two years of substitute teaching in Oregon, the California native got a job at Riverview Elementary in Great Falls.

This year he's making a few more changes.

He'll go from teaching 2nd grade to 1st grade and into a new school, Roosevelt Elementary.

Roosevelt principal Rhonda Zobrak discussed the change in grades saying, "There's one year difference in age, but he has a lot of background with children and with six and seven year olds and knowing what they're ready for and what they can handle."

Zobrak says Gelling has been in his classroom every day this summer, preparing for the coming school year.

Now he's ready to take on his newest challenge: 19 first graders.